Kingdom of Heaven movie review, Ridley Scott, Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons, Edward Norton. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire
Rent DVDs From NetFlix Buy movies From Amazon Buy Posters From AllPosters

SPLICEDwire content is available for print, web, radio & PDA starting at just $99/month!
A scene from 'Kingdom of Heaven'
Buy movie posters at
Courtesy Photo
"Kingdom of Heaven"
2 stars
138 minutes | Rated: R
WIDE: Friday, May 6, 2005
Directed by Ridley Scott

Starring Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons, Edward Norton, Marton Csokas, Alexander Siddig, Michael Fitzgerald, Christian Boeving, David Thewlis, Michael Sheen, Eriq Ebouaney, Jouko Ahola, Ulrich Thomsen, Velibor Topic, Khaled El Nabaoui, Nasser Memarzia, Kevin McKidd, Samira Draa, Ghassan Massoud, Tim Barlow, Jon Finch, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Read our interview with Ridley Scott Ridley Scott (2001)

  • Ridley Scott
  • Orlando Bloom
  • Liam Neeson
  • Brendan Gleeson
  • Jeremy Irons
  • Edward Norton
  • Marton Csokas
  • David Thewlis
  • Michael Sheen
  • Kevin McKidd

  •  LINKS for this film
    Official siteShowtimes
    at Rotten Tomatoes
    at Internet Movie Database
    'Kingdom of Heaven' uses formulaic swords-and-sandals plot for politically corrected story from the Crusades

    By Rob Blackwelder

    For almost five years now, Hollywood studios have been trying to duplicate the success of "Gladiator" by making the same big-budget historical battle epic over ("The Last Samurai") and over ("Troy") and over ("King Arthur") and over ("Alexander").

    Each movie has re-imagined history from a modern, let's-keep-an-open-mind perspective and hewed to a shopworn formula in which the hero rallies his men against great odds and for a greater good. He invariably leads them into the same blood-and-mud war scenes, which are always shot in the same staccato slow-motion that characterizes the chaos of combat but forgets the audience needs to be kept abreast of who is winning. The hero also always finds time to romance a beautiful woman from another culture.

    Aside from having different casts, the only significant variations between these films seem to be 1) whether the hero was of noble birth or came up from nothing to become a great leader, and 2) whether the battlefields are green and forested or brown and sandy. One thing most of them definitely have in common is that they've bombed at the box office.

    "Kingdom of Heaven" is more of the same. This time the hero is Balian (Orlando Bloom), a bland French blacksmith and grieving widower (although you wouldn't know it by Bloom's narrow range of facial expressions) who becomes a knight of the Crusades and the defender of Christian-occupied Jerusalem against a massive Muslim army that lays siege to get it back.

    Couching the plot in real events, writer William Monahan layers the film in exposition designed to show both reason and extremism on all sides of the conflict, but "Kingdom of Heaven" doesn't have much to say on the subject of harmony and co-existence between faiths. The motives of its villains (primarily a power-hungry European knight spoiling for a religious rumble) and the internal politics of Jerusalem's royal Christian court are vaguely drawn as well -- although it's clear the king (a festering leper played from behind a mask by an uncredited Edward Norton) prefers the fragile peace he's engineered in the region and is counting on Balian to maintain it when he dies.

    But peace is not meant to be, and in the picture's third act director Ridley Scott (who also helmed "Gladiator") delves into battle scenes, leading to the climactic siege and Balian's severely out-manned defense, not of Jerusalem's walls (he knows he'll have to surrender the city eventually) but of its diverse and neutral people.

    Full of top-notch special effects and creative combat strategy -- inexplicably devised by Bloom the blacksmith and designed to maximize cinematic thrills -- the historical accuracy of this combat finale, and the events and circumstances surrounding it, are dubious at best. The film is even less reliable when it comes to its hero's personal history. The real-life Balian, who did defend Jerusalem in 1187, has otherwise been fictionalized almost beyond recognition -- especially when it comes to the obligatory hubba-hubba with the generically pretty wife (Eva Green) of the villain (Marton Csokas).

    Bloom's wallpaper performance, which certainly won't hold the attention of anyone who doesn't have his pin-up plastered around her bedroom, doesn't do the guy any favors either. After his introductory scene, in which he impulsively kills a man with a red-hot sword (from his metalshop's fire) for a slight against his dead wife, he just doesn't hold the screen.

    Only the depiction of the Muslim sultan Saladin (Ghassan Massoud) as a relatively magnanimous man of honor resembles historical accounts (and has any charisma), although his generosity toward the civilians of Jerusalem has been embellished so as to sit better with 21st century audiences.

    With extremely realistic costumes, hair, makeup, and CGI-rendered 12th century cityscapes, "Kingdom of Heaven" has no trouble bringing Balian's world to life. The movie's problem is in finding enough of a pulse to keep that world interesting.

    powered by FreeFind
    SPLICEDwire home
    Online Film Critics Society
    All Rights Reserved
    Return to top
    Current Reviews
    SPLICEDwire Home