KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
Reviewed by Byron Merritt
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is an impossible story with a confusing time-line. Balian (Orlando Bloom, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN) is the unlikely hero of Jerusalem during the dark days of the early Christian crusades. Visited by his (up to that point) unknown father (Liam Neeson, KINSEY) shortly after the death of his wife and child, Balian learns that he is the son of a noble Templar Knight.
Immediately thrown into their midsts, he learns swordplay "in the name of God." His quest, he soon learns, is to protect those within the walls of Jerusalem, even from themselves. When war breaks out amongst a group of Muslim warriors (something that’s set up rather slip-shoddily by Brendan Gleeson, COLD MOUNTAIN) and the Christian army gets slaughtered out on the nearby plains, Balian becomes the protector of the city, knighting every able-bodied man willing and able to carry a sword or shoot a bow.
Director Ridley Scott (BLADE RUNNER, 1982) gives us an overly-righteous GLADIATOR flick that has plenty of action but very little substance.
The main issues are with historical accuracies (which were apparently thrown to the wind!), character development (shallow!), and a time-line that was impossible to follow.
So many things were inaccurate that it’s difficult to know where to start. Costumes, the activities of women of the times, the non-punished actions of those who cast-out blasphemy, etc., all made this film completely unbelievable.
The characters, many of whom come and go in quick succession, are so underdeveloped that most viewers might not (at least I didn’t) give a rat’s ass what happens to them.
And the time-line. There are no text notifications on the screen to let us know how much time has passed. Balian digs wells with friends and fellow citizens, travels far and wide, sails around the hub of the world, returns to his blacksmith shop, and we have no idea—NO IDEA!—how much time has passed.
I will say that the action/battle scenes were fairly impressive, but many of these types of combat sequences are becoming passe and even cliche-ish. So nothing new can be credited in this department either.
I’m a pretty big fan of Ridley Scott’s work, too (I all but gushed over the aforementioned GLADIATOR and BLADE RUNNER, as well as ALIEN, MATCHSTICK MEN, and BLACK HAWK DOWN), but this most certainly isn’t up to his normally high standards in my humble opinion.