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Overall Rating
3.19

Awesome: 22.68%
Worth A Look: 15.46%
Just Average: 24.74%
Pretty Crappy31.96%
Sucks: 5.15%

6 reviews, 61 user ratings


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Kingdom of Heaven
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by David Cornelius

"As far as the 'Braveheart'/'Gladiator' rip-offs go, this one's not shabby."
3 stars

So. Ridley Scott’s back with another historical epic. And yes, “Kingdom of Heaven” offers nothing we haven’t already seen in “Gladiator,” “Braveheart,” “Troy,” “Alexander,” “The Last Samurai,” “King Arthur,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and any other recent film where a guy in period costuming gets his head lovingly caved in with a mace. But while there’s nothing all that new about “Kingdom,” Scott’s visual style and knack for epic storytelling carries us through, and makes his latest work passable, if not memorable, oversized entertainment.

The story, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that it’s probably not all that historically accurate, finds 12th century blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) mourning the suicide of his wife, when big shot crusader Sir Godfrey (Liam Neeson) rolls into town and announces that he’s Balian’s long lost father. (It’s kinda like “The Princess Diaries,” but with more pestilence and less Larry Miller.)

Balian, accepting his father’s legacy, turns out to be a fine and noble knight, always doing the right thing for his people. This puts him in good with the leper king (Edward Norton, hidden under a mask), his right hand man (Jeremy Irons), even some of the Muslims who share Jerusalem with the Christians. But it also puts him on the bad side with the heir to the throne (Marton Csokas) and an extremist (Brendan Gleeson), both of whom feel there is no room for peace, that the infidels need to be wiped out.

Ah, the infidels. “To kill an infidel is not murder,” we hear one character cry out, “it is the path to heaven!” And this is the movie’s ultimate point, that religious fanaticism from all sides has caused too much death for far too long. It’s a good point, a serious point, a point that is indeed relevant. And yet Scott and screenwriter William Monahan seem to feel that the best way to make this point is to be as basic and as naive as possible. We not only get to see examples of religious extremism gone wrong, but we get characters discussing it in great detail. This movie has symbolism out the wazoo, and when that runs out, it simply stops everything to explain itself over and over again.

This leads to moments in which characters discuss the difference between religion and faith, between doing what’s right and doing what your cleric orders you to do. We get wise priests who understand the difference, and ignorant priests who do not. We see heroes who wish for Jerusalem to be shared by all cultures, and villains who wish to hog it for themselves. This is fine for a while, but around the two hour mark, there’s the tendency to yell “we get it!!” at the screen. (And just in case we still don’t pick up on the story’s relevancy, a title card before the closing credits reminds us that Jerusalem remains a place of endless dispute. Duh.)

The film’s other down side: the length. “Kingdom of Heaven” runs two and a half hours not because the story demands it, but because, it seems, the filmmakers seem to have agreed that all epics must run at least that long, and if it’s any shorter, then padding must be added. This is a film that doesn’t clearly know where it’s headed, and so it rambles, stretching out scenes that go on far longer than necessary, repeating familiar material, always searching for the next Big Moment.

Mercifully, the Big Moments are enough to make up for all the movie’s faults. And not just the battle scenes, although those are really the main reason for watching; picking up where his “Gladiator” left off (and borrowing from all those movies that ripped him off since), Scott makes every obligatory war sequence an explosion of ugly combat, the kind of visceral experience which we’ve come to expect from such a picture.

But Scott also turns smaller, quieter scenes into big events, thanks to a solid eye for cinematic visuals and a production design team eager to deliver the eye candy. The film finds as much fascination in the backroom politics of 12th century Jerusalem as it does on the battlefield. The bickering, the conniving, the scheming, they all build up in all the right ways. (The best part of this comes with the arrival of the leper king, who hides behind a metal mask. These scenes are so visually compelling, with the strange blankness of the mask, that I began to look forward to them.)

There’s enough here to make the film a nice, workable chunk of super-sized movie. If you can deal with the fact that it’s too long and too simplistic for its own good - that is, if you can deal with the idea of ignoring its shallow side - you’ll have a good time. “Kingdom of Heaven” is slick, well-made epic goodness. It’s not the best epic to try to rip off “Braveheart” and “Gladiator,” but as movies along this line go, you could do much worse.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12166&reviewer=392
originally posted: 05/09/05 23:54:47
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User Comments

12/31/13 Marty The first movie that ever put me to sleep. Story slow and detached. 1 stars
12/07/10 Aaron S Great film. So few about the Crusades. 4 stars
8/26/08 Shaun Wallner The Action was Amazing! 5 stars
5/19/08 PAUL SHORTT A STAGGERINGLY LAZY, LEG-TWITCHINGLY DULL, UNHOLY MESS 2 stars
4/08/08 action movie fan battles too short, story confusing-a failure 2 stars
3/07/08 Pamela White grand crusade film 5 stars
2/12/08 John S Sheer brilliance 5 stars
11/29/07 R.W.Welch Madness & mayhem in the Middle East (what's new?). Spectacular but excessive mumbling. 3 stars
11/06/07 MP Bartley Edit; the directors cut makes ALL the difference. Better than Gladiator. 5 stars
6/17/07 William Goss Director's cut showcases some of Scott's most spectacular filmmaking to date. 5 stars
1/10/07 MP Bartley Often spectacular, but more often patchy epic further let down by weak central performance. 3 stars
11/30/06 SabresFanatic Wonderful film. Bloom's performance is quiet and quite good! 5 stars
9/14/06 Kathryn Excellent film, especially the Director's cut. Most underrated movie of the year 5 stars
7/31/06 Steve Marc the movie rocks 5 stars
5/22/06 t3h r0x0r Very accurate. Very good. Vague like Catholocism. 5 stars
4/28/06 jimmy A new prospective of the Crusaders 5 stars
3/09/06 Dk Even better than Gladiator and thats saying something 5 stars
1/29/06 WiseMan You have to understand the Crusades to like this one. Great Effects sound music. 5 stars
12/29/05 chris f a very good movie 5 stars
12/19/05 Indrid Cold Looks great, but somehow it manages to be a very uninteresting retread of Braveheart, etc. 3 stars
12/13/05 Ginger Vague story line, what was the point? 1 stars
12/10/05 chris matt im afrid your wrong gladiator is better but this film is good to 4 stars
12/09/05 matt better than Gladiator 5 stars
11/28/05 Urban II better than I expected, makes some good points 4 stars
10/22/05 Azar Poor characterisation, religously vague, hoping for a better director's cut 2 stars
10/14/05 Quigley jeremy irons was awsome, bloom was not; the battles were to envious of LOTR. gladiator? yes 2 stars
10/08/05 Daran Historically fallous, and a complete load of tosh, give up Ridley!!! 1 stars
10/07/05 anamika pretty bad 2 stars
9/19/05 Jonathon Holmes WAY better than "Troy" & "Alexander" 5 stars
9/18/05 Glennyce Paetzmann Well...I liked it better than gladiator... 4 stars
9/13/05 ray mero Why did Scott bother? This movie is pure retro, 1930's eyewash. 1 stars
9/07/05 Ric Lacks heart and spirit; hopefully, the director's cut will be a vast improvement. 2 stars
8/14/05 Kasia OSCAR FOR NORTON !!! 4 stars
6/18/05 aldo two different cultures fight...a hero we like...Same old story...but worth seeing 4 stars
6/12/05 Sacred Zealot The best - King Baldwin 5 stars
6/10/05 herkos akhaion Battle scenes very good, story so-so 4 stars
6/08/05 John beautifully shot and a good cast - entertaining 4 stars
6/01/05 Mansur I think this Film shows almost correct history of jerusalem. 4 stars
5/31/05 carly excellent 5 stars
5/27/05 The Mockingbird just for surprising me by not sucking as much as it could have bloom less sucky than usual 3 stars
5/23/05 Sebahattin ziyanak objective 5 stars
5/20/05 Kellie It's fun to watch and seems to make a point. Some of it's self-absorbed but worthwhile. 4 stars
5/17/05 Pippin007 Better than Troy,Alexander and King Arthur. Its Ok! Lord of the Rings is better 3 stars
5/17/05 jeff one of the best midevil movies yet!!! 5 stars
5/17/05 vagile Ridley Scott's best film. 5 stars
5/17/05 Neon Not worth my time 2 stars
5/14/05 Maalstrom fairly entertaining movie except for fairly ambiguous climax 3 stars
5/14/05 jcjs i liked it 5 stars
5/12/05 --- ridiculous PC history 2 stars
5/12/05 Kristin The Crusades here are so PC that the main characters are sapped of all motivation 2 stars
5/11/05 Ralph Not at all bad, just overshadowed by Lord of the Rings 4 stars
5/11/05 Tom Mangel Pretty Bad. I thought Alexander was the worst film I saw over the last six months however, 2 stars
5/10/05 John Shannon Not awful, but not awesome. A good open to the summer. 4 stars
5/10/05 mwildema would be a good rental, because you can turn it off.. 1 stars
5/10/05 Morrigan Not a classic, but not bad by any stretch of the imagination. 4 stars
5/10/05 KingNeutron Apparently, Saladin was an honorable - and incredibly generous - man. 4 stars
5/09/05 Naka Crap. Simpleminded, pretentious, overwrought crap. 2 stars
5/09/05 Gini I really enjoyed it. Expect something slower and more measured 4 stars
5/07/05 Dan Great movie, great message... don't know how you all found it boring. 5 stars
5/07/05 saturn plenty of bad lines and acting and boring as hell 2 stars
5/05/05 jack bad script - and fell asleep in the last 1/2 hr 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  06-May-2005 (R)
  DVD: 23-May-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  05-May-2005


Directed by
  Ridley Scott

Written by
  William Monahan

Cast
  Orlando Bloom
  Eva Green
  Jeremy Irons
  Brendan Gleeson
  Liam Neeson
  Edward Norton



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