View Single Post
Old May 1st, 2010, 01:55 AM
caseymochridh's Avatar
caseymochridh caseymochridh is offline
Photo Fanatic
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: In the Forest
Posts: 1,180
Not quite sure this is where to post, but ran across this review of the DC and thought I'd pass it along.

Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut

"They want to cut HOW many minutes?"

I recently finished working on a USC thesis by a director who absolutely adores Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven. “The director’s cut!” he always adds. This is one of those quirks of film students and movie buffs in general that I adore, the insistence that if you are going to watch a movie, you must watch this particular edition / cut / release. I can think of three films off the top of my head where the non-theatrical release is absolutely required (Aliens, Alien 3, Blade Runner – also by Ridley Scott, aka King of the Director’s Cut) so it is a quirk that I cherish and embrace.

Anyway, after hearing so much about this movie, I decided to give it a try. I should note: I have never seen the theatrical cut and have no intention of doing so. The director’s cut opens with Ridley himself telling me that it’s better! What kind of person would I be if I ignored Ridley Scott? A bad person, that’s who.

From what I can glean off of the Wikipedia page, entire plot lines, characters and important relationships were hewn from the film to make it simpler and shorter. It’s the age-old story. The studio is handed a square peg but they only know how to make round holes, so they whittle off the corners so it can fit. It’s the inherent paradox of big-budget filmmaking in the studio system. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of money to tell the story you want to tell ($130 million for Kingdom of Heaven) but to get that kind of money in the first place you become beholden to studio executives who have no interest in art, just the investment, and think in terms of audience draw, not audience impact. Understandably so – $130 million is a lot of money and it’d be stupid to not care what happens with it.

Some directors can get away with creative freedom on big-budget projects; James Cameron certainly does. I suspect that even Michael Bay falls into this category, but just because by the time the studio execs come up with some insipid, lowest-common-denominator crap to throw into Transformers 5, he’s already beat them to it. Others can never catch a break in the big leagues and must scramble for every dollar to see their vision through (Terry Gilliam springs instantly to mind). Ridley Scott seems to have fallen somewhere in the middle. Some of his films came along splendidly (Gladiator had some script drama, but as near as I can tell from my admittedly removed point of view, Scott got what he wanted, how he wanted it) and some of them were butchered by marketing departments (most infamously, Blade Runner).

Kingdom of Heaven, then, falls into the latter category. Unless your name is Peter Jackson and you’re making a movie about hobbits or giant apes, there isn’t much room for epic films in Hollywood, especially if your epic is not really about killin’ a lot of dudes, but about honor and – gasp – religion. Sure, there is fighting in Kingdom of Heaven – great fighting! – but it is a relatively small part of the 194-minute runtime. At it’s heart, the film is about seeking redemption through God and finding it in one’s actions instead. “We are what we do,” to paraphrase the film. It’s a strong message, quite relevant today, but one that could easily be damaged by drowning it in action sequences and cutting out key relationships (the thieving, cruel monk in the beginning is his brother! That’s a big deal!)

Overall I was very impressed with Kingdom of Heaven (“Director’s Cut!”). Beautifully shot, great soundtrack and sound design, excellent performances all the way around (Orlando Bloom… well, more on that shortly). As a “Deep Space 9″ nerd, I’m always happy to see Alexander Siddig show up in movies. Eva Green was incredible but she needs to ease up on the eye shadow, come on, seriously, this ain’t no Twilight. Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Neeson, all great. I was pretty surprised to find out that King Baldwin IV was played by Edward Norton. I was wondering throughout the movie but didn’t have the wherewithal to open up my laptop to find out. Huh! Whaddya know.

So, Orlando Bloom. I actually think he did an excellent job of portraying his character. If anything, he put more character into it than what was on the page. Which brings me to my one big complaint about the movie: the perfect knight protagonist.

How interesting is a character who says all the right things, makes all the right decisions, and never really has to struggle with anything (internally, anyway)? The answer is none, none more interesting. But that’s Balian’s character through most of the movie. He starts off making one pretty bad (but totally justifiable) decision: stabbing his brother/monk with a hot sword and setting him on fire. After that, it’s clear sailing. His biggest issue is that “God doesn’t talk to him,” so he doesn’t feel that he has been forgiven for the sin of stabbing his brother with a red-hot sword and burning him to death. But other than a few shots of Balian looking down in the dumps, it doesn’t really have much of an impact on his character or his actions. He swore to Liam Neeson to protect the defenseless, so he protects the defenseless. He promised to protect the king, so he protects the king. He makes brave, intelligent strategic decisions, refuses to let his emotions get the best of him and is generally an insufferable goody-goody. Every time he opens his mouth, a torrent of honor and nobility pours forth, causing eyes to roll and dreams of punching him in his smugly humble face spring unbidden to the minds of those around him. He even survives a shipwreck in the most disgustingly perfect way imaginable: he comes to, literally the only survivor (and of course, totally unharmed), has a sip of water from a dead man’s canteen, then rides away on the one horse that also survived the crash (also totally unharmed). Well, no, that’s not true. The horse runs away and Balian has to walk a bit before the horse comes back and THEN he rides. I take it back, he’s not perfect – I mean, he had to walk for a while there!

It says something when almost every other character in the film is more interesting and nuanced than your protagonist. Sibylla is manipulative and a schemer but cares so much for her child (who was cut entirely out of the theatrical release!) that she would rather allow a bloody war to unfold than watch him suffer. The Count of Tiberias is an honorable but weary man for whom peace is a fraying rope to which he clings desperately. Guy is a man driven nearly mad with ambition, pride and lust for glory. Even Saladin, an intelligent, careful leader who understands the absurdity and the tragedy of the situation they all share. All of them have a depth of character that Balian simply lacks. Critics were right to point out Orlando’s performance was lacking, but I argue it had more to do with the script than with Mr. Bloom.

There’s only so much you can do with the perfect man.

The article has some nice pics with it, too!

<a href= target=_blank></a>
Keeper of Legolas' Lothlorien Bow & White Knives
Reply With Quote