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  • Writer's pictureHunter Friesen

"Kingdom of Heaven" Throwback Review

*Watched the 194-minute Director's Cut*

At over three hours long, Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven is a true epic in every aspect. The legend of the film's mishandling upon release has now grown more well known than the movie itself. In addition to its botched release, there are two other points of note that should be made.

First, its box office struggle (paired with the critical and commercial failure of Oliver Stone's Alexander just six months earlier) helped usher in the end of the sword-and-sandal historical epic that had seen a resurgence with Braveheart, Gladiator, and Troy.

Second, also releasing in 2005 was Steven Spielberg's Munich, which detailed the event and aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre. Despite a difference of 800 years in the setting, Scott and Spielberg's films share very similar qualities.

Kingdom of Heaven follows Balian of Ibelin as he becomes embroiled in the Crusades that have been raging for centuries (and still quietly rage today). On his journey, Balian encounters an expansive cast of characters on both sides of the argument. Even with their best efforts, neither side convinces Balian as to why this war needs to be fought. Balian sees this war of religion as only an excuse for a select few to grab power and glory at the bloody expense of thousands.

Through Balian, Ridley Scott makes his grand statement on the battle of religions, both in the past and present. He doesn't mock each side for what they believe and he doesn't paint one as right or one as wrong. Working with maybe the most dangerous material, Scott and writer William Monahan strike a balance worth commendation.

Kingdom of Heaven also makes way for moments of pure spectacle that rival the Oscar-winning work in Gladiator. The sets and costume designs are pristine and the score by Harry Gregson-Williams is both bombastic and graceful. The action scenes are well done on a macro-level as large armies clash on huge battlefields. On a smaller scale, the hand-to-hand combat sequences are a bit of a letdown as over-editing and predictability take place over good choreography.

On the acting front, Orlando Bloom leads as Balian. Miscast for his stoic role, Bloom does alright as he utters few words for most of the runtime. The rest of the cast share a similar quality to Bloom as many allow the weighty material to convince them they need to overact. The one that rises above all is Edward Norton as the leprosy stricken king of Jerusalem.

More than just a romantic-action epic, Kingdom of Heaven is both entertaining and educational with its themes.


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