Michael Totten

Kingdom of Heaven

So I saw Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven. How could I not watch Kingdom of Heaven? I love almost all of Ridley Scott’s movies. (Hannibal is the big whopping exception.) Blade Runner ties with Kenneth Branaugh’s Henry V as my favorite movie of all time. And I can still watch Gladiator no matter what kind of movie I’m in the mood for. I’m a sucker for the big epics.
But Kingdom of Heaven? I won’t watch that one again.
I can’t say it totally sucked. It had some powerful moments, as well as some nice subtle touches. But it’s not a good movie, and I can’t recommend it unless you’re a hardcore geek about Jerusalem, Saladin, or the Crusades.
For one thing, when you want to film a Mediterranean city, don’t put the set out in the Sahara. Those of us who have been to both the Med and the Sahara will scoff. We’ll be thrown out of the story every time the camera pans wide. We may not be the majority of the audience, but come on. At least try to find a location that looks vaguely like the one where the story is supposed to be set.
Another serious problem: Saladin conquers Jerusalem waaaaay too easily in this movie. The surrender of the city comes like a bolt out of the blue. People don’t surrender just because there’s a war on. They surrender when they’re getting their asses handed to them and the choice comes down to surrender or die. Ridley Scott doesn’t seem to understand that. If he does understand that he couldn’t be bothered to set it up properly and make the most crucial scene in his movie believable. I had a hard time believing what I was watching, and I know that what happened in the movie really did actually happen in history.
The film is shot through from beginning to end with a much bigger problem, though, a problem I’m surprised a filmmaker as brilliant and accomplished as Ridley Scott allowed into his movie. I need to turn you over to Dr. Frank here because he managed to nail it better than anyone. Not even Oliver Stone would have done this.