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Kingdom of Heaven(2005)
Kingdom of Heaven is an epic adventure about a common man who finds himself thrust into a decades long war. A stranger in a strange land, he serves a doomed king, falls in love with an exotic queen and rises to knighthood. Ultimately he must protect the people of Jerusalem from overwhelming forces – while striving to keep a fragile peace.
For more about Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of Heaven Blu-ray release, see Kingdom of Heaven Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 12, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Sheen
Director: Ridley Scott
» See full cast & crew
Kingdom of Heaven Blu-ray Review
This overly long Director's cut is short on extras but high on A/V quality.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 12, 2008
If this is the Kingdom of Heaven, let God do with it what he wills.
I've become a really big fan of Ridley Scott's work. He's the talent behind some of the best and most cherished films in contemporary cinema history, including Alien, Blade Runner, and Gladiator. I enjoyed his recent Matchstick Men a great deal. It proved to be one of the more unique films I've seen with a very good plot twist that would make M. Night Shyamalan proud. Black Hawk Down is one of my favorite movies, ever. I have yet to see American Gangster (I'm waiting for the Blu-ray) but from everything I have read, it's a winner. Then there is Kingdom of Heaven. This is a film that should be right up my alley. It's got lots of swordplay and political and religious overtones, all of which interest me a great deal. As a history buff, but one with little knowledge of the Crusades, I was eager to really eat this one up and hopefully come out of it hungry to learn more about this turbulent era of world history. Alas, I found Kingdom of Heaven to be overly long, pretentious, and lacking in spirit. Resulting in a snooze-fest of a movie where even the action, while excellent, is nothing we haven't seen before. It lacked the energy and spirit I've come to expect from Scott's work.
Kingdom of Heaven is the tale of a blacksmith's rise to power and his eventual role as Jerusalem's defender against an invading Muslim army. The blacksmith is Balian (Orlando Bloom, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End), whose wife recently committed suicide after the death of their child. When several men engaged in the Crusades pass through his village, Balian discovers his father, Godfrey de Ibelin (Liam Neeson, The Chronicles of Narnia) among them. Bailan joins them, but the group soon finds itself in conflict with the law from the village after Balian slays a priest for desecrating his wife's body. Godfrey is mortally wounded in the battle and proceeds to knight his son and send him to Jerusalem to build the "kingdom of conscience" he envisions for the city. Along the way, Bailan finds himself in love with the king's sister Sibylla (Eva Green, Casino Royale) but refuses to marry her at King Baldwin IV's (Edward Norton, Fight Club) request before he dies of leprosy. Nevertheless, Bailan soon finds himself leading the defense of the Holy city against a siege by Muslims who want it for themselves after a conflict was initiated by the newly named king in the wake of Baldwin IV's death.
The problem I had with Kingdom of Heaven is not that the plot is overly complicated, but that it is presented in such a way so as to make it seem much more complicated and deep than it needs to be. Even with an excessive run time, there is so much crammed in here that we move from one major story line to the next and it never seems to gel. I'm certainly not one to bash movies with a slow and deliberate pace, and I don't need a major action sequence every ten minutes to hold my interest, but Kingdom of Heaven proved to be an exception. I wish this disc featured seamless branching between the theatrical version and the director's cut. I would have gladly waited a day or two and watched the theatrical version to see if it tightened up the story at all. Nevertheless, this is certainly a beautiful film to look at. The set design and costuming are first rate. The acting is also uniformly excellent. Even the seemingly typecast Orlando Bloom turns in a fine performance as the leading man in the film. This movie is, however, an excellent case study in human nature and the role of religion in people's lives. Also, unlike Troy, certain scenes in this movie, notably the battle sequence at the end, prove to be fine material to aid in the teaching of medieval combat techniques in classrooms of mature students who can handle the strong and graphic violence depicted in this film.
Kingdom of Heaven Blu-ray, Video Quality
Fans of Kingdom of Heaven should be very pleased with the transfer found on this disc. Presented in 1080p high definition in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Kingdom of Heaven looks marvelous. The first thing you will notice is that the film sports a mostly gray, drab, and "steely" look about it. Even in daylight scenes, a hint of gray is still ever present. What color is present in the film is vibrant. Black levels are deep and accurate. The detail to be found from scene to scene is high, although it can be slightly difficult to make out sometimes underneath the dreary look of the movie. Generally, however, it's magnificent. Anytime a character is wearing chainmail, check it out. It looks very realistic. Each individual piece of the armor is clearly distinguishable one to another. Small chinks and scratches on shields and other armor are amazingly reproduced. The more ornate of King Baldwin IV's masks, as seen in the picture beside this section of the review, is amazing in visible detail. Another scene shows a close-up of a hand; I paused the image and was amazed at the fine detail. Each line in the hand is visible and clear. Because of the drab look of the film it might make the viewer think twice about the quality of this image, but taken on the whole, accepting its overall look and feel as it relates to the film, this one's a real winner. Another wonderful job by Fox.
Kingdom of Heaven Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Once again Fox issues a disc utilizing DTS-HD MA lossless audio. No other track is available on this disc. This high definition soundtrack is very good. It offers excellent ambience in quieter scenes with the chirping and cawing of birds and the blowing of the wind, for example. Dialogue sounds good, but I was a little underwhelmed by it. It at times sounded hushed with a slightly unnatural feel to it. This is more of an observation than a complaint. It's not constant or terribly reproduced, just not exactly what I expected. Of course, the combat scenes are where a track such as this should truly shine, and it does not disappoint. Arrows will whoosh all around your room. Bass is ever present and most noticeable when stampedes of horses charge across battlefields. The clangs of swords and shields and armor can be heard all around. The screams of combat come from every direction, and you'll swear you are in the middle of some of the fiercest and most brutal combat you'll ever witness. This is an excellent soundtrack. I've only had access to DTS-HD MA for a few days. This marks the third title I have screened that uses this sound encode, and I am most satisfied with the results. Again, kudos to Fox.
Kingdom of Heaven Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The only extra to be found on this disc is a 1080p theatrical trailer for this movie. I do not own the DVD, but apparently there is a wealth of extras on the special edition release. I would have liked a commentary that might have explained some of the choices made in this film and the decisions behind releasing the extended cut of the film. I've no doubt there is plenty to be said about this film and it's a shame owners of the Blu-ray only don't have access to any worthwhile extras.
Kingdom of Heaven Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I was hoping to enjoy Kingdom of Heaven more than I did. I guess it's unfair to assume that I am going to enjoy everything even a director with the pedigree of Ridley Scott puts out. Who knows, this might be a film I'll enjoy more should I give it another chance somewhere down the road, but as it stands now, Kingdom of Heaven is, for me, the weak link in Scott's recent chain of success. From a technical standpoint, this disc is almost as good as it gets. Fans of the film won't be disappointed with either the audio or video. Unfortunately, fans will be disappointed with the lack of extras. If you have the special edition DVD and will want to see the extras again, it's currently the only way to see them. Despite the superior picture and sound, I cannot recommend buying this movie without first renting it. If this is one of your favorites, you probably already have the DVD. I'd recommend hanging onto that and upgrading only if you can decode the fine DTS-HD MA track and take full advantage of the 1080p image.
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