Kingdom of Heaven tells the story of humble French blacksmith Balian (Bloom) who sets off to Jerusalem to join the Crusades after being approached by his long-lost father, Godrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson). Unhappy with the prospect at first, Balian agrees to take part in the hope of finding salvation for himself and his wife, who recently committed suicide.
Sadly, Neeson’s character dies en route to the Holy Land, leaving Balian to take his place. He is welcomed with open arms into Jerusalem by the leper King Baldwin (Edward Norton in a mask) and into the bed of Princess Sibylla (Eva Green), a situation with which her power-hungry husband Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas) is not best pleased. Vying for power in the city are Lusignan and his Knights Templar and the noble Tiberius (Jeremy Irons), leader of the king’s army. Meanwhile, a battle with Ghassan Massoud’s Saladin looms.
While in theory this movie could have been packed with intrigue and interest as Balian struggles for the souls of himself and his wife and the factions engage in political struggle, it somehow fails to manage it. Orlando Bloom’s face does little to help, being stuck in a state of eternal moodiness, presenting a pout at any situation that it happens upon. He performs passively throughout, never presenting any glimmer of the soul that he is trying to save in the eyes of God, or giving us any real reason to care about his actions or his fate.
The acting is generally of a high standard, but again, I never felt any attachment to any of the characters, many of whom are arbitrarily killed without a bat of an eyelid from the audience. Balian’s initial goal of salvation is barely touched upon once he actually reaches Jerusalem, and it is far too easy to forget about his recently-dead wife and child, especially when he jumps straight into bed with the princess.
Scott seems adamant that we should not get the impression that the Muslims are the bad guys, evilly battling against the righteous forces of the Christians. We get the point well enough without the unnecessary, ill-placed and patronising equality speech at the end of film in an uncharacteristically verbose outpouring from Balian. It seems that Scott wants to ram down our throats the fact that the film is very meaningful and relates to contemporary society, but it ends up feeling very forced.
On the plus side, the film is stunning visually. The battle scenes, drawn out as they may be, are excellent, particularly the siege upon Jerusalem at the end. The landscapes, costumes and cinematography are stylish, though unfortunately they can’t disguise the boredom behind them.
The length of the film is problematic. While on one hand it would have been nice to actually be told about the various factions and characters, the running time of 145 minutes tries the patience of many in the first place.
Kingdom Of Heaven is all-in-all fairly mediocre. Visually it is stunning and may be worth watching from a cinematographic point of view, but unfortunately so much is left understated or unexplained and there is such a feeling of disinterest towards the characters that it is disappointing in other areas.