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A few words about... Kingdom of Heaven


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#1 of 19 Robert Harris

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Posted October 17 2005 - 04:29 PM

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;”

Kingdom of Heaven is a gusty film to release in this heavily politicized era, with a war raging in the Middle East. And while there is a great deal to be learned from history in a general sense, as told in Kingdom, it comes up lacking in accuracy.

But Kingdom of Heaven was not written as a history lesson. It was designed to be filmed as superb entertainment, with as its set piece, the siege of Jerusalem in 1187. As such, it never takes sides in the battle, nor should it.

I’m pleased that I gave this film another try after having to shut it down while attempting to view it through huge letters on a demo disc giving me the information that it was owned by Fox. I actually already knew that.

Now, without the bright legend, which made the many dark scenes unviewable, the DVD comes off as a well-rendered, detailed release, with adequate blacks and reasonable shadow detail. Bright scenes are beautiful, crisp and colorful.

I can't help but think that at least some early DVD reviews for this disc may have been based upon something similar to my initial viewing experience.

The great pleasure of this film, however, is much the same as Mr. Scott’s other work, in that he is one of the few filmmakers who can capture the look and feel of a another world, be it alien territory or a part of our own historical past, and make it seem totally believable. Here he succeeds once again.

His recreation of Jerusalem and the impending siege multiplies Sir Laurence Olivier’s brilliant King Henry the Fifth a million fold, displaying precisely how far filmmaking has come in the sixty years since animators inked the flying arrows for the Battle of Agincourt, which would occur 225 years after the film that we discuss.

While Kingdom of Heaven is not apt to regarded as one of the great films of the decade, it stands as a quality release from 20th Century-Fox, and a stunning motion picture.

Recommended.

RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#2 of 19 Yumbo

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Posted October 17 2005 - 07:57 PM

I thought it was well told backed by a decent DVD.

#3 of 19 Anthony Thorne

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Posted October 18 2005 - 06:57 AM

I'm holding out for the extended version next year, given that it's been hinted at so much.

#4 of 19 Elijah Sullivan

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Posted October 18 2005 - 11:02 AM

Thanks for giving the movie a second chance, and encouraging others to do the same, Robert. Kingdom's got a touch of greatness buried under a lot of missed opportunities and has been endlessly lambasted for it's lack of historical fidelity -- both of which distract from the fact that when you put those issues aside, what's left is still impressive.

Personally, I think there's a lot more history behind the movie than people think, and that with so many movies like this coming out recently, medieval epics just don't seem "special" anymore. If this film had been released in the place of Gladiator in 2000, I have a feeling it would win Best Picture in its place.

Some people seem to think that films of this genre are easy. Their success depends on equal quantities of a) historical accuracy, and b) well-photographed bloodshed. It's really so much more than that. This film chose the hardest possible direction to head in: a spiritual epic (which means character development is measured by inner growth and moral victories rather than physical prowess or success on the battlefield) that is anti-war (which means battle scenes that are more disturbing than exciting) and there is no preaching going on for the first two-thirds of the film, which leaves the audience to decide what the film is about (and results in a lot of people I've spoken to assuming the film is about nothing).

It's a difficult film. It would be a disservice to compare Kingdom with Gladiator, Black Hawk Down or the epics of other directors, such as Braveheart. This film doesn't share the same genre as those. Those were adventure films with simple purposes. Adventure films feed on simplicity, and Kingdom is in one way about the absence of simplicity. By giving the issues at hand more credit and assuming they are complicated it also does something very gutsy: it stops relying on adventure. It also places the argument at a higher level than merely politics: it's a spiritual dilemma. To borrow a phrase: a war fought in the heart of each man.

Thematically, I'd rather compare it to Lawrence of Arabia or Seven Samurai. Not in the same league - but it aspires to be, which is one step towards becoming that most others films never take.

Like I said, there's a touch of greatness to it. I invite you all to discover it with open minds and adjusted expectations.

Cheers.

#5 of 19 frank manrique

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Posted October 18 2005 - 12:16 PM

So Saladin emerges nearly a hero (unlike our present day struggles with--read between the lines--he had a penchant for some human kindness for after all, he did meet Saint Francis of Assisi, an Italian Christian friar made prisoner by his minions during those days, ultimately letting him go free and unharmed)...while the Knights Templar are the vilest of all villains (alas! was there ever a more misunderstood group of people)?

I ain't buying it. A better movie of that same subject matter was the 30s black and white film The Crusades and, of course, there also is...EL CID.

Scott's persistent showing of testicular fortitude when it comes to deal with the Christian ethos head on can be mostly forgiven by the highly entertaining spectacle he provides us with his film Kingdom of Haven, so there is some redeeming value to his Herculean effort after all...

-THTS

#6 of 19 Dan Hitchman

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Posted October 19 2005 - 12:26 PM

It seemed like they chickened out and didn't want to really offend anybody (Christians or Muslims or both) so they could get more box office money from all regions of the world, and so there is little real bite and a lot of bluster (I'd say there was a bit of that in Gladiator too). The way it performed world wide, they should have put the meat into it anyway. It wouldn't have hurt, and might have caused quite a buzz.

I have to agree with some reviewers that this huge script problem left the film without much to say.

Truth, in this historical case in particular, is far stranger than fiction.

Too bad Scott and his writers went for sheer spectical over accuracy. We could have learned a leason from a film like this.

Oh well, I guess there's always Good Night, and Good Luck.

Dan

#7 of 19 Mark Bendiksen

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Posted October 19 2005 - 02:09 PM


Quote:
It seemed like they chickened out and didn't want to really offend anybody (Christians or Muslims or both)
I had the same impression while watching it for the first time last weekend. On a different note, the performance I enjoyed the most was the character whose face was never shown...
the leprosy-infected king. I didn't even realize until the movie was over that Edward Norton played the role. Excellent work, IMHO.



#8 of 19 Elijah Sullivan

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Posted October 19 2005 - 11:10 PM

Quote:
It seemed they chickened out and didn't want to really offend anybody (Christians or Muslins or both)

I see what you mean. Personally, what I walked away from this movie with was the impression that the filmmakers didn't choose sides - which may have been the more difficult path to take, politically.

All I know is, when I twice saw the film in the theaters, Americans booed the ending (yes, booed) and the French audience cheered. The only reason I can come up with this is: Americans are confrontational, while the French are passive. They are ok with a movie that isn't pushing a political standpoint while Americans can't approach a subject like this without drawing lines in the sand.

I point this out merely the draw your attention to it and to modestly ask the question: do we need to draw that line? Perhaps the fact that a line is drawn in the first place is the cause of the conflict?

I'm ok with people disliking this film (or I'm trying to be ok with it Posted Image) I just hope that the film at least raises dialogue, rather than alienating anyone.

Cheers.

#9 of 19 Aaron Reynolds

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Posted October 20 2005 - 03:16 PM

Quote:
Thematically, I'd rather compare it to Lawrence of Arabia or Seven Samurai. Not in the same league - but it aspires to be, which is one step towards becoming that most others films never take.

Absolutely. I love that the politics of religion on both sides were allowed to be as important to the story as the action sequences.

I went into the film unarmed with any knowledge aside from that it was a Ridley Scott film. I had no interest in Kingdom of Heaven -- I hated Gladiator (though I am a Ridley Scott fan), am not really into that period of history, and had it on my "miss" list, but I needed to kill exactly three hours in a location where there was nothing but a movie theatre, and it was playing at precisely the right time.

I hadn't seen a trailer, I hadn't seen a promo, and I hadn't read a review. I didn't expect to like it, and instead I loved it.

#10 of 19 JasonKZ

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Posted October 20 2005 - 11:00 PM

The digitial bits has a post today about the upcoming director's cut in their Rumor Mill. Here is the link to the source article and the bits reference:

http://film.guardian....586434,00.html

http://www.thedigita...rmill.html#1020

#11 of 19 Nathan V

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Posted October 21 2005 - 11:13 AM

Glad to hear that the current release has good a/v quality. I too will be holding out for the director's cut.

With regard to the film itself, I went in with the knowledge athat the theatrical release was not the Scott's full version, and was thus able to appreciate the theatrical cut for what it was. For a cut that's missing 25% or more of its content, the cut works remarkably well. I actually think the film is stronger than Gladiator in terms of both style and substance, if a little less smooth structurally. It's not every day that we get a $100m+ about religous beliefs, soul-searching, and moral conflict- all without taking sides. The visuals are absolutely staggering; I feel comfortable calling this the best-shot film of the year, and perhaps among the best-shot films of the new decade. The opening forest skirmish took my breath away. In all, an admirable effort from Mr. Scott. I have a feeling that the director's cut just might be the definitive historical epic of the recent epic wave.

Regards,
Nathan
The Tree of Life / Brad Pitt / Sean Penn / Directed by Terrence Malick / 2010

#12 of 19 JasonKZ

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Posted January 02 2006 - 01:36 PM

Just saw some of this film again the other day. I am hoping the expanded edition comes out soon, as the $10 price for this title now is pretty tempting.........

#13 of 19 Frank@N

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Posted January 03 2006 - 08:59 AM

The first release must have sold poorly as it has been deeply discounted (I only paid $8 for a new copy).

It was a blind purchase so I might DD, but probably not till HD.

#14 of 19 Scott Simonian

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Posted January 03 2006 - 09:27 AM

Picked this up at Best Buy for $10. I didn't see it in theaters and I think the movie is great!
Another supporter of 1080p and uncompressed multi-channel sound!

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#15 of 19 Elijah Sullivan

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Posted January 03 2006 - 11:44 AM

I don't know if you've heard, but Ridley Scott's director's cut is playing in theaters in Los Angeles. It's been expanded and re-edited - there's 45min more footage in all that transform the movie almost completely, from what I've read. There's an in-depth discussion of the changes on the IMDB message board for the film, I highly recommend checking it out, even if you didn't like the film. What you hear might actually change your mind. This film isn't just longer; it's a different film.

As for how well the previous disc sold, it actually did quite well - $29.71M on DVD, according to my source. To date, it's done better than The Polar Express, Madagascar, Fantastic 4, Kicking & Screaming and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Pretty impressive, I think. I bet FOX is hard at work on that extended edition.

#16 of 19 JasonKZ

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Posted January 04 2006 - 08:55 AM

Here's a review of the currently playing film:

http://www.aintitcoo...ay.cgi?id=22100

I sure hope they keep (or expand) the great documentary on the current disc.

#17 of 19 Ryan Tsang

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Posted January 04 2006 - 03:45 PM

I didn't buy the TC so I'm gonna pick up the DC for sure. Thanks for the link. great read.

#18 of 19 Frank@N

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Posted January 05 2006 - 08:32 AM

Sounds like this might develope into a Daredevil 2-disc vs. DC 1-disc situation where the TC has all the extras and the DC has a better version of the movie.

Unless they hold off till HD...

#19 of 19 Brent Bridgeman

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Posted January 05 2006 - 10:27 AM

All I know is, when I twice saw the film in the theaters, Americans booed the ending (yes, booed) and the French audience cheered. The only reason I can come up with this is: Americans are confrontational, while the French are passive.


Technically, if they were passive, wouldn't they have just sat there and done nothing?

I hate America and my unsophisticated fellow joe-sixpack countrymen as much as the next guy, but the two times I went, I didn't hear anyone boo. Go figure. I mean, it's common knowledge that the culturally evolved French treat their immigrants much better than the USA ever did. It's a Utopian paradise over there!

Sigh...since when did passivity and indifference equal enlightened?

Anyone else see the Bryant Gumble report on "Real Sports" about how badly minority players are abused by european soccer fans? It was appalling. Yet that is the first I had heard about it in the American news media.

I enjoyed the film, by the way, and bought my wife the DVD for Christmas (she loved it). Not Ridley's best, but it was still better than 90% of the stuff out there. I would certainly like to see the extended cut!





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