Kingdom of Heaven – Ridley Scott – After watching Kingdom of Heaven I discovered that there was a massively extended director’s cut-which, at 3hours and more, apparently better fits the original directorial objective of ‘historical epic’, as opposed to the heavily edited ‘action adventure’ that the studio favoured. A telling of the Crusades, with Orlando Bloom as a humble blacksmith turned military leader, ingenious tactician and all round admirable pillar of religious tolerance…unsurprisingly takes liberty with the likely brutality of history - in which figures of ‘religious tolerance’ and advocates of diversity where probably pretty dam rare-and even more rare, in positions of influential power. Peter Bradshaw makes a compelling argument for the film’s questionable political motives, referencing George Bush’s characteristically short sighted rhetoric: in which he defined America’s morally dubious war in Iraq as a ‘crusade’. Thus, the film should rightfully be met with a wary skepticism – considering its noble portrayal of crusader (although the film does attempt to emphasize the independence of his views), which lends a historical movement of evangelical, bloodthirsty slaughter a misleading aura of progressive globalized ethics. In a sense, the aim to depict a hero of such commendable tolerance could be applauded for its basic and positive humanism. However, in the severely edited theatre release/general version…it feels a bit like a thinly veiled convenient appropriation of history.
Although Kingdom of Heaven does manage the epic scale of an arching narrative twinned with a historical backdrop relatively well, it is condemned to fall short due to the casting of Orlando Bloom in the film’s central role. This is not (I promise…for now) an unnecessary critical assassination of Orlando Bloom, as many unkind folk tend to joyously indulge in rending him limb from thespian limb, due to an unfortunate fidelity to the ‘Keanu Reeves School of Acting’. I did think he made a dam fine Legolas, carried off the tights and had sufficiently muted facial expressions to suggest Elf-like ethereal wisdom with prancing aplomb. However, to convey a weathered man of battle, a leader of men and the nascent emotional anguish of a troubled past…he is pretty badly miscast. After Liam Neeson, reveals he is Bloom’s father (beckoning him to join the crusades) we are given a glimpse of an actor with a closer semblance of rugged emotion and believable strength. Unfortunately Neeson is lost pretty early on, leaving Bloom to shoulder the burden of Crusade conviction-and the film’s needed emotional force-very much alone.
It cannot be denied, with dark locks of heroic hair, vulnerable brown eyes and the calculated unkempt look of perennial stubble…Mr. Bloom is a good looking guy…but not a persuasive crusading warrior. For the role to work, it would be desirable for his expressions to convey something beyond mild discontent, eyes that could suggest ineffable depth and not just the good looks better reserved for after-shave adverts. Striding through the epic carnage of Lord of the Rings style battle scenes, he seems consistently removed from the experience-as if gliding in his own air-conditioned catwalk of moody male importance. The scale of the film, and its ambitious array of moralistic themes require acting grit that transcends the pout of Pirates of the Caribbean. Apologies, it seems I have spiraled into the aforementioned critical assassination of the formerly elfish Bloom…He is not that bad, just wrongly cast. Suffering from this casting error and the tension between Scott’s ‘historical epic’ ambitions and the pressures for commercial ‘action adventure’ packaging, the film (in the form/ I watched) fails to deliver the full potential of the vast and complex subject matter. 6.5/10