Friday, May 06, 2005


By Reymundo Salao

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is an epic tale of a common man named Balian, who discovers his nobility when his long-lost father, who is a nobleman and a knight has revealed himself before him. Together, they venture to Jerusalem, the holy land, with the Crusades of the Roman Catholic Church, where he finds himself thrust into a decades-long war. In Jerusalem, he serves a dying king, falls in love with a queen, and rises to knighthood. But peace in Jerusalem is fragile, and when a war has erupted between the Christians and the Muslims that threatens the people of Jerusalem, Balian is burdened with the responsibility and the leadership to defend it.

Any chick would remember Orlando Bloom to be the chick-magnet elf Legolas in the Lord of the Rings saga, the lead role, along with Johnny Depp, in Pirates of the Caribbean, and a pathetic role in the lame (and moderately enjoyable) epic Troy. Well, this movie marks his first lead role in an enormous film project. And indeed, his acting has greatly matured from the weak one-liners he mumbles in Pirates of the Caribbean. He's not just sporting a bow and arrow, but a great big sword this time. He gets to deliver an inspirational pre-war speech too, that can be compared with Aragorn's speech on the Battle of Helm's Deep in Lord of the Rings: Two Towers. His character is also a very serious character; you can't imagine a protagonist having a murder scene killing a priest in the first part of the movie, then having the transition of obedient son, honorable warrior, and inspirational commander. It may not have been over-the-top acting, but it satisfies the drama demanded by the storyline. Also appearing are these marvelous actors; Liam Neeson, who plays the father of Balian, David Thewlis, and Jeremy Irons who has a battle scar on his face that give him a menacing and cool look.

The script was written by William Monahan. The movie is filled with really thought-provoking dialogues, philosophies, and war tactics. So much so that it would make sense for somebody to take notes while watching the film. I personally like the line of Jeremy Irons talking about when he joined the crusades, he thought he was fighting for God and Glory, only to discover later on that he was fighting for wealth and territory, and this gave him great shame. Which is true because as Christians, I think we should be ashamed of that dark part of history when the crusades ventured out into distant lands, bringing with them the name of God, only to inflict bloodshed and start wars. Ever wonder why many extremist Muslim groups are so bent on war against Christians? This movie reminds us that there were many times in the shameful chapters of history when the Christians struck first. The movie is actually a relevant piece of reflection when we compare it with the state of things nowadays when there is much extremist violence and extremist threat not only in Iraq, America, Europe, but most especially here in the Philippines and the whole of Southeast Asia, as well. A point of comparison also is how bigotry grotesquely exists against Muslims. How there are people nowadays who would just jump to conclusions because of unnecessary hate. And how this hate would only bring much trouble to us all. The film is set during the centuries when theological dogmatic power was as great as the power of kings and emperors, godlike power over citizenry, that people would never question the authority of Church leaders. But there were church leaders which exercise their great influence in wrong, twisted, immoral ways. I really cannot assure whether such a practice still exists now in our time, or not. But I cannot help but be reminded by the current case of the University of San Agustin, the current strike their teachers have been holding for so long a time, and the priest that seems to ignore their plea. In my humble opinion, there still are those who are not worthy of their titles.

Although the movie has some elements of a love story, I would consider it a guy drama, as most of the movie is on theological philosophies, warrior honor, and war tactics. The wordy middle part is very intellectual, but the patience of those who crave for the action part of it will immensely be satisfied when they reach the part where the war begins. KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is directed by Ridley Scott, who is one of the gods among film directors. He is best known for his work in movies such as "Gladiator", "Alien", and "Black Hawk Down" When I saw the first part of "Gladiator" where the protagonist Maximus was still a general leading a battle against the Vandals (were they the Vandals? Or the Saxons?), I was breathless. Especially in the scene where a swarm of torched arrows were flying in mid-air, I was stunned in awe. This was directed by Ridley Scott, and I was craving for a Ridley Scott war epic that is bigger and longer than this one scene in "Gladiator" With "Kingdom of Heaven" my cinematic bloodthirst was satisfied to the fullest. I would make no mistake to say that KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is this year's historical war epic event of the year. Its screening schedules at Robinsons Movieworld are the following: 11:00 AM, 1:30 PM, 4:05, 6:40, 9:15 PM

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