Friday, September 18, 2009

Kingdom of Heaven

This movie came and went, I think. It is flawed but it has a lot to interest me. It is about the Crusades, a subject hard to top for exciting potential.

Orlando Bloom stars, and does not quite get the job done. He is not bad, just lacks pizzazz. I mean, I know he’s Hottie in Excelsis, but he is just so earnest and moody thru out, but not compelling. That would, I imagine, owe to the director (Ridley Scott). Bloom is onscreen for most of the first ten minutes without any lines. There is simply a lot of Bloom face time but no dialogue.

Scott directed Gladiator, which also had a fascinating milieu. Russell Crowe held the screen better than Bloom. I do not think the score held interest the way it did in Gladiator, but I am not sure about that.

Anyway, Bloom, we learn at the beginning, is a blacksmith who just lost his wife. She was a suicide, despondent over loss of a child during childbirth. Because of her suicide, the village priest ordered her head removed from the corpse. When Bloom learns of this he wordlessly murders the priest. Yikes!

Liam Neeson had already showed up and revealed himself as Bloom’s father, by way of some earlier (obviously) dalliance. I am fuzzy as to how Neeson managed to locate Bloom. Neeson is king of some kingdom in the Holy Land, and invites Bloom to join him in the Crusade, good way for father and son to get to know each other. Bloom refused until he murdered the priest. Bloom, Neeson and their small party of knights are waylaid by the local king’s men, to bring Bloom to justice. Some brief butchery follows, with the attackers slaughtered but also most of Neeson’s men. This was a surprise because the men were all distinctive, in the way of patented movie crew. Neeson himself is seriously wounded. He dies and Bloom finds himself King of whatever place it was. He heads to the Holy Land, with an entourage of knights. Sailing from Medina, the ships founder, and only Bloom survives, along with a horse. Bloom and horse cross the desert.

At an oasis he is intercepted by the lord of the land, who challenges Bloom. Bloom defeats this man, and has the man’s slave lead him to Jerusalem. At Jerusalem, Bloom frees the slave. One mission there is that he tries to believe in salvation, for himself and his wife but cannot quite do it.

Well now, he efforts to tidy up his kingdom and help Jerusalem. He meets the sister of the King of Jerusalem. She is married to a knight seen as the next King of Jerusalem, a templar, I think, and an upper class jerky boy. He is marked as Bloom’s competition.

The Templars are hankering to start something, and have it out with the Muslims. The dirty work is especially done but a loutish king or whatever he is. He bad.

The King of Jerusalem and Salah al-Din were understood as the hope for peace in the Holy Land. I will not pretend to enough scholarship here, but think there is some accuracy to this vision, tho Saladin certainly benefits from a romanticizing.

Alas, the machinations of the Templars and the King of Jerusalem’s health (he’s leprous) make the situation tenuous. Bloom’s rival and the rival’s troublemaker perform nastiness against the Saracens. This riles Saladin to bring 200,000 against Jerusalem. Bloom and his homeys arrive on scene and see that the the refugees rushing to the city will not make it ahead of Saladin’s army. So Bloom and Croo dash toward the enormous army. This is one of several steals from Lord of the Rings, when Faramir et al. rush against the entrenched orc brigade. It is a slaughter.

Somehow, Bloom and a few others survive. And lo, it turns out that the slave that Bloom freed was in fact a lord, and this lord allows Bloom and all to live. Well!

It still looks grim for Jerusalem but the King and it looks like everyone else comes forth grandly. I did not mench that the K of J wears a silver mask to hide his leprous deformities. That and his white robe gives him an exotic, outré aspect.

He and Saladin agree to peace, and the King promises to punish the perp. It was already promised that the King would not survive this excursion and, after beating on the perp, he fails, falls, dies. Bloom is offered Kingship but he refuses Christianly, because his rival would die if Bloom accepted.

And that leads to trouble.

The Templars perform Saracen slaughter, and Saladin reacts. The new K of J is captured, along with his dog. Saladin is gracious, offering a cup of iced water to the King. Historically, Saladin supposedly did this to an ailing King Richard. The King hands the drink to his murderous lackey, who partakes. Saladin says, I did not give that to you. Lackey shrugs. Saladin kills him. And so on.

Now Saladin aims for Jerusalem, and now Bloom is there for the defense. What comes next is much much like the defense of Gondor. It is a bit blah blah blah, tho visually interesting. Bloom gives a totally unlikely speech about defending the people of Jerusalem, not the ideologies. Post modern craperoo.

Bloom’s fencing is convincing but in the gross world of Crusade slaughter he is too preppy and slim. And the speechy crap, who is supposed to purchase this? You are. Jerusalem survives the onslaught and Saladin, nice guy, gives good terms. So, with everything made neatly small again, Bloom and the sister of the former K of J leave the city. Bloom returns to blacksmithery. Mushy Christian wawa.

The movie is compelling in its milieu, and not lame, but the imperative under which it works it just a tiresome drone. Which is where will stop.

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