Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Movie Review: "Kingdom of Heaven".

Ridley Scott occupies an elite seat.

At a fictional gathering of the top two or three directors working today, Mr. Scott would (and should) have a place at the table.

Given his impressive body of work (e.g., “Gladiator” and “Blade Runner”), Mr. Scott drew me to the theater to see the just-released “Kingdom of Heaven” with great expectations.

I had a few:

1. That the movie would be visually and sonically beautiful—hallmarks of Scott films—it was;
2. That the film would be epic in scale—it was;
3. That a story set in the crusades of the late 12th century would be (or strive to be) politically correct—it was;
4. That the movie would be well-crafted down to the requisite period-piece details—it was;
5. That it would be replete with engaging action/battle scenes—it was; and
6. That it would be entertaining for the nearly 2.5 hour duration—it was.

“Gladiator” provides a useful benchmark. If you liked it, you will probably enjoy “Kingdom of Heaven”. The visually stunning cinematography and haunting music remind one of the myriad award-winning Russell Crowe epic; there are even some plot similarities that had to have been intentionally placed as an homage to Mr. Scott’s earlier masterpiece.

However, differences emerge. For example, “Gladiator” presents a clear-cut, good guy versus bad guy motif. “Kingdom of Heaven” is vastly more ambiguous. Intentionally so. I knew going in that a movie on the crusades could not possibly be supportive of Christians in particular, or religion in general. Scott’s film goes even further; there are several anti-religious sentiments injected somewhat ham-handedly in case one missed the subtleties. (Note, however, Mr. Scott did not write the screenplay).

Although Orlando Bloom did a creditable job, I could not help but contrast him with Mr. Crowe. Bloom seemed a bit miscast for a warrior-leader role, but in the end he aptly carried the film’s message without detracting from it.

“Kingdom of Heaven” receives an “A-".