Kingdom of Heaven

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This review contains serious SPOILERS…on the other hand, considering that this has been touted as the movie nobody is seeing, you may not care…

A young blacksmith named Balian turns out (much to his surprise) to be the son of a baron in the Holy Land, and joins Dad to go on crusade.

So, since I have become addicted to Fametracker, I’ll sum up the assets and liabilities of this movie:

Assets Liabilities
  • Really, really beautiful filmmaking.
  • Really, really dull scriptwriting.
  • Incredible attention to detail, costumes, armor and arms, cinematography.
  • Except for the guy who thought that having blood and/or mud flung at the camera would make it more realistic…after the eighth or ninth time, that kind of got old…
  • Liam Neeson
  • Liam Neeson NEVER TAKES HIS SHIRT OFF. sigh.
  • Orlando Bloom, who is okay looking and tries real hard to act.
  • Orlando Bloom, who is so perfectly pretty he’s kind of bland and doesn’t have a lot of range of emotion. Oh, and his character is a blacksmith and just happens to know how to read and write and has the manners and knowledge to fit right in with the nobility? In the MIDDLE AGES? hah.
  • Eva Green, who played Sybilla, Baldwin’s sister and later Queen of Jerusalem, and was awfully fetching.
  • Sybilla, who was portrayed as a freedom-loving 90s sort of gal, who went where she wanted, slept with a guy she wasn’t married to, and followed him to France in the end…totally unbelieveable. Not only was even a strong woman (and that Sybilla was) incredibly confined in that place and time, unable to go anywhere without being surrounded by her ladies and knights, but even after the fall of Jerusalem, she was still queen of a sizeable chunk of the Holy Land…why would she leave that (even if she were allowed to, matrimonial prize that she was) to be a blacksmith’s wife in France?
  • Jeremy Irons
  • Jeremy Irons is NEVER a liability.
  • The battle scenes, wow!
  • They SKIPPED RIGHT OVER the Battle of Hattin, the major conflict in this war! This was the battle where the Christians stupidly marched out of their well-defended city in the heat of day in full armor with very little water…and were dropping like flies even before the battle. This is the battle that basically lost the sizeable chunk of the Holy Land that the Christians had had for a hundred years…after that, it was all over but the shouting. And they show the buildup…and then all of a sudden it’s OVER and THAT’S IT? sheesh. Although I will award extra points for the (completely unexplained but accurate) scene of Saladin’s cavalry riding in circles deliberately raising dust to make things even worse for the Christians. It felt like they filmed a lot more of this battle but then had to cut it.
  • Many key historical figures like Reynald de Chatillon, Guy de Lusignan and King Baldwin (and did anyone notice Edward Norton under that silver mask? Yes, Baldwin really was a leper.) were right on the money.
  • Many characters (the major ones) were totally unbelieveable. This was the middle ages, and the Christians didn’t even like each other much, much less anyone else…it was kind of wierd to hear them spouting stuff about everyone living in peace together…
  • They got a whole lot of the historical events right- the infighting between the Templars and the other knights, the leadup to the disastrous (for the Christians) and stupidly fought Battle of Hattin, the loss of the True Cross to the Muslims, the fallout in Saladin’s tent afterwards, the battle for Jerusalem, and the fact that everyone in the city was freed by Saladin without having to convert.
  • For some reason they left out one salient detail: the people of Jerusalem weren’t just freed, they were RANSOMED, which was a perfectly normal thing to do at the time. Saladin set a price for men, women, children and slaves, and each person who was freed had to be paid for. The city treasury was emptied, Sybilla hocked her jewels, and a whole lot of folks gave up all their cash to help out…but a sizeable number of the poorest residents were sold off into slavery when their ransom was not paid. And the Bishop of Jerusalem slunk out the back gate with his own money and all the church plate he could lay his hands on…

The reality police showed up after the movie. We saw it, and (as is his wont) Mr. Otter (aka Historian-on-a-Stick, the man who quibbles about buttons in Civil War movies and shoulder insignia in just about EVERY war movie) turned to me and asked how I liked it. I started in on some of the stuff I wrote up above, and his jaw dropped, and his eyes got big, and he said, I didn’t know any of that! I had no idea you knew so much about this! and he was VERY IMPRESSED.

What universe did we shift to where I knew more about an historical event than Mr Otter? It’ll probably never happen again…but it was fun while it lasted.

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