Kingdom of Heaven

Kingdom of Heaven

Rated 2.0

Returning to the historical melodrama he found so successful in Gladiator, director Ridley Scott seemingly eyed the box office boffo of The Passion of the Christ and headed to a Jerusalem set a thousand-odd years after the crucifixion.

The thin thread of a scenario: Balian (Orlando Bloom) is a blacksmith in a rustic French village whose mourning for his recently deceased wife is interrupted by a knight (Liam Neeson) dropping by to inform him that he is his father and to invite him along to partake in the Crusades (the first or second one, not clear). Balian declines, but after a local priest speaks ill of the dead wife, he impulsively chucks the uncouth man onto a blazing fire and is forced to pursue the offer. One thing leads to another and he becomes a knight, builds his cred among the various leaders in the region, hooks up with the kohl-eyed wife of the next king and is forced to oversee the defense of Jerusalem against the Muslim hordes. A $130 million CGI battle ensues.

While not particularly boring, Kingdom of Heaven has a meandering, new-agey feel to it. It actually seems to be suckering in the Passion audience (who obligingly bring their children with them; c’mon people, it’s rated R for a reason, and the R don’t stand for Religion), who find themselves instead enduring a flick where all the Christians are murderous bastards, the heroes are to a man agnostic, and the Muslims have a pretty good reason to want to kill everyone within the walls of the city.

Scott’s seeming intent to play the “Can’t we all just get along?” card falls flat. The aphorism-heavy script isn’t all that compelling and Orlando Bloom is miscast as the central character. He still cuts a wispy figure that a beard can’t compensate for. With hardly any charisma, it is hard to accept him as a man that could compel a vastly outnumbered citizenry to rise up and follow his lead into certain death.