Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by:William Monahan
Starring: Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Edward Norton
Released: May 5, 2005
Grade: B

Before getting to the film, I must say that I am very curious as to how this film will rate both with the public and with the critics.  Five years ago (to the exact weekend), Gladiator was released.  The film was lauded with praise, took $187m at the U.S. box-office and won 5 Academy Awards, including best picture!

Everything about Kingdom of Heaven makes it seem like Gladiator 2.  They have been released at the same time, been directed by the same person (Ridley Scott) and tell a medieval-like story from an age long past.  I believe the difference which will make or break the film is the lead actor.  Russell Crowe was a powerful presence in Gladiator, so much so that it won him his own Oscar.  Does the inexperienced Orlando Bloom have what it takes to pull in an audience?

Kingdom Of Heaven is set 12th Century and tells us of a fierce battle fought for control of the city of Jerusalem.  The Christians currently command the city but there’s a rising Muslim army who has plans to attack.  Bringing religion to the big screen is fraught with danger and I’ve read a variety of reports questioning the film’s validity.  Considering that most religious groups are unhappy with how they are portrayed, I guess writer William Monahan has found a nice balance – it doesn’t favour anyone.

We meet Balian (Bloom) as a simple blacksmith who has lost his wife and daughter.  Unexpectedly, his approached by his father Godfrey (Neeson), a man he had never previously met.  A powerful man, Godfrey convinces Balian to leave his home and come with him to the city of Jerusalem.

Not long after they set out, Godfrey is fatally injured in a battle.  Before passing away, he makes a knight of Balian who somewhat reluctantly agrees to continue his father’s legacy.  He makes many influential acquaintances in Jerusalem and soon enough, he is being touted as the next king.  This isn’t a title that sits well with Balian and he gives up both his love (Green) and his shot at the throne.  Guy de Lusignan is to be the new king and his rash battle tactics will leave Jerusalem exposed.  It will be up to Balian to take charge and give his people a glimmer of hope.

The film’s finale was well shot.  This should come as no surprise as Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down) sure knows how to create a great dramatic action sequence.  Unlike most battle scenes, it wasn’t repetitive and you could easily ascertain what was happening and who had the advantage.  I can’t say the same for the plot.  I’m not a history major and found it difficult to keep up with all the characters and their motives. 

Like another recent battle epic, Troy, I struggled to become emotionally involved with the story and its characters.  Bloom’s performance is admirable but he’s lacked the charisma and passion that I expected from him.  Russell Crowe did it better, much better.  Little was made of Balian’s romance with the Queen (played by French actress Eva Green of The Dreamers).  By the end of the film, the Queen had become a character they cross to every 2-3 minutes just so we can see a silent, concerned look on her face.  I shared a similar look.