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Kingdom Of Heaven - Director's Cut - 25/4/2012 2:18:14 AM   
OllieJP

 

Posts: 8
Joined: 14/1/2009
Kingdom Of Heaven: Directorís Cut
A DVD review by Oliver Partington

ďJerusalem has no need of a perfect knight.Ē

ďThat is your oath *SLAP* And that's so you remember it.Ē

Okay, imagine The Godfather Part Two. You there? Excellent. Now picture the classic scene where Michael Corleone has his brother Fredo killed. Now imagine watching this scene with everything explaining that the two men are brothers having been removed from the film. Now imagine that not only has Fredoís relation to Michael been removed, so has 85% of Fredoís part in the film. So when he dies, heís a meaningless mook and his death is even more meaningless. No tragedy, no heartbreak, no one cares. Kingdom Of Heaven is that. A film where the relationships are removed, the spirit and character are gone and all weíre left with is a vaguely emo Orlando Bloom and a lot of hitting people with swords. Now I donít mind a good bit of sword action, hell, that was most of the reason I bought the film to begin with. Iím a big fan of the medieval time-period in literature, screen and even video games (Mount and Blade for the win!). I donít mind particularly about historical accuracy, itís all about the story and a story well-told. Kingdom of Heaven is not a good story well told. Itís a good story well told after suffering from a particularly harsh lobotomy.

That, fortunately is not the end of the story.

After Kingdom was released in 2005, director Ridley Scott made it very clear that the film on our screens wasnít his film, his film was better and longer. What the general filmgoing public saw was a mess of studio interference and terrible cuts. A lot of directors throw that kind of statement out there when their film doesnít do well but when Ridley Scott says it, youíd do well to believe it. There are several versions of his sci-fi classic Blade Runner available, all are good but his Final Cut is by far the best, as is his personal cut of Gladiator. In December of that year he was allowed to put out his version. Kingdom Of Heaven: The Directorís Cut. True to his word, itís nearly an hour longer - clocking in at a staggering 194 minutes - also true to his word, it was much, much better. Even if you enjoyed the original Kingdom Of Heaven, once you feast your eyes (and it really is a feast for the eyes - more on that later) on the directorís cut, youíll never watch the original again.

I can gladly count the newer edition as one of the best (if not the best, certainly one of my favourites) films set in the Crusades, or even just set in Medieval times, out there. Itís truly a marvel. Iíll start, as always with the script. Written by one of the more hit-and-miss writers out there, William Monahan. He wrote the epic-gangster film that is The Departed ... but then again he wrote London Boulevard. Thankfully the script for Kingdom is more Departed than Boulevard. A key trait of Monahan is story. One of the best things about his scripts are the journeys of the characters and the progression of the stories. The same can be said of Kingdom. The story is simply fantastic. It covers the period of time between the first two Crusades, where the Christians and the Muslims held Jerusalem in a (very) tenuous peace. During this, Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson, Taken) travels to France to find his son (Orlando Bloom, Pirates Of The Caribbean) and entice him to go back to Jerusalem.

A good way to tell a story is truly a good story well told is when you finally reach the last shot on the film and you are suddenly struck by how things have changed since the first - you get this in buckets in this film. The dialogue is a slight issue and at times it can be a tad corny. A particular moment when Balian shouts out that everyone has claim to Jerusalem. Itís a great moment but unfortunately the line was written for corn than honesty. Although as Balian is so bloody and honest and good, he needs those kinds of lines to sell that element to his character. You may have noticed that I picked two quotes for the top of the review and thatís to demonstrate the two major tones youíll find in the film. You get grand sweeping film-trailer esque lines and also some brilliant character lines that arenít necessary but they help sell the characters and sell the world. Something that has been said a lot about the film and itís something I agree with - to a point - is that there is a lot of politically correct leanings towards showing the Muslim characters in a very positive light. Perhaps even in a slightly patronising one. I believe this does come through every now and then but in a way, that reminded me of the fantastic Sharpe series. The real enemies werenít on your opponentís side but your own. The opponent on the Christainsí side being The Templars lead by Guy of Lusignan (Marton Csokas, The Bourne Supremacy) The only muslims that were depicted in any real detail were Ghassan Massoud as Saladin, Alexander Siddig as Imad ad-Din and Khaled El Nabawy as Mullah. Massoud had a perfect balance of charisma, determination and respect to sell being not only a great leader but someone who could have conceivably taken Jerusalem back from the Christians.

Speaking of the acting, the film has a fantastic cast. Ridley Scott knows how to cast his films and attracts a great group of actors. Bloom, for once, does a remarkable job. Heís been described by some as Bland (or Orlando Bland - thanks Mark Kermode) but I like his performance. He starts out the film as a widower and the father of a dead baby, the pain is very clear in his performance throughout. Not just for the first ten minutes. He spends a good chunk of the first act not actually saying anything at all. His first major act is to kill his half-brother (see, my long rambling analogy in the opening has some relevance). His brother being the Priest, played in slimy brilliance by Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon). We know why he does it and most of us would have probably done the same thing if we happened to be holding a massive flaming sword at the time. This attack means nothing in the theatrical cut but in the extended cut we know that they're brothers and we see a lot more of Sheen so we get a chance to hate him along with Balain. The supporting cast is rounded out by some brilliant actors, including a favourite of mine David Thewlis (Gangster No. 1) as The Hospitaler - a far bigger character than it sounds. In an interview with the writer, it was stated that Thewlisí character was written to be a representation of God, or an Angel within the film. A permanent voice of wisdom and guidance to Balian and Thewlis plays it brilliantly and makes the character work on-screen far better than it should.

Liam Neeson also features early on as Balianís father. Being Liam Neeson, he doesnít last long but while he is on screen, his character owns it and his presence is felt throughout the entire film. There is also a truly fantastically big and bombastic, even a slightly unrecognisable, performance by Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) as Reynald de Chatillon. Gleeson is a fantastic supporting actor for films like this, he turned in a similarly confident performance in Braveheart. Edward Norton (Fight Club) is in the film too though you wouldnít know it. He wears a mask and affects a perfect English accent to play the leper King, Baldwin Of Jerusalem. His performance is so subtle and so different to anything Iíve seen him do and he was rightly praised for it even in the Theatrical Cut. The cast is rounded out, finally, by Eva Green (Casino Royale). Oh boy Eva Green. Her performance was one of the most cut down of them all in the original cut. She was barely on-screen enough to be interesting and didnít do enough when she was. However in the Directorís Cut, she is a great, deep character and Green fills the role out perfectly. If youíre a fan of Eva Green, pick up the Directorís Cut just for her.

Overall, the cast is outstanding. There is barely a weak link in the entire bunch and nearly all of them get their moment. There are several fantastic actors in the film I havenít even mentioned because two lengthy paragraphs on the acting in this film is quite enough to be getting on with.

The music is a step apart from the norm for classic battle films. A trap that a lot of big battle films like Kingdom fall into is the soundtrack that doesn't hint at 'epic', doesn't even say it quite loudly, it shouts 'EPIC' so loudly into your ear that you're suddenly removed from the situation. What composer Harry Gregson-Williams (The Town) does so well is only suggest how important the events on screen are. In this extended edition, the film opens with an Overture and after an intermission to change disks (Kingdom is spread over two disks to improve quality), an Entr'acte: showcasing the soundtrack. While I admit when watching the film I will occasionally skip these to get on with the film I recommend at least once sitting to listen to the score independent of the images on screen and these breaks in the action give the perfect opportunity short of buying the soundtrack.

Cinematographer John Mathieson has worked with Scott on most of his medieval films and Kingdom is no exception (an obvious end to a sentence if I ever saw one, if he didn't work on the film, why on earth would I bother mentioning him?). The film is breathtakingly beautiful ... but distractingly so. In some moments where you just want to move on with the story, youíre treated to a wide shot of a unnoticeably cgi-assisted Jerusalem. While one or two of these sell the setting perfectly, seven or eight ruin the effect somewhat. The fault there I feel doesnít lie with Mathieson but with the editor.

The difference between the theatrical and extended is remarkable and the biggest difference between two versions of the same film I have ever come across. That the theatrical cut was released at all is a crime against film (that and any Tyler Perry film ... it must be said). As Ridley Scott says in the commentary, ĎThank God for DVDí.

Lots of love (film love, not like that)
OllieJP


< Message edited by OllieJP -- 25/4/2012 2:07:19 PM >


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Post #: 1
RE: Kingdom Of Heaven - Director's Cut - 25/4/2012 9:22:51 AM   
Russ Whitfield

 

Posts: 425
Joined: 10/4/2012
Lotta love for this review - spot on. If you've not listened to the directors commentary, give it a whirl, its ace.

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Post #: 2
RE: Kingdom Of Heaven - Director's Cut - 25/4/2012 2:51:00 PM   
OllieJP

 

Posts: 8
Joined: 14/1/2009
Thank you man, glad you liked it! I was actually listening to the commentary as I wrote the review - it's a great listen. Some audio commentaries can be a tad slow and dry but Ridley is up there with Sam Mendes.

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From one film lover to another (few), check out my film review blog at http://ginger-review.blogspot.co.uk/ - hope you enjoy!

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Post #: 3
RE: Kingdom Of Heaven - Director's Cut - 21/5/2012 7:18:37 PM   
JohnChard

 

Posts: 176
Joined: 22/10/2009
From: Birmingham
Excellent review of an excellent and undervalued film, couldn't agree more, the DC is a different entity all together.

Bravo

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RE: Kingdom Of Heaven - Director's Cut - 21/5/2012 7:34:56 PM   
directorscut


Posts: 10597
Joined: 30/9/2005
It is very good stuff, unfortunately the director's cut doesn't recast the lead actor, which will always be a weak link no matter how you cut it.

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RE: Kingdom Of Heaven - Director's Cut - 22/5/2012 1:32:01 AM   
Nexus Wookie


Posts: 2326
Joined: 24/9/2011
From: the Godcity
Theres around 52 muscles on the human face....Orlando Bloom has 65!

I'm sorry to say this, but he is the weakest link in this film. I also believe that the directors cut is far superior, rendering it unrecognizable from the awful theatrical cut. Theres so much in this film I love, the music, cinematography, the blending of CGI admirably with real sets. And Jurasalem has never looked so stunning and beautiful on screen than in this film. It also potrays the Saracen's/ Muslim's in a human light. Far from the barbarians and fanatics the west had painted. The addidtional material makes it a joy to watch. But Bloom is miscast and cannot for the life of him carry this film. He's not a Russel Crowe or even a Colin Farell.

That is the only niggling issue I have with this film. Other than that it is excellent.

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RE: Kingdom Of Heaven - Director's Cut - 22/5/2012 1:36:08 AM   
Spaldron


Posts: 10485
Joined: 6/10/2006
From: Chair
Agreed, ignore Orlundo Blind and you'll come away with a superb epic, one which surely demonstrates that Ridley Scott to be the master of the DC.

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Post #: 7
RE: Kingdom Of Heaven - Director's Cut - 22/5/2012 3:44:29 AM   
JohnChard

 

Posts: 176
Joined: 22/10/2009
From: Birmingham
Just on Bloom.

Now I'm no fan of the guy, he was simply aweful in Troy, but I really do think he played this character right. Wasn't Balian in reality Bloom's age and posture? I'm sure I read or heard somewhere that it was actually good casting in relation to the real Balian of Ibelin.

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Post #: 8
RE: Kingdom Of Heaven - Director's Cut - 23/8/2012 1:15:49 AM   
Rgirvan44


Posts: 19037
Joined: 10/3/2006
From: Punishment Park
Sadly I somehow missed this review - great work!

The Directors Cut is a masterpiece and Bloom really isn't that bad. I think now Bloom isn't a "thing" people will warm to it. He is suppose to be pensive and considered. A larger than life actor would not have fit. It has really grown on me, and is likely the best performance Bloom has given.

I hope one day to view the film on the big screen. The projector I have is pretty big, but this deserves a proper widescreen experience.

Scott's finest film of the 00s!

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Post #: 9
RE: Kingdom Of Heaven - Director's Cut - 23/8/2012 12:28:52 PM   
superdan


Posts: 8043
Joined: 31/7/2008

quote:

ORIGINAL: Rgirvan44
Bloom really isn't that bad. I think now Bloom isn't a "thing" people will warm to it. He is suppose to be pensive and considered. A larger than life actor would not have fit. It has really grown on me, and is likely the best performance Bloom has given.


I think Bloom is one of those actors who invites opprobrium, whether justified or not. It reminds me of the stick that other actors like Ben Affleck and Jude Law received in the past. I thought Bloom was decent in KoH, certainly not the worst thing about it anyway. Anyway, I'm in agreement that the DC is a vastly superior film (in fact, I'd be inclined to argue that it's Ridley's finest work since Blade Runner).

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Post #: 10
RE: Kingdom Of Heaven - Director's Cut - 23/8/2012 12:35:27 PM   
Dirk Miggler


Posts: 1080
Joined: 14/1/2009

quote:

ORIGINAL: Rgirvan44

Sadly I somehow missed this review - great work!

The Directors Cut is a masterpiece and Bloom really isn't that bad. I think now Bloom isn't a "thing" people will warm to it. He is suppose to be pensive and considered. A larger than life actor would not have fit. It has really grown on me, and is likely the best performance Bloom has given.

I hope one day to view the film on the big screen. The projector I have is pretty big, but this deserves a proper widescreen experience.

Scott's finest film of the 00s!


I first saw the film on Film4, at the time I wasn't aware I was watching the Directors Cut or that it even had one, the reaction it recieved really put me off the film so it was years before I gave it a look.

honestly I couldn't believe I was watching the same film that had such negative reviews upon release. I actually think that it some ways it's better than Gladiator and I would agree that Bloom has never been better. Great film.

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Post #: 11
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