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InsidePulse DVD Review - Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut

Posted By Robert Sutton on 05.17.2006

One of the best DVD's that will come out all year...

When it was released last summer, Kingdom of Heaven made a very little splash with moviegoers. Met with lackluster reviews from critics, the $130 million movie made only $47 million domestically, starting the downward slide for the entire summer box office in 2005. For director Ridley Scott, this was the first real setback in some time. His Gladiator was the first to start the Epic craze back in 2000, then followed up with the box office smash Hannibal, the widely successful Black Hawk Down, and the critical favorite, Matchstick Men. But why was Kingdom of Heaven such a wash?

There are several reasons that could have contributed to people staying away from the film. Perhaps the field had just gotten too crowded for audiences in between Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven. Gladiator imitators Troy, King Arthur, and Alexander were critical duds. Historical Epics The Last Samurai, Master and Commander, and Cold Mountain all did marginally well, but didn’t set the world on fire.

Maybe political climate was the reason for the film’s downfall. Did the public want to see a movie about the Crusades when a war in the Middle East rages right now? Perhaps the film was just too heavy for audiences wanting escapism from the day to day problems with the world.

But then, there were the mixed reviews for the film. Admittedly, the picture seemed to be light in the story department, even if the action was top notch. Character motivations appeared forced, and star Orlando Bloom’s storyline gave the impression that big chunks were missing.

With Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut a lot of questions are finally answered. While most cuts of this nature add only a few moments back into a movie, Kingdom of Heaven goes from its theatrical running time of two hours and twenty five minutes to a whopping three hours and ten minutes. The difference is astonishing. Kingdom of Heaven goes from being a decent movie with flaws to one of the best films to have come out in 2005. 20th Century Fox must have felt the longer running time would have been too daunting for summer audiences, but watching this cut of the film makes you feel as if they shot themselves in the foot and missed out on some Oscar glory.

The spine of the movie is still there, as Balian (Orlando Bloom) is discovered by his father and taken to Jerusalem. There, he becomes one of the most important knights in the realm, and is instrumental in defending the Holy Land against the forces of Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). All these elements were in tact upon Kingdom of Heaven’s release in 2005. What this Director’s Cut does is give the spine some much needed meat.

Even from the beginning, this new cut of Kingdom of Heaven is a richer experience. Characters, such as the Priest from the film’s opening (Michael Sheen), and Sir Godfrey (Liam Neeson) are much better developed than the previous version. Sheen’s character is much more treacherous, yet tragic here, as he’s not just a two dimensional “evil” priest, but actually Balian’s older brother. His emotions seem to be much more mixed toward Balian, wanting to condemn him at first, claiming he is a devil worshiper, and then seemingly wanting him to find redemption by joining the party of Godfrey, a knight returning from the Crusades looking for his long lost son.

This entire subplot is nearly completely done away with in the film original version as are others. Now that they are restored, we see the Priest and other characters in a whole new light. Godfrey is a man who has fought his whole life and now wants to find his only son. We see that his brother is the lord of the territory, and with Godfrey out of the way, his own son will inherit the land he possesses. This gives the conflict between Godfrey’s knights and the lord’s over Balian’s future much more weight and subtext.

As for Orlando Bloom himself, Balian has much more depth in the Director’s Cut. His journey to Jerusalem is an odyssey of redemption as well as just trying to find his destiny. We learn he is an engineer as well as being a blacksmith, which makes more sense when he is given so much responsibility in defending Jerusalem when he gets to the Holy Land. Just simply giving him more screen time helps with filling out the gaps in his story, as if we’re not just seeing the story’s cliff notes.

Lastly, the character helped most with this new cut is Eva Green’s Sibylla. Her character was shallow and not given nearly enough screen time, but here she’s fleshed out quite a bit. Her character isn’t the impulsive brat from before, condemning Jerusalem after being rejected by Balian. There is a heartbreaking sequence involving her son, which has her character making tons of more sense than before.

All of these now fully developed characters bring a much deeper resonance to Ridley Scott’s expertly constructed epic. This is a film about ideas and ideology, not just action and adventure, not that there isn’t plenty of that too. The Muslim forces are not savages, but men wanting to take back land that was taken from them. Saladin is shown as a noble adversary, and a man of conscience and great strength. Edward Norton does wonders with King Baldwin, the ruler of Jerusalem. This must have been a challenging role for Norton who was saddled with a mask, but even with the use of just his voice, the character has a humanity that surpasses most others in the film. Baldwin is a philosopher King, trying desperately to hold onto a fragile peace between Christian and Muslim empires. It is zealotry that brings was to the Kingdom, as fanatics such as Marton Csokas’ Guy de Lusignan or Brendan Gleeson's Reynald do their best to bring war to Jerusalem.

This may end up being the performance of Orlando Bloom’s career. This is definitely not a pretty boy role, and Bloom never seems out of his depth with the seasoned actors that surround him. It helps to have the likes of Jeremy Irons and David Thewlis, who make the most of their supporting roles, to make Bloom look good, and that is exactly what they do.

Battle scenes are brutally choreographed and put on an amazing scale. The siege of Jerusalem of is on a scale worthy of the defense of Helm’s Deep from the The Two Towers and nearly that of Return of the King’s Minas Tirith battle. These battles are raw and adrenaline filled, much like the controlled chaos of Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. Those scared of seeing battles similar to the crowded yawn fests that Troy brought you should put their fears to rest. These are bloody; bone crunching engagements that few main characters are able survive.

Kingdom of Heaven was already a gorgeous movie to look at, but now it has characters that fully live in that world. The film was gutted by executives the first time out, but hopefully audiences will give the film another chance on DVD with this Director’s Cut. This is a tremendous movie from Ridley Scott, who makes the most out of this edition with one of the best movies of 2005.

Full text here, describes the extras in more detail and rates the movie 10/10.

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This may end up being the performance of Orlando Bloom’s career. This is definitely not a pretty boy role, and Bloom never seems out of his depth with the seasoned actors that surround him.

:blow: After what has been a very tough week for me, I am in a bliss to read all these wonderful reviews about KOH and Orlando's performance. What can I say? I am just bursting with pride to read the above. Sigh. If the full-version had been released last year, Orlando might even have been nominated for an Oscar ( I am pretty sure of it, having seen the Director's version ). He is just AMAZING. But I also slightly disagree with this person commenting KOH as the performance of Orlando's career. IMO, he hasn't even begun to show us what he is capable of. He will have taken his rightful place among the GREATS of Hollywood by the time he is done. Watch out, Hollywood and you all nay-sayers! Orlando is just getting started. Be prepared for another Orlando Tornado. And thank you, KLSMom.

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I love seeing all of these reviews that are flooding in. Thanks, Christine, for posting this.

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Thanks, Christine, for posting this. The praise keeps pouring in, both for the film itself and Orlando's performance. :cheer:

:hug:

WW

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This may end up being the performance of Orlando Bloom’s career. This is definitely not a pretty boy role, and Bloom never seems out of his depth with the seasoned actors that surround him.

:blow: After what has been a very tough week for me, I am in a bliss to read all these wonderful reviews about KOH and Orlando's performance. What can I say? I am just bursting with pride to read the above. Sigh. If the full-version had been released last year, Orlando might even have been nominated for an Oscar ( I am pretty sure of it, having seen the Director's version ). He is just AMAZING. But I also slightly disagree with this person commenting KOH as the performance of Orlando's career. IMO, he hasn't even begun to show us what he is capable of. He will have taken his rightful place among the GREATS of Hollywood by the time he is done. Watch out, Hollywood and you all nay-sayers! Orlando is just getting started. Be prepared for another Orlando Tornado. And thank you, KLSMom.

Suzie, I couldn't have said it better myself if I tried. You said everything I wanted to say. This review brought tears to my eyes. Thank you KLSMom for bringing this to us.

Kim

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one of the best movies of 2005.
:2thumbs:

Sadly, too late. But, nevertheless, wonderful to read. Thank you for posting this fine review, KLS Mom.

And look at that rating: 10/10 ! :clap: Well deserved and excellent.

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WOW, what an amazing write-up. If Orlando was ever doubtful of his performance in this film, due to some of the negativity that was written last year, this should put those doubts to rest. :2thumbs:

Wouldn't it be something if they were to re-release this movie so that we can see it on the big screen as it truly deserves to be seen. :w00t: One, can only dream.

Thanks for sharing KLSMom. This only fuels the excitement that I am feeling about finally being able to see this directors cut. I wonder if any of those responsible for the slice and dice are perhaps looking for new jobs this year. :whistle:

Luv ya, :heart:

Cherie

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Lovely - keep 'em coming! :2thumbs:

Jules

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Reviews like this still make me happysad. I do not know whether to laugh or cry. Ah, well. Spilled milk and all that so I will just give one more: :yess:

I agree with Kim though.

But I also slightly disagree with this person commenting KOH as the performance of Orlando's career. IMO, he hasn't even begun to show us what he is capable of.

Look out Hollywood. The boy ain't even begun yet. :pulp:

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Thanks for posting this KLSMom!

Thought this comment was interesting.

...but watching this cut of the film makes you feel as if they shot themselves in the foot and missed out on some Oscar glory.
And of course I loved his praise of Orlando's performance. :yess: I can't wait to see it!

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...but watching this cut of the film makes you feel as if they shot themselves in the foot and missed out on some Oscar glory.

Agreed. Paraphrasing the words of Marlon Brando (Waterfront), "It could have been a contender!". :cry:

But I look forward to many more outstanding performances from Orlando in the years ahead. Balian will be the bridge he will build his reputation on. :2thumbs:

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