1158, Godfrey of Ibelin (Neeson) returns home from the Crusades
to seek his son, Balian (Bloom). On finding him, he takes Balian under his
wing and travels back to Jerusalem but when he is fatally wounded in battle,
his title and responsibility pass to his son. It is now up to Balian to
protect the people of the Holy City, as he is sworn to be a knight.
Director Ridley Scott returns to the genre that gave him Oscar
success but can his new historical drama be as good as 'Gladiator'?
After the huge success of his last historical epic and the
unprecedented critical and financial failure of ones that followed like
'Troy' and 'Alexander', it was up to Ridley Scott to reinvigorate the genre
and with 'Kingdom of Heaven' he almost succeeds.
The subject matter and the historical backdrop are instantly
interesting and made for great source material. The epic battles and power
mongering of the Crusades easily makes epic cinema and Scott takes this
and runs with it with his usual visual flair and gift for grandeur.
The look of the film is quite simply stunning and one of
the most realistic looking films ever created for the genre. With 'Troy',
'Alexander' and even 'The Lord of the Rings' there was a computer animated
look to the battle sequences. While most of these still looked good, especially
'The Lord of the Rings', nothing comes close to this film for pure realism.
The siege of Jerusalem is quite simply stunning. Ridley Scott and his creative
team take you into the heart of the battle, as if you were one of the knights
or soldiers involved but then he will pan out to reveal the full extent
of the confrontation and never at any point do you think 'this is the computer
generated bit then'. It is this realism that makes 'Kingdom of Heaven' a
visual spectacle and a treat to watch.
The visuals of the piece do not hide the film's major shortcoming
however, the final cut. At 145 minutes, the film is a decent length but
you can't help feel it should be longer. You would think that you are watching
the TV edit of the movie, as the storyline doesn't feel as complete as it
should have been. The film raises too many questions that are not answered
or suitably resolved. Why did Balian instantly become close to his father?
How did he learn to fight so well in such a short time? How did he become
such a good military tactician? All these questions and more are not answered
and you feel that they could be on the cutting room floor waiting for their
inclusion on the director's cut DVD. They should have been included in the
theatrical release however as it would have made for a more complete story.
The performances from the cast do try and make up for the
shortcomings and plot holes in the story however. While some may argue that
Orlando Bloom is too much of a pretty boy for a role like this, he does
rise to challenge of such a commanding leading role. A slightly older and
bigger actor would have given the part more screen presence but the character
and the film is more about the ideal of a knight than the man in the armour.
Orlando Bloom grows into the role as the film progresses, mirroring his
experience in battle and his observations of what is going on around him,
and it proves that he might actually have what it takes to be a leading
Orlando is supported by some of the best in the business.
Jeremy Irons and David Thewlis are exceptional as Tiberias, the leader of
the King's knights and Hospitaler, Godfrey's priest and advisor to Balian.
Marton Csokas plays the power hungry, warmonger Guy de Lusignan with great
skill because you instantly hate him. The same can be said about Brendan
Gleeson as Reynald, the Templar Knight with a thirst for war. Ghassan Massoud
is excellent as the Muslim King Saladin, portraying with an heir of dignity.
The beautiful Eva Green is exceptional as Princess Sibylla, even though
her part could do with more screen time. Liam Neeson makes his presence
known in a relatively small role. It is Edward Norton almost steals show
however as the leprosy riddled King Baldwin. He has more screen presence
behind a mask than most actors could ever dream of.
'Kingdom of Heaven' might not be in the same league as 'Gladiator'
but it is still one of the best historical dramas since the Oscar winner.
A visual treat with an interesting story, this is a film that is still riveting
even though you will be thinking that this should be a lot longer.
Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen
2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 and dts soundtracks, the movie is presented
extremely well, highlighting the brilliant cinematography and visual effects.
The Pilgrims Guide
A historical reference track that provides background information on the
real people and true events that are depicted in the film.
Director Kevin Reynolds and stars Sophia Myles and James Franco take you
behind the scenes of the upcoming 'Tristan and Isolde'.
Previews of 'Titanic: Special Edition', '24: Season 4', 'Mr & Mrs Smith',
'Fantastic Four' and 'Night Watch'
Grid (1hr 23.06 mins)
With the option to watch the whole documentary or split it into sections
covering Directing, Crew and Cast during pre-production, production and
post-production, which can be viewed as one documentary or be selected
as individual featurettes. Director Ridley Scott, writer William Monahan,
executive producer Lisa Ellzey, first assistant director Adam Sommer,
production designer Arthur Max, costume designer Janty Yates, composer
Harry Gregson-Williams, visual effects supervisor Wesley Sewell, supervising
sound editor Per Hallberg and stars Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson, Jeremy
Irons, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleason, Ghassan Massoud, Eva Green and
Marton Csokas take you through the entire production of 'Kingdom of Heaven'.
From the development of the script, through pre-production, location scouting,
set construction and costume design to production and post-production
special effects. This is a comprehensive look at the making of the movie,
as you'd expect from a Ridley Scott movie.
History vs. Hollywood A
& E Movie Reel (42.57 mins)
History Channel host Geoff Wawro introduces a look at how historically
accurate 'Kingdom of Heaven' actually is. Looking at the historical record
of the period between the 1st and 2nd Crusades, the programme highlights
the castles, Jerusalem, Saladin, siege warfare, the crusaders and the
Templar Knights. It also features interviews with history scholars and
director Ridley Scott, Orlando Bloom, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson and Eva
Internet Featurettes (8.57
Entitled 'Ridley Scott: Creating Worlds', 'Orlando Bloom: The Adventure
of a Life Time', 'Production Design: Bringing an Old City back to life'
and 'Costume Design: Creating characters through wardrobe', these short
featurettes include interviews with director Ridley Scott, production
designer Arthur Max, costume designer Janty Yates, visual effects supervisor
Wesley Swell and stars Orlando Bloom, David Thewlis and Liam Neeson.
Watch the trailer used to promote the movie in cinemas
As you might expect from a
Ridley Scott movie, the DVD package is as exceptional as always. With
a comprehensive documentary on the making of the film and featurettes
that cover everything else, the only thing missing from this package is
a commentary track. With an extended version of the film coming soon,
fans may want to hold off to see the complete 'Kingdom of Heaven' but
for those who loved the theatrical version, this is an excellent package.
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