Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My 50 Greatest Movies: No. 44: Kingdom of Heaven

"I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of god. I have seen too much religion in the eyes of too many murderers. Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness."

Two Ridley Scott flicks back to back? Yes, he is that good.

It is unfortunate that the studio executives pitched this movie as another Gladiator, and marketed it as such. It is also unfortunate that they cut a good half hour out of the movie once they realized it wasn't Gladiator. Unfortunately, I've never seen the Director's Cut of the movie.

I am very confident that the meaning behind Kingdom of Heaven will be not be rendered irrelevant in my lifetime.  It's a movie about the Crusades, and the motives behind them.

Orlando Bloom plays Bailian, the hero. He has lost his child to illness and his wife to suicide and at the beginning of the film is visited by a Baron(Liam Neesen), who informs Bailian that he is his father and begs forgiveness for his absence from his life. He also informs Bailian that he should come to Jerusalem with him, as it is a land of opportunity and forgiveness. After murdering a priest who taunts him that his wife is burning in hell, Bailian takes up the Baron of Eberlin on his offer. 

Liam Neeson is of course impeccable in the mentor role he is so often cast in. He trains Bailian on how to fight and the principles of being a Baron and, before he dies, implores Bailian to become "The Perfect Knight". Bailian travels to Jerusalem, and meets the rest of the key players on both sides.

The movie is fair of its depiction of Christianity and Islam and there is a constant undercurrent throughout the movie about the similarities of both religions. On both sides there are is the fanaticism. And the actors that play them are excellent. For two of the Knight's Templar, one uses the Crusades as a vehicle to gain power, the other, to satisfy is blood lust.  

Much criticism has been thrown Orlando Bloom's way for his understated performance as Bailian.  Bloom could've tried to turn this into an Oscar performance, but that would do a disservice to the character. The character is not the typical action hero, but perhaps he should be. He speaks the truth and little else. As a man with little use for religion, he gives an outsiders perspective on the Crusades. Is Bloom's performance in line with other historical epics? I guess not. The character doesn't desire being heroic, he seeks redemption and is driven by doing the right thing. This isn't sexy. But humility never has been.

Here are the ratings:
Music: 3/5: The music is solid, and seems nearly lifted from the Gladiator soundtrack. Nothing spectacular.
Cinematography: 4/5: This movie is wonderfully shot. That is all.
Entertainment Value: 7/10: I didn't care much for the love story, and it lags at times. But for the most part, very entertaining.
Rewatchability: 7/10: Ask me in five years, this may get a 9 or a 10. This movie gets better with every viewing.
Acting: 8/10: Bloom is solid. Edward Norton as the King may steal the whole movie. And I've already professed my love for everything Liam Neeson.
Great Scenes: 7/10: Much of the battle scenes happen off screen. But the final battle is suitably epic.

Total: 37/50


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