Tonight I went to go see Kingdom of Heaven, the new Ridley Scott movie about the Crusades. Well, more specifically, it’s about the siege of Jerusalem by Saladin, a muslim warrior, around 1187. Orlando Bloom plays Balian, a blacksmith-turned-knight who had come to Jerusalem to seek God’s forgiveness for his wife’s suicide. However, he loses his faith, and finds corruption and extremism (on the Christian side, of course), by the Templars, who want to break the existing truce with Saladin. (See, Saladin is just a guy who wants to take back Jerusalem, which the Muslims had occupied before those nasty Christians came and took it away. Of course, it’s not really explained that they had invaded Jerusalem to get it in the first place, and so, the cycle of violence continues.)
Anyways. The political issues aside, I found the film to be quite enjoyable. It’s kinda like Gladiator 2, but not as dramatic. I suppose that’s one of the other downsides; most of the heavy drama comes from King Baldwin (Edward Norton) and his conflict with Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas). Bloom does little more than coast through the film, trying to reconcile his love for Guy’s wife, Sibylla (Eva Green), and his duties as a Knight to protect the people.
The action is good – as Ridley Scott has shown time and time again. Liam Neeson does a nice job as Godfrey, Balians long-lost father, who trains him (for like 4 minutes). Neeson will also train Bruce Wayne later this summer in Batman Begins. Considering his track record (he was killed in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace), I would expect his death to affect Bruce Wayne to the point where the Batman persona pops up. But that’s just a wild guess.
It was cool to see Crusades-era Jerusalem on the screen, through a combination of creative visual effects and shooting in Morocco. However, I’m not sure the geography works, since when did Israel have a HUGE snow-capped mountain range? And where is the large, flat, desert area right next to the city walls? Oh well.
The score by Harry Gregson-Williams works exceptionally well, and the only problem I have with the music in the film isn’t HGW’s fault, but rather Ridley Scott’s. He tracks in music from other sources (as is his way), but to use The 13th Warrior by Jerry Goldsmith (who Scott had actually screwed over twice before on Alien and Legend), during a pivotal dramatic moment, was a bit much. I mean, the main theme from the other film was blaring! Sheeeesh.
Geo-political quibbles aside, I did enjoy the film. I’m sure that the longer cut of the film will flesh out the characters a bit, and maybe even give Bloom some substance. Even though Scott has made a film that tries to show how religious extremism is bad (but only on the Christian side, apparently), in the end, it’s all about the French surrendering to the Muslim invaders. If you want to talk about parallels to modern events, talk about that one.