Starring Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson, David Thewlis, Marton Csokas, Eva Green, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons, Ed Norton, Ghassan Massoud
Written By: William Monahan
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Buy on Amazon.com link
When I originally watched the theatrical cut of Kingdom of Heaven, I just had lots of problems with the movie. It felt rushed, characters disappear out of the blue, character depth was lacking, and it just felt like half the movie was cut. Well that was pretty much the case since Ridley Scott has now released a 4 disc director’s cut (or preferred version) of the movie. By a long shot, this is by far the more superior movie and all the problems I did have with the movie are now explained.
Kingdom of Heaven is about a French knight called Balian (Orlando Bloom), who just suffered the lost of his wife. She committed suicide and Balin goes into mourning and depression. Later on, a group of soldiers arrive from Jerusalem to visit the town, among them is the great knight Godfrey (Liam Neeson). It turns out the knight is Balian’s Father and wants him to come with him to Jerusalem. Balian originally hesitates but then ends up killing a scumbag priest, who happens to be Balian’s brother. So Balian feels the town and meets up & bonds a little bit with his Father. Godfrey gets injured after they get attacked while camping in the woods. Mortally wounded, Godfrey makes Balian his successor and gets to own all this land in Jerusalem. Balian brings with him all the stuff he has learned from his Father & the middle east (with the very little time he spent with him). After a long trek, Balian gets there and forms a close bond with the Leper King (Played by Edward Norton doing his best Marlon Brando impression), King Baldwin. Balian realizes all the crap that is going on with Jerusalem as soon as he gets there, but sticks around because he told his Father he would. The land is currently ruled by Christians, but King Saladin & the Muslim nation have been trying to fight their way into the city for a long time. The sister of King Baldwin plays an important role because she becomes the love interest of Balian. But the complicated thing is she is married to some jerk called Guy. It gives Balian a spark to defend the city since she is there, but in the end he realizes this is a hopeless, endless battle that no one will win. Gee ya think?
Where to begin with this director’s cut? All I have to say is BRAVO for whoever thought to release another cut of the movie. It truly makes a difference when you add about 45 minutes back into a movie. Sometimes it hurts a movie because it gets too long & boring, but sometimes it helps it out. Which is the case this time, because this version of the film should be the only version out there. Not only are all of my problems with the film erased with this version, but it also makes me like this film ten times more now. The first 20 minutes are pretty much new, and you never saw most of it. So you can imagine what everyone thought about the theatrical and trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Some things you find out from the new cut is, that jerk priest was actually Balian’s brother, Balian actually fought in a war before (I guess that wimpy blacksmith can fight after all), Godfrey’s brother is king and they have a falling out, which is one reason why he gets attacked in the forest? You just get to actually KNOW the characters before you are thrown into battle with them. You get to see how cool some of Godfrey’s men are until they get killed, which sucks because you start to like them. There’s more violence in those forest battle scenes as well which I enjoyed a lot, and you see how vicious Godfrey can be.
Throughout the whole movie, you just see all these scenes that should have been in the theatrical cut. But I guess the movie execs didn’t want the movie to be super long, didn’t want too many beheadings, and wanted to tone down the religious stuff. The editor had 2 versions of the movie she was working on throughout post-production. One storyline is where Sibylla has a son, and then there’s the theatrical version where she doesn’t. The storyline with her son fits the style of the movie and how the times were back then. I can see why they cut the character out of the movie for a few reasons but I liked seeing something different about Sibylla. All she seemed to be was the depressed sister of the King, wife to that horse’s ass and the love interest of Balian. One problem I had with the theatrical cut was you don’t know what happens with the character Guy. The last time you see him, he was being ridiculed on the donkey in front of the Muslim soldiers. In this cut, he survives the siege and confronts Balian. They fight and Balian beats him but keeps him alive for some reason. I would have murdered the assface. But all the scenes added back into the movie support the characters and their motivations. You find out so much more about everybody, and you actually care about them more too. There are some more violence and battle scenes added back in as well, including some nice beheadings. At least I think there are more blood & beheadings, it seemed like there was more. Either way, you’ll be pleased with the final result.
If you are a fan of the Lord of the Rings Extended Edition DVD sets, you’ll especially like this DVD’s extras as well. The extras are spread out onto 2 discs. If you want to listen to audio commentaries, those are on the first 2 discs where the movie is located. I didn’t listen to the commentary because I wanted to watch the movie, since I never saw this cut before. I’m sure I’ll go back and listen to the commentaries because I’m sure Ridley Scott has a lot of stuff to say. If you want to know stuff about the movie from a technical point of view, there’s a text track you can put on during the movie.
The other disc is where the meat of the extras are though. There’s a 6 part documentary that explores all aspects of the filmmaking. That was by far the most interesting thing on the DVD set. I love seeing feature length making-of documentaries on movies. There’s sections for script development, pre-production, and shooting in Spain & Morocco. I liked watching the production parts a lot. You find out during those (or other sections) that Ridley Scott was forced to have bodyguards from the King of one of the countries they were in. I guess they feared he would be killed or kidnapped. Another thing that’s quite funny is seeing Orlando & crew getting chased down the streets by crying teenagers. Then Orlando waved outside the car and all the girls started to cry and hug each other. Then there’s a post-production part where it shows Ridley watching & criticizing the movie, the editor talks about having 2 versions of the movie. Plus you are shown Harry Gregson-Williams composing the score a little, as well as seeing special effects work done. Some little things were done that I didn’t even notice until they brought it up. Just simple things like add a cross around Orlando Bloom’s neck and had some different clothing on him. The things they can do with computers these days, geez. Other things on this DVD set include a bunch of other things like 30 minutes of deleted & extended scenes with optional commentary with Ridley Scott, storyboards, screen tests, photo galleries, featurette on the Siege, fantastic featurettes on the costumes, weapons, and so much more! There’s so much on here I didn’t get to watch everything yet but I plan too. I did managed to take a good chunk of all the featurettes and watch it throughout the week. Do not watch this stuff all in one day or your head might explode. Unless you’re completely bored than might as well.
So is this director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven worth buying? You better believe it! There have been a few director’s cut DVDs out lately that aren’t really that good. But other directors should take notice of how a DVD is suppose to be made. This is by far one of the best DVDs I’ve seen in a long time and I loved how much work went into making the movie and this DVD. Sell your theatrical DVD set on eBay and go out and buy this 4 Disc set. It’s totally worth it because the movie is so much better now!
Discs One & Two: The Director’s Cut
Ridley Scott’s Definitive 194-Minute Version of the Film
Exclusive Roadshow Presentation, With Overture, Intermission and Entr’acte
Director’s Cut Introduction by Ridley Scott
Audio Commentaries Featuring: Director/Producer Ridley Scott, Actor Orlando Bloom, Writer William Monahan, Executive Producer Lisa Ellzey, Visual Effects Supervisor Wesley Sewell, First Assistant Director Adam Somner and Film Editor Dody Dorn
The Enginer’s Guide: A New On-Screen Text Track with Production Notes and Trivia About The Film
Discs Three & Four: The Path To Redemption
An All-Access 6-Part Feature-Length Documentary Detailing the Film’s Historical Origins, Script Development, Pre-Production, Shooting in Spain and Morocco, Editing, Music and Theatrical Release
Over 30 Minutes of Additional Deleted and Extended Scenes, with Commentary
All-New Featurettes Covering the Film’s Historical Accuracy, Crafting Weapons and Costumes, Planning the Massive Siege Sequence and Creating the Director’s Cut
Ridley Scott’s Never-Before-Seen Cast Rehearsals with Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Liam Neeson, David Thewlis and Marton Csokas
Visual Effects Breakdowns, with Commentary
Interactive Sound Design Suite, with Sample Tracks and Mini-Featurettes
An Early Draft of the Screenplay and Development Notes
Production Design, Conceptual Art, Costume, Unit Photography and Storyboard Galleries
Footage From the London, New York and Tokyo Premieres
Domestic and International Poster Explorations
Trailers and TV Spots
ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1 CC
ENGLISH: DTS 5.1 CC
Widescreen 2.35:1 Color (Anamorphic)
English, Spanish, French
Favorite Scenes: he beginning was definitely more interesting. I like when Balian has to defend the city for the first time and ends up seeing the guy he spared. I also I love the siege at the end.
Running Time: 194 minutes