Ah, the crusades. A pleasant time where ignorant Christians killed Muslims because the Muslims were fighting to gain control of land that was rightfully theirs. No, I'm not talking about now - I'm talking about the middle ages, where a blacksmith somehow becomes a knight and strategist and defends Jerusalem from those evil terrorists - er, Muslims.
By the way, just so we're clear, my political incorrectness is meant to be satire, not offensive. If you're Muslim, I hope you didn't take offense, and if you're an ignorant fundamentalist (or a member of the Bush administration) and were taking my comments candidly and in agreement, you might just want to stop reading now.
Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, "Kingdom of Heaven." It's a big flop for 20th Century Fox, making only $20 million in its opening weekend against a budget projected to be about $130 million. No movie should ever cost that much, but even after the lame epics called "Troy," "King Arthur" and "Alexander" that basically squandered the swords-and-spears genre, who thought that a movie by Ridley Scott, the man who kick started the genre with "Gladiator" a few years back, would fizzle this badly?
At least the movie itself is pretty damn good. It probably won't win any awards, but it's amazingly well done, well acted and has some cool action scenes, even if the film skews more toward drama than excitement. Most of the movie deals with the ascension of Balian (Orlando Bloom), as he goes from being a blacksmith (he likes those roles, doesn't he?) to the son of a nobleman (Liam Neeson) to a baron himself and eventually and single-handedly takes on a massive army trying to reclaim the holy city. There are some political rumblings, which I always enjoy, as the bad guy contemplates taking over the kingdom from the dying king, and a little bit of awkward romance between Balian and newcomer Eva Green, who plays the princess Sibylla. Though there are a few action scenes scattered throughout, only the big one at the end will keep you thoroughly entertained - but boy is it a good one. Again, I don't know how a blacksmith became a master strategist, but hey, it makes for quality warfare.
Some may criticize "Kingdom of Heaven" for being too slow and talky, but for the most part it moves at a perfect pace, aided by Scott's excellent film work and great editing. None of the performances are exceptional and the screenplay stutters in a few places (like the stereotypical speech before the big fight that are becoming really tiresome), but no one flounders and all are entertaining to watch. Bloom, who really under whelmed in last year's "Troy," is much better here and the complete opposite of the wussy Paris.
Those looking for a fun summer movie may need to look elsewhere - "Kingdom of Heaven" is more like a winter movie vying for awards than it is a summer blockbuster. The action scenes are worth it, but there is a lot of time in between, and those who are less patient should stay clear. Nevertheless, "Kingdom of Heaven" is a good medieval epic that will definitely be one of the most overlooked movies of the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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