Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

This is the second time I have watched Kingdom of Heaven. The first time I watched it on a tiny TV and thought that may have been the reason why it didn’t work for me. A few years later and with a big screen and a good sound system it still didn’t work. And this despite the fact that it is a Ridley Scott movie, the cinematography is stunning, the music – Hans Zimmer  Harry Gregson-Williams – is good and…. That’s it. … There is nothing else I can add to the plus side. OK, maybe the battle scene towards the end which seems to be one of the Top 10 battle scenes of all time. It’s good, yes, but after 2 straight hours of utter boredom, it’s hard to redevelop some sort of enthusiasm.

Balian (Orlando Bloom), a blacksmith, travels to Jerusalem with his father, Godfrey de Ibelin (Liam Neeson). Ibelin dies on the way but Balian travels on. The movie is set during the reign of Baldwin IV, the so-called leper king (Edward Norton behind a mask). During his reign, Jerusalem is a Kingdom of Heaven in which Christians and Muslims live together in peace. After Baldwin’s death,  the husband of Baldwin’s sister becomes king. He wants Jerusalem to be Christian. He attacks Saladin’s army but loses the battle and Saladin marches towards Jerusalem where Balian heads the army that stayed behind. After the final epic battle is lost, Balian leads the people out of the city while Saladin and his people take over.  This is more or less the core of the story.

It’s ironic really as it is precisely this boring movie, or rather what it stands for, which was the source of the only really controversial and heated discussion on this blog. A while ago I wrote a post on Movies on the Crusades: A List. It is the only post on which people still comment frequently, calling each other names and being extremely emotional. I know I could close the comments section but I don’t want to do that. I’m not a fan of censorship. I usually reply to every comment but I do not do it on that post anymore as the discussion is turning in circles and answering seems pointless. What fuelled the anger is one person’s comment that Kingdom of Heaven wasn’t historically accurate. Whatever. None of this will make me change my mind – I don’t like the Kingdom of Heaven. Here are some reasons why:

  • The story. Why do we need the side story of someone going back to get his illegitimate son and fight along with him? This story part adds at least half an hour to a movie that would have needed some serious cutting plus a main character who totally lacks charisma.
  • The length. It is way too long. I was bored after the first 25 minutes, yet had to suffer through another 2hrs.
  • The actors. Orlando Bloom is not a good actor. No amount of make-up will ever make him one. Eva Green is one of those actresses you see and forget the moment the camera isn’t on her anymore. Not exactly a fascinating couple. While some of the other actors are very good, their combinations makes the choices look very random.
  • The cinematography. It’s stunning, as I said in the beginning, but if that’s the only thing a movie has to offer it becomes annoying. “One more bluish picture and I scream”, was what I was thinking.
  •  The characters. Even if the main character had been played by someone else, it would still have been a very boring character. In his only strong moment, when he frees the slaves and decides to defend the city against all odds, he sounds like a parakeet and mimics his late father. As Orlando Bloom is a bad actor, it sounds as if he was reciting a badly learned text.
  • The history. It isn’t accurate or rather it seems a hodgepodge of historical elements.

All in all it is too bad as the movie had potential. If you would like to see a really great movie on the Crusades, watch Arn – The Knight Templar instead.


22 thoughts on “Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

  1. jeffro517 says:

    I actually really liked this movie. I’m not too worried about historical accuracy in movies anymore, Hollywood rewrites history all the time. (See Glory for example)

    This was a long movie, but I think you don’t give the acting enough credit. I guess that’s what makes the world go round. Great writing either way!

    • Thanks, jeffro. I have a hard time with Orlando Bloom’s acting, apart from Lord of the Rings. He is great in that but I didn’t like it in this one.
      Maybe my hopes were far too high for this movie and I was disappointed the first time. I thought I’d like it better the second time but no. The last 15 minutes or so are quite good but I had lost my patience by then.
      You are certainly right about Hollywood’s rewriting of history and I’m not that often bothered but I thought it was confusing.
      Lucky we don’t all agree but it’s not an awful movie, in my opinion, it just didn’t work for me.

  2. Guy Savage says:

    Thanks for the tip about Arn. It’s in the rental queue.

  3. warmoviebuff says:

    Remember when I compared KOH to Black Hawk Down. You got a little upset that BHD did not trounce it. I went back and read that review and pretty much agree with you, although you are a bit harsh. You forgot to mention the numerous implausibilites in the movie. You also neglect to comment on the makers’ decision to make Bloom the lead and put Edward Norton in a mask as the leperous king. BTW that does not look like Bloom in the poster.

    Oh, and let me start the discussion by mentioning that the movie is very pro-Muslim. All the villains are Christians. Does anyone have an opinion on this?

  4. TBM says:

    I haven’t seen this one, but I would like to add that I liked Bloom in LOTR and Pirates. Have you ever read Amin Maalouf’s Crusades through the Arab Eyes? I read it years ago in university. It might help with the impending discussion.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll look it up. Although… there is always someone with another piece of infor pointing in an another direction…
      I absolutely love him in LOTR. But I found him horrible in Troy, Black Hawk Down and in this one. I had forgotten about Pirates of the Caribbean. I guess I had no problem or I would remember.

      • TBM says:

        Troy was a horrible film. I couldn’t even finish it. Black Hawk Down was on the telly this weekend but I missed the first 30 minutes so I decided to wait to watch it. I had a feeling the beginning was important.

      • It is indeed. It’s pointless to not watch the whole.
        Poor Orlando Bloom plays a crucial role in those first 30 minutes.

  5. the war movie buff says:

    Speaking of Black Hawk Down, if it wasn’t for that clumsy Orlando Bloom not being able to hold onto a rope, the whole Battle of Mogadishu would not have happened. But then there would not have been one of Caroline’s favorite movies.

  6. anuphunt says:

    Director of Black Hawk Dawn and Gladiator, Ridley Scott did great job directing this movie.. I personally liked this movie very much. Orlando Bloom also portrays the role of village black smith so well. I ranked this movie on 5th position on the list of top ten ancient war movies on Ancient War movies . I need some suggestions if I did it well or not. Help me out guys.

  7. nem baj says:

    In my opinion, that’s a bad movie, and even with someone else as the lead it would have been bad. The thing is, the director doesn’t display his usual genius with lighting, and even the editing is weak – hence all the flaws become apparent.

    As for the ‘side story’ you refer to, it’s classic Scott I’m afraid, about new ‘democratic’ generations and old ‘tyrannical’ ones; it was already corny in Gladiator, and would be even more corny in Robin Hood – except those two were visually far more accomplished (and Crowe has a popular appeal that Bloom doesn’t possess), so the movies could get away with it. This was also at the center of The Duellists, fortunately more subtly since the ‘modern’ guy was more frightening than the ‘conservative’…

    By the way the original music is by Harry Gregson-Williams, not Hans Zimmer. I find the score so heavy and so ‘touristic’ that I have a hard time not laughing – the worst being perhaps using Oumou Sangare’s poignant Saa Magni (a Malian song entirely about the death of a loved one) over… a sex scene. Gosh, all these tropical places are so sensual! Why can’t we take our holidays there?

    • I see we really agree on this one. It’s bad. Period.
      I hang my head in shame – why did I think the music was by Hans Zimmer??? It seems he refused it. I guess not only because he thought it’s too similar to Gladiator (an explenation I’ve seen somewhere).

  8. Andrew says:

    Watch the extended cut. It’s a whole different movie.

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