Kingdom of Heaven

(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

      My last review was about Millions, a movie where a young boy tries to do good. Kingdom of Heaven is a whole epic movie about a bunch of people who are trying to do good, well, those who aren't raping and pillaging all the time. This film is really a fantasy since it is Ridley Scott's vision for a peaceful Middle East. Of course, since Kingdom of Heaven is about the Crusades, the peaceful part doesn't last very long. To be quite accurate, the action in Kingdom of Heaven occurs between the 2nd (1147–49) and 3rd (1189–92) Crusades. This film tells the story of a poor blacksmith (Orlando Bloom) who discovers that he is the son of a nobleman (Liam Neeson). Bloom's wife and child have recently died and he wants very badly to do some good so he can meet up with them in Heaven. So, Neeson convinces Bloom to follow him to Jerusalem which at this stage of the Crusades is in Christian hands and ruled by King Baldwin the Leper (Edward Norton). Baldwin and Saladin (Ghassan Massoud), leader of the Muslims, have agreed to an uneasy truce. Bloom starts to do good deeds but no sooner is he in the Holy Land than he is attracted/seduced by King Baldwin's sister, Sibylla (Eva Green) who happens to be married to an evil Knight Templar, Guy of Lusignan (Marton Csokas). Guy and his partner in crime (Brendan Gleeson) are trying to incite a war with the Muslims while the ailing King and his Marshall (Jeremy Irons) try to keep the peace. Other members of the cast of characters include a Knight Hospitaler (David Thewlis) and a Muslim nobleman (Alexander Siddig) who both help Bloom to be a good guy. Many of the characters in Kingdom of Heaven are actual historical characters including King Baldwin, Guy of Lusignan, Sibylla and Saladin.

      A film like Kingdom of Heaven needs a good bad guy and this guy named Guy just isn't the guy. He's really boring and you know from day one that he's an idiot and he isn't even scary. The actor playing Guy, Marton Csokas, looks vaguely familiar because he was Celeborn in The Lord of the Rings. Yes, he's yet another actor from down under. Bloom is good but does he have to start out as a poor blacksmith in every film he makes? He was also a poor blacksmith in Pirates of the Caribbean. I still love him for his role of Legolas, easily the best thing in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But the real stars of Kingdom of Heaven are Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson and David Thewlis. They are all great. Irons more or less steals every scene that he's in and shows Orlando Bloom how it should be done. Thewlis plays a Knight Hospitaler which means that he is a priest but he can still kill people. Liam Neeson is very good as always. Unfortunately, he now gets cast as the mentor to the hero, much as he did in The Phantom Menace, and mentors, like sidekicks, usually have to be killed off so the hero can undergo some personal growth. French newcomer Eva Green plays Sibylla. She is quite good as the fiery love interest for the first half of the movie but then decides to be boring. Edward Norton is good as the King even though we never see his face. Brendan Gleeson, fresh off of chewing the scenery in Troy, is completely wacko in Kingdom of Heaven as an out of control Knight Templar. At least, unlike Csokas, Gleason is a bit scary. Ghassan Massoud, a Syrian actor, is good as Saladin, the leader of the Muslim army. Another familiar face, Alexander Siddig, who was Dr. Bashir on Deep Space Nine, has a nice little part as Saladin's right-hand man.

      Kingdom of Heaven really looks great. Ridley Scott is great at that. And the knights are cool. The coolest character besides Jeremy Irons is King Baldwin who always wears a mask to hide his leprosy. It's obviously important to be cool when you are in Jerusalem in the 12 century. In this way, it's a bit like A Knight's Tale. My big objection to Kingdom of Heaven is that Bloom's character, after having an affair with Green, won't take part in getting rid of her husband even if that will save Jerulsalem and, also, allow him to marry her. As she says, doing a little evil will bring a lot of good. But Bloom learns that turning the other cheek is usually not enough. A lot of tough love has to be dispensed. And what goes around, comes around, as Bloom is arriving home in France at the end of the movie, he meets Richard the Lion Heart on his way to Jerusalem for the 3rd Crusade. A sequel?