Kingdom of Heaven

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Kingdom of Heaven
Review (8/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven stars Orlando Bloom as Balian, a grieving blacksmith who recently lost his wife and child. His life is about to be turned more upside down and around when a mysterious man named Godfrey (Liam Neeson) shows up on his doorstep claiming to be his estranged father. (Well, there's not really a door or a step but you know what I mean.) Balian soon goes from being a simple blacksmith with barely a pot to pee in, to a young lad inheriting a castle, some land, a handful of people working for him and from what I gather, his father's sloppy seconds. He also inherits the title of Baron, is knighted and before he knows it, he finds himself defending a city and its King, in the name of Christianity, from an army of Muslims numbered somewhere in the neighbourhood of 200,000 soldiers. Kingdom of Heaven is a bloody and violent tale of epic proportions about a simple man who finds himself thrust into the middle of a holy war where he is forced to protect the people who live in the holiest of cities - Jerusalem.

I have to admit right from the get-go that I really enjoyed Kingdom of Heaven. Yes, it is not a perfect movie and does have some flaws. For instance, it is slightly confusing at times mostly because it's sometimes difficult to figure out who is pissed at who and why, who's a bad guy, who's not and especially for me, on more than one occassion, what the hell they were saying. Some of those accents were just hell to comprehend. But with that being said, the movie wasn't impossible to follow and in the end, everything seemed to come together and make sense. Maybe one other thing I couldn't figure out was how Balian goes from a grieving widower to a young dude getting a piece of tail from a forbidden Queen. Whatever happened to a little bit of mourning? But then I remembered he's a man and that's what men do in movies. Think about it - William Wallace didn't grieve for too long before he was getting a piece of ass in Braveheart. And Maximus in Gladiator surely had his eye on a fine specimen shortly after his wife was hung and burned. Oh well.

But despite the movie's few shortcomings there is so much more about this movie that is good. In true Ridley Scott fashion, it has some outstanding and violent battle scenes. There is plenty of the red stuff for you sick blood-thirsty movie fans. In one memorable scene some big German dude takes an arrow in the throat and still manages to knock off about a dozen more soldiers in a battle that is simply outstanding. The cast is strong from top to bottom - Bloom, Neeson, Marton Csokas (as Guy de Lusignan), Jeremy Irons (as Tiberias), Brendan Gleeson (as Reynald), Eva Green (as Sibylla) - they're all outstanding. The good guys are likeable, the bad guys are detestable and the Muslims, while as battle-hardened as the Christian armies, are not unreasonable, for once in a Hollywood movie. Bloom is actually surprisingly good and respectable in his lead role and plays the heroic simpleton quite well - but he didn't have that great William Wallace-type speech to deliver (even though he delivered about three or four speeches) but that might not entirely be his fault. Whatever happened to the good speeches? Finally, I have to say something too about Edward Norton's appearance. I was just informed he was in the movie and I have to admit I had no idea. I even went online to confirm that it was actually him who was in the movie and yes, it was. He was great as well. If you don't know he is in this movie, you may be shocked just as I was.

As for the length of the movie, I'm sure anytime you hear the word "epic", you start thinking 2 1/2 to 3 hours long and how can I last that long without taking a leak. Well, Kingdom of Heaven is barely 2 1/2 hours and you may not even notice it's that long. The movie moves at a good pace and is interesting and exciting enough that time should not be a factor. Hell, I saw The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy last week and that movie was barely 1 1/2 hours long and I struggled through that. You will not have to worry about this for Kingdom of Heaven. In fact, I would think that one of the reasons some of the film is a bit confusing and difficult to figure out is because too much editing. (For once.) Another twenty minutes on this movie would not have hurt it as much as it would have helped. Don't be surprised to see some of this extra footage come out on a super-deluxe, double-disc, special edition, director's cut DVD for about $45 sometime in the near future.

Well, I'm sure there are a few other things that I have to say about Kingdom of Heaven but I fear I have gone into the rambling stages. I will say this - it's not a perfect movie and it's not for everyone (beware of extreme violence) but I personally found it to be very entertaining despite it's minor flaws. I fear that Kingdom of Heaven will get some bad press because of the recent failures of such "epic" movies as Troy and Alexander but let me assure you, this movie is much better than it's recent predecessors and perhaps is the best epic-type movie since Scott's Oscar-winning Gladiator. The one problem is that it is slightly confusing at times and might require a second viewing to get all the nuances of the movie but I look forward to watching Kingdom of Heaven again sometime in the near future.

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