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Movie Review: Kingdom of Heaven

Friday, May 13, 2005

Ahh... another Hollywood epic. They seem to be getting popular nowadays and progresively, the armies are getting larger and the story, getting worse. Since I am a fan of large-scale battles, I'm not complaining. :) Hence, when I saw the trailer for Kingdom of Heaven a couple of months ago, I said to myself, this is a must watch. And as usual, here's my take on the movie.

The movie begins in 1186 France and charts the fortunes of Balian (played by Orlando Bloom) a young blacksmith mourning the death of his wife and child. Balian was taken aback when knight, Godfrey of Ibelin (played by Liam Neeson) shows up and claims to be the father he never knew. Godfrey then tempts Balian to accompany him to Jerusalem, then the centre of the known world. After a treacherous journey, Balian is knighted and charged with protecting the king and the lands of his father. Oh, and there's the small matter of a battle-hardened army led by Saladin, who is determined to regain the city of Jerusalem. That is where the fun begin.

The story is based on some of the 12th century Christian crusades to take Jerusalem and its holy places from Muslim rule. I reckon, it's a really good setting for an epic and the plot of the movie does sound promising. The story took off slowly by introducing the characters one-by-one and the situation at hand. It did pretty well in the first 30 mins and things start to move quickly and tend to be confusing. Nonetheless, the writers managed to keep the story straight and simple (doesn't involve much thinking). Unfortunately on another level, the story fails to engage emotionally. The romance between Balian and Sibylla somehow feels empty and the character developement is all over the place. IMHO, the writers want to develop a bit of each and every character and because of that the audience just don't get the feeling for the characters unlike those in LOTR.

Orlando Bloom gave a routine performance and did nothing exceptional to create a believable and worthy lead. I reckon he has trouble playing parts which requires him to convey the emotional intensity. Besides that, the more experienced supporting casts- Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson and Liam Neeson did a more memorable job compared to Bloom. The only thing is that these actors are given so little in each scene and to rely so much on an inexperienced actor such as Bloom to carry the movie is a mistake. If only another actor besides Bloom were at the center of the film.

For me, the visuals saved the movie. Fortunately, the overall visual design adds authenticity to the images. Despite being shot in Spain and Morocco, the movie does a fantastic job of recreating the cosmopolitan Jerusalem. Like Gladiator director Ridley Scott tend to be a bit heavy handed on the production design (as his obssesion for countryside scenes where snow and/or ash chokes the air). Nonetheless, the film captures the feel of the Middle Ages better than most epics. The action in Kingdom of Heaven is a sight to behold, the battle sequences are simply breathtaking. When you see the massive armies it'll your breath away, and not forgetting the siege... it's truly magnificent and majestic. However, the battle wound inflicted are really bloody and I'm really surprised that the M'sian censorship board approved it.

Overall, an entertaining outing for me although I reckon they could've done much better with the story and the selection for the lead role. I reckon most ladies won't be complaining about Orlando Bloom. I really enjoyed this epic compared to King Arthur, Troy and Alexander which are all so tedious to watch. So if you're into large battle field battles and/or Orlando Bloom, don't miss this. If you want romantic comedy give this a miss. :P

Ratings (Scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the highest)

Cast : 3
Sound : 4
Picture : 4
Storyline: 2.5

OVERALL : 3.4
posted by Ivan, 2:06 am

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