Movie of the Day – Kingdom of Heaven

Boy was I disappointed with this movie when it came out.  It made itself out to be this epic action adventure with the focus of the story being on the crusades.  Instead, I get truncated story about the crusades in order for the medieval action to become the set piece in a beautiful looking movie.  Listen, I love action movies.  There is nothing better than watching some medieval ass whooping with guys in armor and broadswords being swung like sticks with the intent to kill.  If you are going to make a movie with incredible actors and place them in the setting of The Crusades, then there better be a story.  If I wanted battles, I would go play Civilization or Rome Total Empire.  I can get my fix that way.

So it my initial thought about the movie was that Ridley Scott is finally getting back into some epics.  It looks great, I was pumped to see the cast, yes even Orlando Bloom, and it had the backdrop of the crusades to give us some historical perspective.  The theatrical release was a mess and it wasn’t until the directors cut of the film that let me give it a second chance.  What a vast difference the original intent of the movie had.

Balian (Orlando Bloom) is a humble French blacksmith who is searching for a reason to go on after the death of his wife and children. Balian is approached by Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson), a fabled knight who has briefly returned home after serving in the East. Godfrey informs Balian that he is his true father, and urges the blacksmith to join him as he and his forces journey to Jerusalem to help defend the holy city. Balian accepts, and he and Godfrey arrive during the lull between the Second and Third Crusades, in which the city is enjoying a fragile peace. Both Christian and Muslim forces are temporarily in retreat, thanks to the wisdom of the Christian monarch King Baldwin IV (Edward Norton), his second-in-command Tiberias (Jeremy Irons), and Muslim potentate Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). Violent agitators on both sides are foolishly eager to end the peace in a bid for greater power, and Saladin bows to pressures from Muslim factions; Godfrey is one of a handful of brave knights who has thrown his allegiance behind Baldwin IV and his community of diversity, and Balian joins him as they use their skills as warriors in a bid to build a lasting peace.  – Mark Deming, Rovi

There is a vast difference in what the theatrical and director cut has that makes the latter superior and that is a story.  We get a lot more back story from each of the main characters and more politics interjected into the proceedings.  Balian is given a more humanizing aspect with his troubled past revealed in the beginning and developed throughout the entirety of the movie.  Instead of having the audience just guess as to what he is doing or just taking that he is this master military mind from the start.  It is revealed through talking and story development, just what makes Balian a noble man.  Even the story that drives the combat is given more screen time as the conflict between the Christians and Muslims are fleshed out over the course of almost three hours.  Baldwin and Saladin are both leaders of the faith and people, so why not give them a better structure in their respective stories?

It frustrates me to see a movie like this cut severely in order to get to the action with just the bare minimum of story.  The theatrical cut isn’t shabby with 144 minutes, but the final 50 minutes of the movie are geared towards the action.  So where the hell is the story in the remaining 94 minutes of the movie?  It is just quickly cobbled together bit of the story, cut and edited to give the semblance of a story.  When you watch the directors cut, which is 192 minutes, everything becomes clear.  The edited scenes to truncate the story are fleshed out and given some life and meaning.  All the bit characters in the movie are given motivation for their actions and not just the way they are.  Even the love interest is given more time on screen which put into perspective the strife that Sybilla and Balian have when their love challenges the throne.

So the best parts of the movie are the ones that ended up on the cutting room floor.  Thankfully, due to the resurgence of double dipping on film releases, the directors cut afforded me another opportunity to view this movie.  It’s a great film with stunning visuals and interesting characters.  It is a lot though to sit through, in terms of run time, and that might have been the primary issue that led to the theatrical cut.  It is an epic film by all accounts.  The action, story, setting and run time is all grandiose and ambitious.  This could have been the downfall of the film and ultimately accounted for the poor performance and harsh reviews.  If you get a chance to watch the movie, watch the directors cut.  You are getting a better movie, but you have to commit the time and attention to it.

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

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