Ki--do- of ---ven
Solid sets, Orlando Bloom
Transitions, why does Liam Neesin keep playing the same character?
The Bottom Line:
Give it a pass unless you are a diehard Orlando Bloom or Ridley Scott fan.
The biggest problem with Kingdom of Heaven isn't an odd one. Some might point out that Orlando Bloom isn't exactly the most hefty action hero around and they would be right. However he is coming along fairly well. Granted portraying a blacksmith is still a stretch for him (he also played one in Pirates of the Caribbean) but he is slowly developing some of the charisma a leading man needs.
Others might point out the fact that the director, Ridley Scott, just recently came out with a period epic a couple of years ago, Gladiator. I'll grant you that this has a few similarities. It starts out in Great Britain, just like Gladiator, and proceeds with the main character down to a locale closer to the Mediterranean. It is concerned with lots of swordplay, features a seasoned actor (Oliver Reed in Gladiator, Liam Neesin in Kingdom of Heaven) as a mentor figure to the main character, has an odd, barely developed lopsided love triangle and an up-and-coming lead actor (Russell Crowe in Gladiator, Orlando Bloom in Kingdom of Heaven)
However neither of these are the main problem with the film. The big problem with the film (for me at least) was the transitions. The things that are left out or hinted at in between scenes, the basic cement holding together the building blocks of the film. In this case the fact that these transitions frequently were either shorted or simply not present left me either snickering or wondering what happened--how did we get to that point in the plot.
Before we get to that though, let's go over the plot for a second.
Essentially this film is set back in the Dark Ages, towards the start of the Crusades. A middle-aged Crusader knight (Liam Neesin) who is nearing the end of his life and has no heir hunts out his bastard son Balian (Orlando Bloom) who he finds working in a blacksmithy. Complications ensue and in short order we find Balian traveling down to Jerusalem in search of his legacy.
Anyhow, transitions. The trip down to Jerusalem is one of the bad ones. We see the men discussing how it is going to be a tough ocean trip down there but it would be easier than traveling down there by land. In the next scene we see a couple of ships, one of which slooooowly tips over. No particular explanation is given whose ship it is, why it is tipping over or even why it looks so much like a little miniature model but in the next scene we see Bailian waking up next to a smashed ship so that sort of stuff becomes somewhat moot. Then after a quick battle, we find ourselves with him in Jerusalem. It really doesn't seem all that long a journey and the rest of Bailian's companions meet him there so it isn't even all that dangerous for most but even so...
This is just an example of some of the weird transitions in the show. Others include a fractured love affair, instantaneous transmission of fighting knowledge, an assumed death, skipping major battles, and other oddball diplomatic oddities. Most of these problems would have been fixed fairly easily by inserting a short scene or two into the film or even making a quick comment while doing other things. Ya know, something like "Oh by the way, XXX died." or switching to a map to show distance.
To be fair, the film does have an epic (if somewhat abbreviated) feel to it and the money spent shows up on the screen but solid visuals don't make a slapdash story a good one. They do help to make the medicine go down a bit better though.
For the most part I'd say to give this film a pass. It isn't horrible but not particularly memorable either. If you are an Orlando Bloom fan it does mark a certain milepost in his quest to become a solid leading man but other than that it is only so so.