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Thursday, December 12, 2013

"Kingdom of Heaven" 2005 Ridley Scott. Crusades Emasculated and Lobotomized by PC and FX

Let's get this out of the way right up front: Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven" stinks. It's one of the worst movies I've ever seen, in any category. In spite of its well-earned bad reviews, I went to enjoy the spectacle. Mistake. You could get more Medieval spectacle by flipping through an illustrated children's book about the Middle Ages. Or, you could watch a decent movie set in the same era, from "Becket" to "El Cid" to "The Adventures of Robin Hood." Heck, you could watch "Monty Python's Spamalot." "Kingdom of Heaven" was lobotomized and emasculated by Political Correctness and Special Effects. The movie is so diluted by its own wishy-washy Political Correctness that it doesn't even have narrative drive.

There is no side to root for, no character pursuing a long-term goal, no big idea being fought over. All that blood and sand and buckled swash of the Crusades v. the Islamic Jihad, was over nothing more important than Orlando Bloom's good looks.

This complete lack of a point doesn't just make the movie mind- and butt-numbingly boring, it also makes it ironic. If nothing else, people on both sides – both Crusaders and Jihadis – *believed* in what they were doing. To make a movie about this conflict in which no one believes in anything is to make a movie about high fashion in which there are no skinny women. It's completely pointless.

This would have been a much better movie if Scott had had the balls to pick a side, any side, and present it, in all its fire-breathing passion and wrong-headed intensity. I wouldn't have cared if he had picked the Crusaders' side or the Jihadis' side.

I can't help but compare this film to Oliver Hirschbiegel's "Downfall," a movie about Hitler's final days, or even Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will." Both films feature heinous characters, like Hitler and Goebbels, who believe a vile philosophy. Both are excellent films. That both films present a point of view – even a completely wrong point of view – in all its intensity gives the viewer much to think about, and could be used to contribute to ethical debate.

"Kingdom of Heaven's" plot is ridiculous. One example: leaders choose to keep a very bad man alive, knowing that this very bad man will lead to a bloodbath of the entire city of Jerusalem, just because a former blacksmith tells them not to kill him. Huh? Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson, David Thewlis and Jeremy Irons are completely wasted. Ridley Scott should have to convert to Catholicism just so he can confess his sins against these fine actors.

Ghassan Massoud, as Saladin, alone has enough charisma to shine. Aroused audience awareness of him may be the only good thing to come from "Kingdom of Heaven." The movie drags, drifts, and then falls flat. When you're yawning and looking at your watch during a violent siege that's a very bad sign. There are lots of pretty costumes and sets, but nothing happens in them, so, who cares? As many male viewers commented, at least in Oliver Stone's "Alexander" you got to see Rosario Dawson's naked breasts.

Just one example of how dumb this movie is. In a field of corpses, thousands of obviously computer-generated vultures feed. Two problems – they have the profiles of bats, not vultures. Bats are mammals, you see. And these "vultures" make the sounds of migrating cranes. Cranes eat frogs, insects, seeds, and berries, *not* human flesh. Throughout that whole scene, I could hardly keep from laughing. Not the correct reaction to a scene of carnage.

Not many people would know that that was the sound of cranes, you say? Well, is that the kind of intellectual integrity you want in a movie about conflict between Christians and Muslims, especially in an era when this conflict is still very much alive? "Kingdom of Heaven" is simple-minded in its Politically Correct hatred of Christians and Christianity, and its elevation of Islam above all criticism. That's not what makes it a bad movie, though. For what makes it a bad movie, see above.

In any case, the filmmaker's arrogance shines through his PC. In laughable scenes, a European blacksmith teaches ignorant Middle Easterners about *wells*, so that they will have water. Good grief. Are we to believe that people in the Middle East didn't know what wells were until reluctant Crusader Orlando Bloom arrived? And, if that's true, wouldn't that ultimately make the Crusades a very good thing? You had a lot of thirsty people till 1187.

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