Wednesday Rewind: Kingdom Of Heaven by @destroytheearth

I didn't like Troy when I saw it at the cinema. This may be no surprise to many of you who still hate it. However, on second viewing, I really do like the film. Maybe, it was the box room of a cinema I saw it in, or the gargantuan length of it, or whatever, but I am now a fan. However, I'm not here to talk about Troy.

Kingdom Of Heaven is unavoidably linked to Troy. Troy brought back the historic epic with a huge cast, both in reputation and quantity. Kingdom Of Heaven, despite being by a different studio and director, was a genuine follow up. It is a film that has been derided with some ferocity, but is it that bad? Hit the jump to find out:

The film is a historic, mostly-true story following a young blacksmith who discovers he is the illegitimate son of a great Crusader. When he lands himself in some legal trouble, his father takes him to Jerusalem where he becomes a famous knight himself and also a key player in the Islamic siege of Jerusalem and the loss of the holy land.

There's a lot of character drama here, as well as a great deal of historical fact, but the film is really the story of very different people who are just trying to get along and live in peace in spite of their conflicting values and the actions of an extremist minority. Four years after 9/11, when the shock was beginning to die down, it was a topical and relevant message; it still is.

Many hack journalists at the time tried to drum up some controversy over the film's treatment of the Islamic people as enemies. Of course they were bloody enemies, we were at war and it's a Western film! The truth is that this is a sympathetic portrayal of the Muslim people. Alexander Siddig's character is wholly positive and the Muslim leader is shown as an ally of our heroes in pursuit of peace. He is even shown righting a toppled crucifix at the siege's conclusion; a symbolic moment of Muslim/Western co-operation.

Of course, if none of this political back and forth intrigues you, there are still good reasons to watch the film. It's even handed, with rousing speeches, epic battle scenes, romance, drama and comedy in equal measure. The biggest draw, though, is the cast.

Bloom, the only physical connection to Troy, shows he actually has some range beyond smug; then there's Eva Green, Liam Neeson, we already mentioned Siddig, Jeremy IronsMarton CsokasBrendan Gleeson... Wanting to watch this yet? Well, wait, there's more... Michael SheenDavid Thewlis, an uncredited Ed Norton, Philip Glennister from Life On Mars, Kevin McKidd from Rome, and on and on.

The film isn't perfect. Some of the manufactured plot points are a little unlikely; and director Ridley Scott has included some awful melodramatic moments, including some shoddy CGI and a few slow motion shots that feel like they're intercut from an 80s indie movie. Yet, of course, melodrama is to be expected with epics.

Still, there is one remaining controversy for the film. When the original cut was submitted at three hours long, the studio baulked, wanting an action picture, not a historic epic. A drastic cut was done, but the critics were unimpressed, noting the film felt unfinished, and it was a financial failure.

A special edition was released and many claim it redeemed the film with better pacing and a more-rounded plot. I'm not in that camp. I maintain that the theatrical cut is tighter; plot points are implied with one scene, rather than laboriously explored with ten and unnecessary subplots are cut altogether. Rather than the film, it is the extra scenes in the special edition that feel unfinished, easily distinguishable from a grainy texture and an ambling pace. An epic is an epic, but a film with as much story to tell as this cannot afford to dawdle.

Were this film released in the early days of technicolour, it would be held as a classic. Unfortunately, we are not the culture to appreciate a historic epic as much as a film about cars transforming into robots; nor one to appreciate a message of tolerance when prejudice and wrath is so much easier.

This is not just a good film, but a great film and an eminently quotable one. It offers not only good dialogue, but thought-provoking philosophy. It is certainly far better than the lamentable Robin Hood and deserves to take its rightful place among Scott's best; even if it needed some studio interference to get there.

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