Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Kingdom of Heaven

Kingdom of Heaven
 Between the time span of 2000-2006 there was one British actor that every girl in the world was completely and totally in LOVE with (I being one of them).

Orlando Bloom.

From the moment he stepped onto the Hollywood scene playing the wise and courageous elf Legolas in The Lord of The Rings franchise, he took the world by storm. His fame skyrocket with each film and he went on to play Will Turner in Pirates of The Caribbean and Paris in Troy.

Kingdom of Heaven I had heard about, but for some odd reason I was constantly getting it mixed up with Troy (probably because both movies came out at the same time), and because Troy had Brad Pitt in it, I had no desire to see either film. Last year I finally decided to watch both, but Kingdom of Heaven ended up having the biggest impact on me.

~ ~ ~

Orlando Bloom as Balian de Ibelin
      The story starts in France in the 12th century during the Crusades. Balian de Ibelin (Orlando Bloom), a poor blacksmith, has just buried wife who committed suicide and had to be buried outside of the city. The suicide was caused by the miscarriage of her child, so Balian is in deep grief and remorse at the lost of his unborn child and his wife who is now an outcast.

     In the midst of his grief a Crusader, Godfrey de Ibelin (Liam Neeson) comes across Balian and straight out tells him that he is his bastard son and therefore heir to his estate and fortune in Jerusalem. Balian is anything but thrilled at this shocking discovery and bids Godfrey and his companions to leave him alone.

     After they leave, Balian contemplates his mystery past and might be future when the very strange village priest (Michael Sheen) starts badgering him about his wife. When he doesn't let up, Balian gets angry and starts to fight him, ultimately killing him. Balian is horrified at what he has done and immediately sets out to find Godfrey. When he finds him, he asks if he can go to Jerusalem to have his sins forgiven. Godfrey assures him that he can and so Balian follows him to Holy City.

Liam Neeson as Godfrey de Ibelin
 Along the way, Godfrey teaches his how to fight, which becomes useful, as they are attacked and Godfrey is seriously wounded. Shortly after they make it to Jerusalem, Godfrey dies, but not before he gives his son his blessing and knights him by saying these few words:
"Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong. That is your oath. "
 Then he proceeds to slap him in the face and tells him "And that's so you remember."

     After that is when Balian's life in Jerusalem begins. He meets the king's beautiful sister Princess Sybilla (Eva Green) and her power hungry Crusader husband, Guy de Lusignan (Martin Csokas). Hollywood made a love affair out of Balian and Sybilla's relationship, although it wasn't accurate. Sybilla was very much in love with her husband, but hey, who can say no to Orlando Bloom?

     Up to this point I had actually found the movie quite boring and the action and violence really gory and unappealing. I was also beginning to fall asleep, but I had met just about everyone in the story...except for this king they called 'Jerusalem' so I stayed up and watched a little longer.

I was glad that I did too.

Edward Norton as King Baldwin IV 
 (Sadly I couldn't find a matching poster for Baldwin)

     King Baldwin IV (Edward Norton) is the most extraordinary character in the whole film. More than just a king and warrior, he is also a leper and he is dying. His body is covered in bandages and his face is hidden by an elaborate silver mask. The only part of him you see is his startling blue eyes. As soon as Balian walks in, Baldwin tells him of Godfrey's loyalty to him and encourages Balian to follow in his path. Baldwin also gives him advice about how to properly manage the estate and how to lead others:

"None of us know our end, really, or what hand will guide us there. A king may move a man, a father may claim a son, but that man can also move himself, and only then does that man truly begin his own game.
Remember that howsoever you are played or by whom, your soul is in your keeping alone, even though those who presume to play you be kings or men of power. When you stand before God, you cannot say, "But I was told by others to do thus," or that virtue was not convenient at the time. This will not suffice. Remember that."
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Eva Green as Princess Sybilla
     This is an incredibly long movie and it would take me forever to write about it, but after Balian is knighted is when things start getting interesting. He manages to bring his father's dying estate back to life, falls in love with Sybilla when she comes to see him, help Baldwin stop a war between the Muslims and the Christian, and eventually becomes a very powerful leader.

     As much as I loved Balian as a strong and noble leader, King Baldwin IV is my favorite. Leprosy was one of the most feared diseases at that time and yet Baldwin still manage to rule Jerusalem with knowledge and compassion. Edward Norton did a great job at being able to act through that exquisite mask and his eyes completely penetrated you. The portrayal of Baldwin is actually the only accurate portrayal in the movie, therefore making it the best character all around.

     Baldwin's death (which was beautifully done) is a catalyst for the Muslims to gain revenge on the Crusaders and now Balian must take up the wise words from Baldwin and lead a small army of the just knighted men and boys and defend the 'Kingdom of Heaven.'

     They end up losing and the Muslims take over Jerusalem. Balian and Sybilla (who has left her husband) head back to Balian's hometown in France. While Balian is looking around his old blacksmith shop, Richard Coeur de Lion (King Richard I of England; Richard the Lionheart) rides up to the shop and asks him if he knows of the whereabouts of Balian de Ibelin.

Balian replies, "I am the blacksmith."

Richard says, "I am the King of England."

Balian once again replies, "I am the blacksmith."

     After Richard leaves, Balian and Sybilla decide to ride up the hills, but only after Balian takes one last look at his wife's grave.

~ ~ ~

    I found the movie to be beautifully done and the acting exceptional. I've seen the standard and the Director's Cut and by far the DC is the best, although it's very long.

     Orlando Bloom did an amazing job! This is by far, in my opinion, his best role. He played a very generous and courageous man, who knew what was right and did it. It took me a while to get use to Eva Green. Sometimes her performance came off as too modern and it didn't seem accurate in some parts. Although, she did a very good job and her best scene was her goodbye to her brother while he is dying.

     The movie is rated R because violence is very strong and the battle scenes are intense. The love affair between Sybilla and Balian was actually quite low-key, which was good. It didn't become a major part of the movie.
     The Crusades was a very hard and tough time in history. The basic idea was to 'murder in the name of God' on all sides. Christians, Jews, and Muslims all fighting for this one city. Hollywood tends to romanticize the Middle Ages and make seem like an incredible and romantic time in history. It was actually one of the worst times in history and that came across very strongly in the movie.

"We defend this city, not to protect these stones, but the people living within these walls"
 ~Balian of Ibelin; "Kingdom of Heaven"

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