Monday, May 09, 2005

I Won't Be Seeing This One

Ixnay on the Ingdomkay of Eavenhay (Pig Latin is to Latin as this movie is to history). Nice column by Debbie Schlussel, with lots of historical facts.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:

Christian Crusaders are crass, violent murderers. They lie, sleep around with multiple women, and father multiple illegitimate, abandoned children. They are stupid, foolish, power-hungry, and vengeful. They are boors warring for land, not principles, and kill fellow Christians—even priests—over nothing.

Muslims, especially Saladin, are honorable, devout, decent, peaceful people. They just want to be left alone and only attack when attacked upon. They are wise, honest, kind, generous, and even offer Christians safe passage.

The cinematography shows Muslims in prayer, though not as religious zealots. No such scenes for the Christians (or Jews), who are shown mostly drinking, sleeping around, and killing—they’re the religious zealots in this film.

One of “Kingdom’s” Crusade leaders declares: “To kill an infidel is not murder. It’s the path to Heaven.” Gee, I know a religion that proclaimed and practiced that from time immemorial through today—and it’s not Christianity. Hint: It begins with an “I,” ends with an “M,” and has an “S-L-A” in the middle. Nick Berg videos, anyone?
Also, extracts from a couple of Rotten Tomatoes reviews:

Here's a quote from a review (

"Scott pictures all the Christians, save Beautiful Balian and his mentor, Tiberias (Jeremy Irons), and his King Baldwin (Edward Norton, but you wouldn’t know it because he wears a mask throughout the movie to hide his leprosy), as venal monsters. I saw two priests in the film and both were bad guys. One stole Balian’s dead wife’s cross that she wore around her neck, for which he gets brutally murdered. The other is a Cardinal in Jerusalem who is as far from a holy man as one can get, as well as being a blithering coward, willing to sacrifice his people to save his own skin. I guess Ridley wanted to keep his Hollywood credentials, so he took his cheap, unnecessary shots at the Church. Consistent therewith, Scott also downplays the religious basis of the Christian-Muslim battles over the Holy Land. All the good guys decry any religious interest in the geography. Hollywood demeans itself by its secular crusade, and jilts history in the process.

This has big battle scenes with people getting massacred all over the place. The aerial shots of the large armies maneuvering are impressive. The cinematography (John Mathieson) is very good, as are the staged battles, if you’re into that sort of thing. Although the film is interesting and entertaining, good actors like Irons and Liam Neeson, who plays Godfrey, Balian’s father in the first part of the movie, are wasted by a laughably hackneyed script in what turns out to be a secular retelling with an anti-Christian bias of a religious war."

Also this (

"What insane times we live in. Here we are in the midst of the War on Terror, and all Hollywood can do is continually bash Christianity. Ridley Scott's disastrous Kingdom of Heaven is the latest film to shine a spotlight on Hollywood's wacko ideology.

Scott's latest is about Jerusalem during the Crusades, but it never mentions to tell us that the Crusades were a Christian response to Muslim conquests. Telling us that little fact, you see, would betray the film's anti-Christian agenda. The filmmakers bend over backwards not to offend Muslims while marginalizing Christianity as much as possible.

In Kingdom of Heaven, any character who's a devout believer in Christianity is portrayed as either a villainous war monger or a buffoon. Every heroic Christian character is a Christian in name only who doesn't really believe all that doctrinal nonsense, while the belief system of Muslims goes unchallenged.

It's those nasty Christian true believers who are the problem in a historical epic totally destroyed by the infusion of contemporary political correctness and left-wing revisionist history.

Every Christian character that writer William Monahan and director Scott intend as sympathetic is given a moment where he denounces religion in favor of a more secular "goodness." Yeah, like that was really a prevailing attitude in the 12th century. Never once did I believe this was an accurate depiction of 12th-century attitudes.

Leftist filmmakers, you see, view Christianity as the major force blocking the advancement of their own secular, anything-goes agenda, and that's precisely why we see Christianity so relentlessly attacked in so many movies anymore.

Had this film been made 40 or more years ago, it would have slanted heavily in favor of the Christians. But now, after 20-plus years of political correctness, things have gone too far in the opposite direction.

Kingdom of Heaven tells the story of a French blacksmith named Balian of Ibelin (Orlando Bloom), whose estranged father, a veteran knight of the Crusades named Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson), drops by one day and asks his son to accompany him to Jerusalem. Balian initially declines, but soon changes his mind after his wife commits suicide and he subsequently murders a priest for saying his dead wife cannot enter heaven because she took her own life. The simulataneous stabbing and burning of the priest is intended to get an early rise out of the Christian-haters in the audience, even though the priest does nothing more than recite the doctrine of the time, albeit in a highly insensitive way.

Despite his loss of faith, Balian then joins his father and soon arrives in Jerusalem, which is in a period of peace between the second and third Crusade circa 1186. The city is then under the rule of the leprosy stricken King Baldwin IV and his right-hand man, Tiberas (Jeremy Irons).

In what's an obvious metaphor for the current War on Terror, King Baldwin and Tiberas are the equivalent of modern-day dovish liberals, and therefore, they're supposed to be enlightened. Conversely, Baldwin's brother-in-law, Guy de Lusignan (Martin Csokas), is a power-lusting baron who foolheartedly craves war with the Muslims, led by Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). Guy and his right-hand man (Brendan Gleeson) are clearly supposed to represent hawkish conservatives.

It's hard to believe that in a film about the Crusades, there's more friction shown between Christian factions than between Christians and Muslims. It's a mutual admiration society between our hero Balian and the Arab Muslims. And it's equally hard to fathom that a film made by Westerners would allow such saintly portrayal of Saladin, especially in a time of war.

Can you imagine Hollywood producing a film this sympathetic to ancient German or Japanese warriors at the height of World War II? And a public dumb enough to want to see it?

But even if Kingdom of Heaven wasn't coming from such a misguided perspective, it would still have problems. Bloom might be a handsome young actor who appeals to women, but he has no charisma whatsoever and bores in the lead. Scott obviously is hoping his latest will be another Gladiator, but Bloom is no Russell Crowe. And I found it nearly impossible to understand a single word Liam Neeson utters during his supporting performance. This is the worst case of incoherent big-screen mumbling since Nick Nolte in The Good Thief.

Kingdom of Heaven also shares a problem with the good, but overrated Gladiator with the kind of quick cutting during battle scenes that makes it impossible to decipher what's happening. It would be nice to be able to know who's swinging the sword and who's getting struck.

Furthermore, the glacial-pacing during most of Kingdom's 140 minutes makes Oliver Stone's Alexander seem like Raiders of the Lost Ark. And the digitally enhanced action sequences offer nothing you haven't already seen in Gladiator, Troy and Alexander.

Scott was on a helluva roll at decade's start with Gladiator, the extremely underrated Hannibal and Black Hawk Down. Now with the so-so Matchstick Men and the shockingly inept Kingdom of Heaven, he's suddenly mired in a slump."

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