"Kingdom of Heaven"
Directed by Ridley Scott.
Written by William Monahan.
Starring Orlando Bloom.
Release Year: 2005
Review Date: 5/10/05
The man who brought us
to the hole one time too many...and the result is the film that will
hopefully end the latest run of Hollywood swords-and-sandals
pictures for the next 20 years.
"Kingdom of Heaven" is doomed from the
start; Orlando Bloom stars as blacksmith-turned-lord Balian, who I
think is supposed to be French but looks/sounds/acts nothing like an
1100s-era Frenchie and sets out to lead Christians in Jerusalem as
they defend themselves against some belligerent Muslims, led by
Saladin (Ghassan Massoud) and his 200,000-man army of professional
soldiers. Shunning religion at various turns during the
film--this seems to run against my thinking on what Crusaders were
all about, but I'm not the historian in the family--Balian
nonetheless overcomes the best efforts of a French rival (Marton
Csokas, the baddie from
"xXx") to gain the support of the people and help the Christians
gather the strength to fend off a decidedly-superior force of men.
Here's the thing about "Kingdom of
Heaven"--I loved "Gladiator." Boom; there it is in a nutshell.
I like these big epics if they have a mix of storytelling, great
acting and fantastic action sequences. Because I am not too
big on the real history of these events, I don't get caught up in
what they get "right" or "wrong", necessarily, so reviews that
"Kingdom of Heaven" seems to get the whole Crusades thing all
"wrong" doesn't mean anything. But, as long as it is
interesting in the course of the film, then I'm good.
Unfortunately, the story in "Kingdom of Heaven" just feels wrong.
For starters, Balian has lost his wife to suicide as the film opens.
Although he seems depressed about this in his first shot, after he
leaves his old village the wife is almost completely forgotten.
He even takes up with another woman--don't they all in these
movies?--not an hour into the film. Second, would people that
are so intensely religious that they let their slaves have prayer
breaks while doing their chores also follow a man that is so
completely without religion? Talk about "Losing My Religion"--Balian
has no problem offing his priest in the first five minutes, then
later talking about the idea that there is no God...this seemed like
it would be blasphemy to the people of the film's time period, but
it is shrugged off in almost a throwaway scene late in the film.
Baffling. Also, it seems like Balian goes from blacksmith to
lord in too quick a turn of events; everyone seems interested in
being a Balian follower so fast that it might catch you by surprise.
And, oh, the action scenes! I don't
mind that there is much less action in "Kingdom of Heaven" than in
other films of its type, but when things are boring, at least you
can count on some cool bloodletting during the running time...right?
Much like the plague that was
"Kingdom of Heaven" has just plain bad war sequences, and worse, if
you've seen any of the following, you are going to be disappointed:
"Troy", "Gladiator", "Braveheart",
"The Lord of the Rings",
Samurai." This is because the battles in "Kingdom of
Heaven" aren't big enough, they aren't "wow" enough, they aren't
bloody enough, they aren't driven by enough dramatic, sweeping, epic
music, they aren't fucking shit. This was really stunning to
me given that we are talking about Ridley Scott, who in his short
directing tenure has given us fantastic, tense action sequences in
Down", "Blade Runner", "Alien", "Black Rain",
"Gladiator"...hell, even the opening sequence in
better than any of the action in "Kingdom of Heaven." I was
counting on a couple of big battle sequences, but I was not to be
Bloom is his normal self, although dialed
down a bit to cool, calm, collected lead-by-example type, which fits
him nicely. The supporting cast is quite average, but when
you've blown $130 million on your movie it's hard to round up any
bodies warmer than Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson and Eva Green.
The film's score was far from epic; the film does have a big-deal
approach to it but it just feels incredibly underwhelming
throughout. And I thought the ending sucked big dong.
I was very unhappy with "Kingdom of Heaven",
a film that I was truly looking forward to until about ten minutes
into it. This one has lemon written all over it.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard