Csokas never quite plays an entirely likeable character, but in Kingdom of Heaven, he’s absolutely despicable. (He gets his, though, being captured by Saladin’s army and paraded around in a dunce cap on a jackass.)
Kingdom of Heaven never quite succeeded, at the box office, or as a movie, but it’s a noble attempt, and as a dyed in the wool disciple of anything either of the Scott brothers make, I still liked it.
Here are a few of the reasons I think it doesn’t quite work:
- Orlando Bloom. He’s a decent actor, but he doesn’t have the gravitas to embody such an epic character. There’s a scene towards the end, just before the climactic battle, where he desperately knights all those “of arms.” The music swells, the actors are all earnest and solemn, and the viewer feels like they just did a cannonball into an Olympic sized pool of cheese. Truth be told, this is who I would have picked for his role: The Rock. Yes, the People’s Champion himself. His agent hooks him up with silly comedy or genre roles, but I think if given a chance, he could really take a bite out of a juicy dramatic role like blacksmith/warrior Balian. Of course, they’d have to cast someone other than Liam Neeson for the role of his father…but that’s not so bad anyway, right? Neeson gets killed in the first reel.
- The antagonists, Reynald and Guy (pronounced Ghee), are on Balian’s side. They’re a bunch of war mongering, greedy killers who incite Saladin to raid Jerusalem with catapults and towers in the final battle. It makes for some interesting scenes of treachery, but it toys with the viewers sympathies. Saladin, portrayed by Ghassan Massoud, is a much more sympathetic character, not only because he is repeatedly wronged, but because he is a much better man. The overall effect is that you don’t know who to root for. In a tense psychological drama that might work. In a rousing action movie, not so much.
- We’ve seen all this before, huge battles, catapults, siege towers, computer generated armies. From Lord of the Rings to Troy on up to Braveheart and Alexander, all of the stuff in Kingdom of Heaven looks good, but it also looks familiar. There are some amazing shots, including the battlefield swarmed with CGI carrion birds, as well as the fireballs at night at the end, but over all, it’s variations on a theme. Kingdom of Heaven just might be the last historical battle picture we see for a while.