KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
** (out of 5)
May 6, 2005
Orlando Bloom as BALIAN
Liam Neeson as GODFREY
Jeremy Irons as TIBERIUS
Eva Green as SIBYLLA
Ghassan Massoud as SALADIN
Brendan Gleeson as REYNALD
David Thewlis as HOSPITALER
Mron Csokas as GUY DE LUSIGNAN
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Ridley Scott
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
“Kingdom of Heaven” comes after a series of substandard “go to war” movies. It’s not as strong of a film as “Troy,” but at least it’s better than Oliver Stone’s cinematic catastrophe “Alexander.”
One thing I was worried about going to see “Kingdom of Heaven” was how much the filmmakers were going to scrub the Crusades with political correctness. To be honest, I don’t even know if this was a politically correct movie or not. It was just so boring that I gave up trying to figure things out.
The film tells the story of Balian (Orlando Bloom), a blacksmith who rises to the high ranks of the Christian army. Somehow, he becomes a master military mind after a brief sword lesson with his long-lost father Godfrey (Liam Neeson). There is a leper king whose running a war for political gain as the Christians try to defend Jerusalem from the invading Muslim army. There’s also a woman in it – one of the knight’s wives who somehow becomes queen. I never quite figured that whole thing out.
I’m sorry if this isn’t the best plot description in the world, but that’s about what I got from the movie. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure if I bothered to think through the film, I’d be able to realize who was who and what they were all doing, but I just never felt inspired to do so.
Despite some solid performances by Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons, “Kingdom of Heaven” suffers from a dragging plot and murky story. It become so convoluted and hard to follow that I just gave up. Suffice to say, the Christians ruled Jerusalem; the Muslims wanted it, and they were going to war over it.
I’d try to write more about the story, but frankly, my head hurts.
Ridley Scott is one of the master directors of our time. He’s given us some of the greatest films of the ages, including the classic sci-fi/horror flick “Alien.” But his biggest pitfall is that he doesn’t always tell a clear story. Watching “Kingdom of Heaven” reminded me of what it was like watching “Legend,” Scott’s venture into 1980s fantasy flicks. “Legend” was just hard to follow. The story wasn’t all that complicated, but somehow I never was able to focus in it. The plot of “Kingdom of Heaven” is much the same way.
The only redeeming thing in this film is the climactic siege on Jerusalem. Scott pulls out all the stops and designs a tremendous battle sequence that puts “Gladiator” to shame. It’s too bad you have to wade through more than two hours of boredom to get here.
But aside from this climax, it’s just a bunch of arguing with dirty people who look like they stepped out of a two-bit Renaissance Festival.
Orlando Bloom is the current flavor of the month for period pieces. But without his “Lord of the Rings” elf ears, he doesn’t have the chops to carry the film. The problem with Bloom is that, in spite of his adoring fans, he can’t really carry a film. If he’s put up against someone like Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” he can hold his own. In fact, he makes a fine supporting character. However, as the blacksmith-turned-general, he just seems to be faking his way through.
This film seems to be poised to capitalize on the success of “Gladiator,” but it’s a far lesser movie in almost all senses. And director Ridley Scott takes himself – and the film – way too seriously for his own good. Some day, the guy’s gonna actually make a movie that’s less than two hours long, just not today.