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Another awkwardness for Scott is the fact that his protagonist, Balian, is on the losing side of all the military engagements he takes part in: In his first battle, his men are routed and he is captured; in the second, he surrenders. This may be in keeping with the movie's political vision, but it rather undermines Balian's heroic credentials.

Scott bolsters these by allowing him to prevail in a couple of individual battles--the fight over the horse, an encounter with Templar assassins sent to kill him--but these victories still fall rather short of the kind of historic manliness everyone in the film keeps ascribing to him. Indeed, up until the end of the film Balian's greatest skill seems to be saving his own life, often at the cost of those accompanying him.

It's an odd conception of an epic hero, but one that flows from the movie's implicit contention that the only justified killing is killing in self-defense, that any larger justification--love, God, country--is a lie and a trap. Casting Orlando Bloom to play Balian was inspired, and I don't mean that in a good way.

There's something passive and indeterminate about him, a lack of conviction that echoes, perhaps unwittingly, Balian's hollowness as a character. Thanks to the success of the Lord of the Rings movies and Pirates of the Caribbean , Bloom has been somewhat typecast as a daring adventurer. But in those franchises he had more emphatic co-stars to push the plot along; on his own, he seems a little listless, as if waiting for a Gandalf or Captain Jack Sparrow to materialize and tell him what to do. Kingdom of Heaven suggests he may be suited to quieter, more ambivalent fare, or a return to supporting roles.

The rest of the cast is fine but unmemorable. Brendan Gleeson plays Reynald as a savage noble distinguishable from his Menelaus in Troy chiefly by the style of his armor. And Eva Green's Sybella demonstrates that even eye candy loses its flavor when buried under a quarter-inch of kohl. Kingdom of Heaven 's oddest bit of casting has to be the choice of Scott as director.

Origin & Meaning of The Kingdom of God

He adores violence, or at least its cinematic depiction remember, this is the man who presided over the anatomical explorations of Hannibal , and his obvious relish for the aesthetics of arterial spray is a decidedly awkward match for the movie's pacifist moral. Worse, he uses the same bewildering, overly stylized effects that so muddied the fights in Gladiator , alternating between quick cuts and slo-mo with such promiscuity that one rarely knows whose blood it is hurtling toward the camera.

The culminating siege of Jerusalem is clearly intended to be an awesome spectacle, a visual symphony of catapult- and bow-fire, siege towers and flaming oil. Unfortunately, it was preemptively one-upped by Peter Jackson in the last two Rings films. As a result, it seems like a disappointing replay of the siege of Minas Tirith, minus the dragons, elephants, and orcs. Where, in fact, would Hollywood be without orcs? Kingdom of Heaven may be something of an outlier in its aggressively political vision, but it does help illuminate a broader cinematic dilemma: Put simply, we're running out of acceptable bad guys.

Had Kingdom of Heaven been a straight war movie, with Christian heroes and Muslim villains, there would have been a political uproar, and perhaps rightly so. The list of onetime cinematic Others who can no longer be counted on as generic enemies--Native Americans, Mexicans, the Japanese--continues to grow; one day, perhaps, it will even encompass that evergreen of evil, the Nazis.

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That this represents social progress is beyond question. But it does create problems for certain types of genre cinema. For example, it's hard to imagine that the long decline of the Western, once the dominant genre in American film, hasn't been aided by the fact that since the '70 it's been far more common to give the Indians white hats and the cowboys black than the other way around.

Thoughtful films will be able to get around this problem, of course, but who wants a world with nothing but thoughtful films? Sometimes you crave a little moral simplicity, a movie that will provide not only someone to root for but someone to root against as well.


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This latter is becoming harder and harder to come by, at least in the quantities needed for a good war movie. It's little wonder that so many of the big epics of recent years-- Troy , King Arthur , Alexander --have seemed a little tepid and squeamish: I mean, who really cares which side wins? For compelling stories of good-versus-evil these days we have to venture into space or a fantastical past, where we can find Sith or Nazgul in clear need of smiting. Registered User Guest. Log out.

The Kingdom of Heaven

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