Last night Eleya and I stayed up rather late last night to watch something I’d been looking forward to for some time — Ridley Scott’s new 194-minute cut of Kingdom of Heaven. It comes in a monstrous four-disc set that includes the movie on two discs, and supplements on the other two.
First, let me just say that the overall visual impact of this film is far greater than any of Scott’s recent work, including the exceptional films Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. Virtually every single shot in the film is glowing with masterful and painterly composition. Every location, every set is a design marvel, filled to the brim with thick sensual detail. The photography was so striking and moving, I couldn’t stop seeing some of the scenes in my head after waking up this morning.
The acting is also brilliant without exception. Orlando Bloom has no problem carrying this weighty epic about a young blacksmith swept up into the boiling political cauldron that is twelfth-century Jerusalem, and Liam Neeson provides his customary measure of grace and poise. The story is as big, if not bigger, than Gladiator, and tackles the weighty issues of what it means to be good, in a time when people were regularly engaged in killing each other over their own cultural definitions thereof. The dialogue never got laughable or anachronistic, which is one of my pet peeves in modern epics.
I’m not sure what kept the original theatrical version from being very popular, but I’m sure it had something to do with the excision of 45+ minutes of character development which makes this film at once so enormous and yet so intimate. It’s truly one of Scott’s best films and I hope it finds its audience in this new and (from what I hear) greatly improved edition.
The handomely appointed four-disc set includes the movie on two discs, with multiple commentaries by Scott, cast, and crew, and a gigantic treasure trove of supplements on two additional discs. Do yourself a favor and buy it today. Most highly recommended.