Kingdom of Heaven (Ridley Scott, 2005)

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#26 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Tue May 23, 2006 4:35 pm

I just watched the Director's Cut... while it still doesn't fix all of the problems dane outlined in his critiques, it does flesh out Balian's relationship with his brother and spends more time showing what motivates Balian to take up his quest and explains why he is so reluctant to.

The main problem I have with the film is the casting of Orlando Bloom. He's merely okay early on when he is given little dialogue to mangle and just has to look burnt out. But once he goes up against the likes of Liam Neeson and David Thewlis he's simply outclassed. And then when Bloom becomes a leader is when all of his credibility goes out the window for me. He just doesn't have the acting chops to convincingly sell the dialogue he's given or show the kind of inspiration and charisma to lead an army. Bloom was good in The Lord of the Rings films because he was only a part of a much bigger whole and his weaknesses weren't as glaringly apparent. In this one, he's the central figure and so the film rests on his shoulders and he just doesn't have the experience to pull this off.

That being said, if you're a fan of this movie then you'll love the extras: a feature-length making of doc. that, surprisingly, addresses what went wrong at the US box office and the critical reaction to it. Also, Ridley Scott's commentary is top notch, as always. Definitely worth a listen.

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#27 Post by Cinesimilitude » Wed May 24, 2006 2:33 am

I never watched the theatrical cut of this film after the reviews and the prospect of the directors cut, and having just finished it, I loved it. I can't imagine it being paced any faster, even at 194 minutes. Edward Norton was awesome as the masked king, and eva green is rediculously stunning. this is to me, and will forever be, the only cut of the film.

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#28 Post by John Cope » Sun May 28, 2006 5:39 pm

Well, I just finished watching the DC and was surprisingly moved by it. Initially I was concerned because the major problems with the theatrical version (the cartoonish caricatures, particularly those performed by Brendan Gleeson and Marton Csokas) seemed unsalvageable; also, the simplistic tone of the material was grindingly diminishing both dramatically and ontologically.

What's interesting about the DC is that it takes awhile to fully acclimate oneself to what Scott's apparent purpose is. Eventually, though, it settles in and I think you can appreciate it on its own very specific terms. The movie is still filled with aphorisms and platitudes that are presented in direct and simple fashion but the extended length of this new cut and the resulting rhythm that emerges helps establish this as a legitimate motif; what felt way too easy in the truncated version feels like part of a design now--albeit a fairly elementary one. The truisms don't seem so prosaic now; there is a more concentrated understanding of the nature of the conflict as seen by Scott. Rather than dismissing religious issues completely (as the theatrical seemed to) the film now firmly sees both monotheistic traditions as tangential to the more primal squabbles over land and power. It emphasizes the way in which the religious question becomes an irrelevant one. This may be nothing new but that distinction is a critical one, I think.

The additional time spent with the characters does work to give them the weight and depth they lacked (well, actually, Marton Csokas still comes across as the leering, snarling embodiment of evil). For instance, when Jeremy Irons' character describes his disillusionment with the wars and how they are merely about property that remark now seems like a true sign of his exhaustion rather than just some modernist political statement; it also rings true because of the careful and deliberate focus and development of the rest of the picture. Even Orlando Bloom is redeemed in this version. I imagine he will still be seen as wooden by many but I grew to appreciate the stoic, removed quality of his performance. It's both appropriate dramaturgically speaking (we see what it's a response to) and fitting for Scott's ever so slightly shaded moral fable. He represents an ideal of virtue amid an array of value systems fatally compromised and rendered meaningless. His speech at the end and the surrender of Jerusalem are now of a piece with the intents of the rest of the film and not the lukewarm reflections of modern indifference under the guise of noble pacifism.

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#29 Post by maxbelmont » Mon May 29, 2006 12:20 am

Right, right. I am hoping to get my hands on a copy John Cope, but it's going to take a lot to convince me that it's a completely different film from when I saw it in the theater. but, you have shed some light on the subject and I might look into getting a copy.

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#30 Post by Gordon » Mon May 29, 2006 2:49 am

I wrote this movie off after after reading reviews and the jive on various message boards, but this longer version, from what I can gather, seems to greatly improve the film, but as DVD Dane points out in his excellent critique above, Balian of Ibelin wasn't some naive blacksmith who rose up from nowhere. I have yet to be impressed by anything Bloom has done. I'm also not a fan of Russell Crowe, but he would have been a better choice for Balian.

But, I'm a sucker for historical epics, with audacious battle scenes (love the 1970 Waterloo) even if they revise the facts. As long as one is aware of the errors, deliberate or intentional, the experience is usually enjoyable. But, boy, oh boy, Scott has drifted a long way from The Duellists, which I feel is his best film.

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Kingdom of Heaven (Ridley Scott, 2005)

#31 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sun Oct 11, 2015 8:45 am

I've seen some praise for the director's cut here, and that combined with what info I gathered from interviews I read, I purchased the recent Blu-ray release featuring everything on the special edition DVD. I watched the DC and liked it a lot more than I was expecting, because while I like a lot of his movies I am usually put off by historical epics. I guess seeing this through modern eyes gives a lot more perspective, than baring witness to something I may have read about in school but wasn't paying attention to as often the case seems to be with "historical" movies.

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Re: Kingdom of Heaven (Ridley Scott, 2005)

#32 Post by TheKieslowskiHaze » Thu Aug 13, 2020 9:19 pm

I saw the theatrical cut of this in 2005 and was disappointed. After hearing for fifteen years about the superiority of the director's cut, I finally gave it a watch this past weekend.

It's been too long for me to compare it to the theatrical cut, but I did enjoy this version. In Scott's filmography (of which I am not very fond), I would rank it pretty high. I liked the production design and visual style. Great costuming. Action scenes on point; Scott's camera gets characteristically a little too herky-jerky, but it wasn't too bad. I admire the scope and ambition; the final battle scene is legitimately impressive. I even liked the on-the-nose, Bush-era politics. It makes for an interesting companion piece with Munich, another movie from that year (but one I like much more).

It would be a huge stretch for me, however, to call this a great or even good movie. The main problem is Bloom. Just a terrible lead performance. I don't fully blame him, though, as that character has almost nothing to do in the entire movie. Every single subplot is more interesting and better acted. It got to the point where I looked forward to whenever he wasn't on the screen. This has got to go down in history as one of the most bungled protagonists in any big-budget movie.

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Re: Kingdom of Heaven (Ridley Scott, 2005)

#33 Post by feihong » Fri Aug 14, 2020 2:07 am

Interesting. Bloom hardly seems to have a character he's playing, as I recall--but I may not have seen enough to make that judgement. I have seen this movie 3 times––twice in the theater and once in the director's cut at home––and I have never been able to stay awake for it. This isn't a common problem for me at all; I don't remember more than a small handful of films I've ever fallen asleep in, and in those instances only when I was very tired. Something about this movie is like a drug that knocks me straight out. I remember everything through Balian arriving in Jerusalem, and then I wake up right when Saladin's soldiers are breaching the fortress wall at the end. In between I would arise for particular scenes; I remember Brendan Gleeson or somebody doing a Monty Python dance in a prison cell. I remember somebody putting a hit out on Balian for some reason. I remember scattered images of Jeremy Irons and the king in the mask. But that's it.

It isn't the medieval subject matter that's doing it, either. I was interested and awake the whole time watching Knights of the Teutonic Order. I always enjoy the Errol Flynn Robin Hood. And one of my favorite movies is Marketa Lazarova, which I think does successfully a lot of things Kingdom of Heaven seems to be trying to do and then falling short of.

When it comes down to it, I think that Scott's movies are often powerfully boring. A couple years ago I tried to take a look at Someone to Watch Over Me; I turned it off about 20 minutes in because I had no patience for it. I often find with Scott movies that I am not being at all rewarded for the close attention I try to pay to his pictures. The visuals generally look pretty involving (or at least, many people seem to be involved in putting them together), but so often the story ideas and thematic ideas are less developed, and the images don't seem to have much meaning. This movie had a lot of atmosphere early on, but I had a hard time placing what the purpose of some of that atmosphere could be.

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