Monday, December 15, 2014

Movie of the Week – Kingdom of Heaven

This week’s movie: Kingdom of Heaven (2005) – Director’s Cut

After being sought out by his estranged father (back from the Crusades) in France, Balian decides to follow his father back to Jerusalem to start a new life (during the 12th century). When he gets there, he finds the region embroiled in a deadly struggle as Christian and Muslim hostilities put their truce in jeopardy. The only thing holding the peace together is the just King of Jerusalem; however, he is unwell and near death. Balian pledges himself to the defense of the King and the people of Jerusalem, placing him right in the middle of the struggle.

Kingdom of Heaven is maybe director Ridley Scott’s most epic film to date, as its scope and scale are comparable to that of Lawrence of Arabia (a film that seems to have been a big influence). Scott set out to make an epic in the style of old Hollywood classics (complete with a musical overture, intermission and musical entr’acte). Composer Harry Gregson-Williams delivers his career-best score (it is phenomenal). Cinematographer John Mathieson and production designer Arthur Max also do great work.

Twentieth Century Fox was skeptical that releasing a film with a runtime over three hours would prove to be financially sound. Thus, they recut Scott’s film to be 144 minutes and released it to mild reviews and domestic box office (grossing just $211 million worldwide against its $130 million production budget, only $47 million domestically). Critics complained that the film felt incomplete and lacking texture. Fox’s cut left the film to play as a blockbuster when the film is really so much more (actually having something of substance to say about religious tolerance). Thankfully, Scott’s director’s cut was released later. The film is restored to its 190 minute runtime with much more depth and historical perspective. It is by no means a perfect film, but as an epic costume drama it plays quite well. It is well-worth checking out for fans of epic films in the classical style.

Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray

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