Friday, May 06, 2005

Movie Review: Kingdom of Heaven

Yesterday, my friend convinced me to watch Ridley Scott's movie "Kingdom of Heaven".

The movie is about the fictionalised story of Balian of Ibelin. Ibelin is the name of a castle in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. It was located in an area near Jaffa and Escalon and now the area is called Yavne, a city in Israel. Ibelin is also the name of an import family of noblemen in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The true Balian of Ibelin was one of the more important knights in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Along with the other nobles of the crusader states Balian, the Ibelin family, were heavily involved in the struggle for power within the court of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. He was present at the Battle of Montsigard, one of the only battles Saladin lost to the crusaders, helped with the defense and negotiated the surrender of Jerusalem against the siege of Saladin and aided the English King Richard and Saladdin in the ending the Third Crusade.

The movie presents a more "saintly" version of Balian rather than a pragmatic political player in Crusader politics. Here Balian, recently widowed blacksmith, discovers that he is the natural son of the Godfrey of Ibelin. Godfrey invites Balian to be his heir and join him in the Holy Land. At the onset Balian refuses no doubt still remorseful over the death of his wife, who commited suicide after their child died at birth. Fortunately, the priest convinces him that only by going on a pilgrimage/crusade (it becomes almost synomous at this point) can he redeem his wife from hell since she died in a state of sin this of course and seeing his' wifes crucifix on the priest's neck convinces him and he promptly dispatches the priest to the almighty and burns his shop to the ground. He promptly leaves town and joins his father on the road to the Kingdom Jerusalem. Along the way they encounter the lawmen who are after Balian for killing the priest. Godfrey, Balian and the knights with them battle it out with the lawmen. They kill all of the lawmen but some of the knights die and Godfrey is fatally wounded. Thus in the spirit of Obi Wan Kenobi, Godfrey dies, knights Balian and sends him on a doomed ship to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The ship sinks during a storm but our Hero survives and enters the Kingdom of Jerusalem and into history, the movie version.

Orlando Bloom is Balian the Blacksmith-Count who played an important role in the defense of the people of Jerusalem. Bloom essays the role of Balian the blacksmith/crusader, but was he not a blacksmith in The Pirates of the Carribbean. And Liam Neeson plays his father Godfrey of Ibelin. Is it me or does not Liam mostly plays the role of the mentor who dies before his time, Qui-Gon Jin in Star Wars Episode 1 and Priest Valon in Gangs of New York. Then of course there is Kinsey. Jeremy Iron, David Thewlis, Edward Norton and a lot of competent actors were there to give competence to this film play.

Unfortunately all their efforts were unmade by a half-baked story. Not poorly made but half-baked.

First, Ridely Scott or writer did not include or removed scenes that were pivotal to the story. The battle of Hattin, which ended in the unequivocal defeat of the army of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, was the crucial stroke that enabled Saladdin to recapture Jerusalem and caused Pope Urban III to die of shock, some say.If one were to read the account of the battle and its importance you would doubt why this was just a footnote in the movie.

Second, Part of the downfall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem was the infighting of the different factions in that society. The in-fighting and intrigue in the court were byzantine.

The movie failed to capitalise on this so despite the competency of its actors and the skills of its technical people it failed to generate interest.

The movie-version of Balian was not as charismatic as Maximus and its highly fictionalised tale not convincing at all.

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Blogger rmacapobre said...

> Pope Urban III to die of shock

i didnt think this movie was history. ill go check it out at wikipedia .. thanks!

6:53 PM  

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