Ridley Scott is a trademark. You can actually expect things when you know he is directing the show. First you have the hero who is prince-soon-to-be-king (ahem). Then you have a lady who wants to get in his boxer shorts, tunica…you get the point. Then there`s the enemy, who is surprisingly human and has characteristics other than the need to rule the world, speak in a funny accent and look evil. Then you have a dying real king and a person close to him wanting to be his heir. But of course, due to the natural charms and grace and (insert a characteristic here) the dying king decides that our hero is a better suit for a future king. Then you have two major battles, a dialogue where everybody goes “I heard that!” and good music.
The Kingdom of Heaven is no different. In a way, Ridley made a bastard child from his previous two movies, Black hawk down and Gladiator. It`s a good mix, the camera knows its place, the only thing you have to worry about at this movie is parts of the dialogue, the way how he leads a romantic side of the movie (blah…pointless, stupid and clumsy) and moments of sheer hollywoodiness (scene- and dialogue-like).
Bloom does his job well. I don`t like his boyish face and his ever-lasting smile with which he tackles everything, from the shock of his wife`s death, reunion with his father-crusader knight, the death of his father, the coming to Jerusalem, the crusades, the defence of Jerusalem and finally the surrendering of Jerusalem. Irons is excellent and Neeson just comes to croak. The arogant nobleman Guy de Lusignan, who breaks off the fragile truce between the muslims and christians is the most annoying guy I`ve seen for a long time. Perfect acting of a snotty french aristocracy, who does not care about the big picture. All he wants is war. “I am what I am” he says as he goes around, slaying people in the name of religion.
The movie shows the absurdity of fighting for any ideology. As Tiberias (Irons), the major aide, says “First I thought it was all about religion. Then I realised it`s about money and land. And I was ashamed. Now I fight for the people.”
Again, this is the movie where (just like in Black Hawk Down) the Americans (or in this case the english, french and every other nation who fought the crusades) looses and the “infidels” (somalians, muslims) reap victory. And “our boys” run home, defeated and ashamed.
The battles are spectacular. The siege of Jerusalem takes place at night and the scene where the armies of Saladin, the leader of the muslim army start catapulting the city walls is breath-taking. The camera moves well and if you liked the Germania scene in Gladiator, this will be right up your alley.
The movie is a classic blockbuster in a good sense. They are not trying to hard to make a documentary out of it and on the other hand they are keeping a reasonable amount of reality in it. For a blockbuster, that is.
The end is very moving. After surrendering Jerusalem, our main hero asks his muslim counter-part “How much is Jerusalem worth?” and Saladin turns around, says “Nothing…“, walks three paces and says “Everything!”
And of course, the funniest character in the whole movie is the priest, who represents the “old school“, being impractical where he should be practical (when our hero knights every soul in Jerusalem, the priest wonders if just the title is enough to make a man a better fighter) and being practical, where he should not be (after seeing the muslim army is advancing, he goes “We have to change to islam…and repent later!“).
All in all, a fair sucessor of the Gladiator and a movie that does not feel long, running at 2 hours, 25 minutes. And relax, as soon as the arrows start flying, all the silly romance flies out the window.