movies, music and everything else

This blog is about pretty much what the title implies... movies, music and everything else.

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

a trip to HEAVEN


When KINGDOM OF HEAVEN was released a year ago, it was met with mixed reactions at best. Ridley Scott had returned to the period piece epic and most people either didn’t show up or were disappointed if they did. I liked KINGDOM OF HEAVEN when I saw it a year ago. It was an ambitious movie with a great cast, great action, impressive set pieces and thought provoking themes. While I had some problems with the movie and didn’t think it worked as a whole, I liked it and was very curious when I heard that there was a director’s cut to be released this year in a 4 – disc DVD. Along with the extended film is a feature length documentary on the making of the movie that is worth the price alone.

The theatrical cut ran 144 minutes. That is not a short film by any stretch, but when you compare it to the director’s cut with a running time of 194 minutes, the difference is night and day. What kind of difference is there besides the length? Just to name a few…

There is the motivation of the lead character, Balian (Orlando Bloom). In this new cut we get to know the character and really understand what drives him and why he does what he does. He is a real hero with complex emotions, personal demons and moral questions. Here he is fully fleshed out and the performance of Bloom is given the chance to breathe. I am not the biggest fan of Orlando as an actor. I think that he is limited and often stiff in movies, but he really shines here, showing sides of his talent that I didn’t think were there.

One of the biggest omissions in the theatrical cut was the character of Sibylla (Eva Green). I never understood her significance in the film. She just seemed to be there as an unnecessary love interest for Balian. Having seen the complete version, it turns out that there is a complex and really fascinating character that provides one of the most compelling stories in the movie. I won’t get into the specifics of her story, but there is the issue of her son. Yes, she has a son in the movie that was completely left out of the previous version. He is the heir to the throne and effects everything she does. Without this story, there are many questions and inconsistencies with all of the characters.

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is an epic. This is the movie that GLADIATOR wanted to be and TROY tried desperately to be. The movie runs over three hours, but the subject and the scope demands it. I found that the director’s cut seemed shorter than the theatrical cut. How can a movie that is 50 minutes longer seem shorter? The story is more compelling, engaging, better paced and simply a far better film.

There are many aspects of the film that make it the as impressive as it is. The look of the film is simply brilliant. John Mathieson has worked with Scott several times and is one of the best cinematographers in the business. This is a beautiful film. Every frame looks as if it were painted with precision and care. The sets and the scope of the cities and castles are stunning. The attention to detail will transport you to the world of the Crusades.

What separates this movie from others that have come before it is the complexity of the characters and the issues that are discussed? The issues of the Christians fighting against the Muslims deals with something that is as relevant today as it was back then, the lack of understand and tolerance of another culture and their religion has lead to some of the most violent and bloody conflicts in the history of the world. KINGDOM OF HEAVEN looks at not only the Christian side of the conflict, but also takes a look at the Muslim side. Through this perspective, we can see how easily a war can start even when the leaders are striving for peace. It looks at the foundation of religion and the dangers that lie within the heart of it. While taking this look, it doesn’t take a critical look at either religion, but at a select few that use that religious extreme to feed hatred and encourage war. KINGDOM OF HEAVEN will give you much more than a good time. It will give you something to think about.

It is a shame that this version was not released in theaters a year ago, but I am thankful that it can finally be seen. Imagine if when LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (216 minutes) was released, the studio decided to put out a version that was an hour shorter. How would that film be remembered today? If this version would have been released last year, it would have been one of my ten favorites of the year. What was the studio thinking? Ridley Scott is one of the few great directors and has proven himself time and time again. Let him release the movie you hired him to make.

If you have seen KINGDOM OF HEAVEN and did not care for it, please check this version out. It is a totally different movie. If you have not seen the film, please check out the director’s cut. You will not be sorry.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw the film in the theater, and while I was a bit confused about the politics (I was unfamiliar with the Crusades) and found the story a bit muddled (no doubt due to Fox's cutting)... I still found it entertaining. I bought the theatrical release on DVD and today bought the director's cut. I look forward to seeing it. Thank you for your review - I hope this will lead people to give this movie a shot. It was good before. Now it sounds great.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too read the DiVinci Code. I agree completely with your comments on the book - the story was annoying background to the art and religious spiderweb. Thank you for saving me a couple of hours and $10. I'll start a new book instead.
Love your reviews - very informative and with more thought and depth than any others I read. Keep up the good work.

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Frustrated in Foenix said...

Why no review of "The Break-up"? I just saw it. I went in wanting to love the movie - really like Jen and Vince. But no such luck. The movie failed to engage any of us. There is no development of the relationship for the audience - so who cares if they break-up. I couldn't figure out why they were ever together. The writers didn't give the actors anything to work with - no depth, no emotion, no engaging dialogue. Without great writing - there are no great movies!

11:33 PM  

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