Kingdom of Heaven is Ridley Scott’s way of trying to recapture the success of Gladiator and to turn Orlando Bloom into the international sensation and instant leading man that Crowe became after is Oscar winning performance in that Gladiator.
I don’t fault Bloom for trying. I know he had to be thinking how could he lose? Sure it’s an epic drama and none of the other recently released historical epics have come anywhere near the success of Gladiator, but Dreams has Ridley Scott, Gladiator’s mastermind at the helm, he couldn’t go wrong…right? Well, that’s not exactly what happened.
See someone forgot to tell Orlando that he’s not Russell Crowe. And while he looked damn good in those elf ears, it takes much more then a pretty face to pull off an epic drama the likes of Kingdom of Heaven and unfortunately for us all Bloom just doesn’t have it.
I hate to criticize Orlando . I do. I think he’s gorgeous and love to watch him on the big screen and he’s not a bad actor he just doesn’t have the acting chops or the screen presence to be convincing as the salvation of a nation. Heaven tells the story of Balian (Bloom) a lowly blacksmith who has lost his child and then his wife to suicide.
He soon learns he has a nobleman for a father who has returned to recruit him on his journey to go and fight the holy Crusades and save Jerusalem from falling back into the hands of the Muslims led by the historic military leader Saladin. Agreeing to go in hopes of being able to atone for his wife’s suicide, he soon learn that knowing one’s enemy isn’t as clear as knowing where your religious beliefs lie.
Outside of Bloom not having what it takes to carry the roll of Balian, Heaven doesn’t work because the story is choppy and unclear. Scott decides to tell several stories: the jockeying for power amongst the Christians, the tenuous treaty between King Leopold and Saladin, Saladin and his relationship with his people, and an unnecessary love story that only seems to be there so there can be an excuse to see a semi-nude Orlando and instead of seeming interesting and entertaining it all just came across as one big convoluted mess.
Instead of all of these mini tales the movie would have been much more interesting had it just focused on Saladin’s and Balian’s grudging but shared respect for one another and the battle over Jerusalem. Instead we are left with a lot of unnecessary screen time filled by boring sub-plots and a badly used Edward Norton who is stuck behind a tin mask mumbling for a good portion of the movie.
Talk about bad use of an actor, Norton would have made a much better Balianl then Bloom and might have been able to stir up some emotions and excitement where Orlando could not.
Despites these gaffes, Kingdom of Heaven does offer some notable performances namely Jeffrey Irons who plays Tiberius a battle weary Sheriff of Jerusalem and commander of his own troops who is vehemently opposed to breaking the treaty they have with Saladin and David Thewalis the Hospitaler and Balian’s father’s friend and subsequently the one who helps Balian become the man his father wanted him to be.
While relatively entertaining, Kingdom of Heaven is ultimately a disappointment. I expected more out of Bloom but I really expected a great deal more out of Scott, after all he is the guy who brought us Gladiator and help turn Russell Crowe into a house hold name. Unfortunately, for everyone Kingdom of Heaven is no Gladiator.