Making a film about the crusades against the backdrop of the War on Terror was always going to be a delicate business. That said, when scholars are lining up to blast the production as ‘complete rubbish’ and ‘Osama bin Laden’s version of history’ the director has clearly missed the mark. Ridley Scott got away with sacrificing history to entertainment in Gladiator because that film didn’t ask viewers to believe they were watching the real thing. Kingdom of Heaven does, parading a
Balian the blacksmith (Orlando Bloom) is the illegitimate son of a crusader who has struck it big in the Holy Land and is back in
One gets the feeling that Scott devised this Middle Eastern Camelot less from conviction than from a desire to avoid his subject matter’s political minefields. Ironically the resulting revisionist schemozzle stumbles right into them, hence the barrage of criticism from
Such historical gymnastics reveal Scott’s misconception of the task facing him. It was impossible for such a movie to be both politically neutral and accurate, since the crusades and the responding jihad were fundamentally religious projects that directed violence against unbelievers.
It is hard to believe that the man who directed Alien and Bladerunner accepted a script as flat as this one. All the characters are two-dimensional, excepting perhaps Balian’s short-lived father (Liam Neeson) and the withered King Baldwin. Balian’s character leaps full-fledged into the film, leaving Orlando Bloom with nothing to do but look rugged and show off his sword fighting skills. Even Saladin is reduced to a quasi-orientalist portrayal, passing up the chance to explore the complexities of this brilliant Kurdish warrior statesman. Indifferent characters can be carried by a strong story, but plot defects abound in