Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A king-sized flop

For some unknown reason, Wongdoer was looking forward to seeing Kingdom of Heaven. Why he thought Hollywood, which had butchered both myth (Troy) and fact (Alexander) from the ancient past would do any better with the Crusades, especially given its anti-Christian bent, is a mystery to The Monk. Why he thought Ridley Scott, the man who made Gladiator -- an awful mess with crappy computer effects that was saved from being pure sh-t by Russell Crowe (who did a fine job but should not have beaten Tom Hanks' Cast Away performance for the Oscar) -- could portray something historically accurate and compelling from that time period is similarly unfathomable to The Monk.

Mark Steyn ripped Kingdom of Heaven a new one. And from its cruddy box office receipts (just $35+M in two weeks for a film that cost nearly $150M to produce), he's not the only person who feels that way. Here's an excerpt from Steyn:

. . . Sir Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven proceed[s] from one birdbrained ahistorical cliché to another, until at last Balian of Ibelin (the impeccably dishevelled Orlando Bloom) comes face to face with Saladin and threatens to destroy Jerusalem’s holy sites, all of them, mosque and sepulchre alike — ‘Your holy places, ours, everything that drives men mad.’ Hold that thought, because certainly nobody held it in 1187 — and in the false tinkle of that line you hear everything that’s wrong with this movie. I doubt you could have found one bloke on either side who’d utter such a formulation — in its smug assumptions about ‘organised religion’, it’s a Hollywood dinner-party thought. Likewise [Jeremy Irons' character's statement that] ‘I put no stock in religion.’ Eight centuries ago, ‘religion’ wasn’t something you had the option of putting stock in. It was what you were, Christian or Muslim, believer or infidel. Scott has Jeremy Irons shrug it off as if he were saying, ‘I’m not really into movies.’

The problem with Kingdom of Heaven is not that it’s hostile to Christianity or sympathetic to Islam but that it has such little feeling for either faith, save as a pretext for war and killing and ‘driving men mad’. What’s really mad is that this film made it to general release without anybody in the process saying, ‘Er, Ridley, I think you’re missing the point here.’ And, without religion, what’s left? A boring story punctuated by expensively dull carnage. If Jeremy Irons puts no stock in religion, Ridley Scott’s mistake is to put no religion in his stock footage.

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