This movie was incredible. I found out about it strictly as Orlando Bloom’s next project after Pirates and the more I found out about it, the more excited I got. I especially hope it gets the kind of adoration that Ridley Scott’s last epic got (Gladiator was a well loved “sword and sandal epic” that inspired many knock-offs including Troy and Alexander). What’s interesting is that 20th Century Fox played up the “directed by Ridley Scott” aspect in hopes that the Gladiator-fans would come back to theatres in great numbers. But what’s also great is that this is not just a warrior epic (can’t call it a sword and sandal epic because it’s more about knights than Romans), but a religious epic…(gee, hence the title Kingdom of Heaven). The movie details the defense of Jerusalem by Christians from Muslims. There was also a bit of a pre-release news story where some people were worried that this movie would cause anger between Muslims and Christians because it unfairly casts Muslims as evil…but if anything, I’d say it casts Muslims and Christians in a bad light. What I mean to say, is that the movie has two kinds of people: the religious folk who accuse everyone who doesn’t believe in their faith a blasphemer and the good folk who follow this oath:
“Be without fear in the face of you enemies
Be brave and upright that God may love thee
Speak the truth, always, even if it leads to your death
Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong.”
There are people of both types on both sides of the major conflict that runs throughout the movie (i.e. Christians and Muslims). Of course, I call the good folk good because they have the right idea about religion and belief. But that distinction and where it can lead is a story for another time.
Besides that incredible aspect of the story, the movie has many wonderful points including the cast, the music and the battle effects. The battles look absolutely incredible (whether digital or real life) and shows in gory detail the medieval brutality that classified that period of time (the movie takes place in the early 1100’s) from trebuchets and siege towers to liquid flame (burning pitch) and fiery missiles. The music was inspiring and fit right in with all the onscreen action. It accentuated the point of the story, which wasn’t the battle, but the human motivation behind the battle. I especially appreciated the cultural music and chanting. The cast was phenomenal. Bloom plays another blacksmith turned adventurer, but he does it with just a smidgeon more drama this time (to a wonderful result). Eva Green is nice as the (I can’t say much more because I haven’t seen her in much else). Liam Neeson does a nice turn as the tutor who dies (Qui-Gon Jinn: Star Wars: The Phantom Menace), but mixes in a little regret and sorrow for abandoning his son (the tutee). Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Marton Csokas play the leaders of the two sides (that I mentioned above) and just add even more to the human drama that is this movie. I especially enjoyed seeing Csokas play another evil guy in a beard (Timeline and XXX) because he has being evil down to an art…especially when he is led out on a donkey half-naked. I also liked David Thewlis…he’s the feel good friend of both Neeson and Bloom and you really enjoy his interactions with them.
All in all, this movie was incredibly exciting and dramatically and philosophically potent.
“What God desires is here (in your mind) and here (in your heart)…”