A Movie A Day: KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: The Director’s Cut (2005) I once fought two days with an arrow through my testicle.
Published at: July 17, 2008, 8:34 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Jon Finch bridges yesterday’s FRENZY and today’s KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT.
To be completely honest, I didn’t remember much about seeing Kingdom of Heaven when it first hit theaters. I remembered Ed Norton’s leper king, I remembered bits of scenes throughout, but it really didn’t make a great impression on me. It didn’t make a bad impression, exactly, but it just felt okay.
Maybe that’s why it took me so long to get a viewing in of Ridley Scott’s 3 hour 14 minute long cut of the film.
I couldn’t tell you exactly what is new, except the addition of Eva Green’s son. I guess I could have gone back to watch Ridley Scott’s introduction at the beginning of the DVD, but I skipped past it originally. I hate it when they do that, show you all the new things in an introduction instead of letting you discover them in the story.
But even though I couldn’t tell you exactly what has been added, I can tell you that instead of the wishy-washy “eh” feeling I had after finishing the theatrical cut back in ’05, when the director’s cut of KINGDOM OF HEAVEN ended I was a little dumbstruck.
This is a true example of a movie that was significantly altered to fit into an easier studio release formula, they took a film that had the makings of a modern classic epic and homogenized it, threw Legolas’ face really big on the poster and advertised it like a Lord of the Rings knock-off (remember how the trailers tried to sell the battle scenes just like the LOTR trailers, making them even look similar?).
I don’t know this for sure, but I’d be willing to bet if Orlando Bloom has an actor’s reel, most of the footage is from Kingdom of Heaven. I remember not being really impressed with him in the original… I think he gets unfairly shat upon as an actor, but he’s not exactly easy to defend, but I’d hold up his work in Scott’s director’s cut as being substantial, subtle work, something he should be proud of.
If you haven’t seen the flick, we follow a blacksmith during the Crusades who ends up rising through hierarchy of the time to defend the Christian inhabited Jerusalem from the Muslims looking to take it back.
In the longer cut, you really do feel like you live in this world with these people, everybody from Edward Norton’s Leper King to his beautiful, tormented sister Sibylla, played by the so-beautiful-it-almost-hurts Eva Green to David Thewlis’ awesome priest character to Liam Neeson’s respected Knight Godfrey de Ibelin to Marton Csokas’ awesomely douchey manipulating Frenchie Templar Guy de Lusignan and dozens more.
From my basic understanding of what was added it looks like Eva Green benefited the most as a character, giving her a son that is heir to the throne and crucial to the political manipulations that move the story.
It also introduces a tragedy in her life that does wonders to actually explain why the hell she becomes so distant and cold in the second half of the film. Of course, none of that had any explosions or Muslims getting hacked apart, so out it went for the first run.
The story is a strong one, Scott and screenwriter William Monahan going out of their way to make the Muslims just as human and just as in the right as the Christians. They’re honorable people, wanting what they believe is rightfully theirs, not an angry mob of stereotypes wanting to rape the white women or wipe their ass with the Christian bible. It’s an important perspective to have and it really goes a long way in making this film work.
And the way the present the new cut on the DVD it really does have a David Lean feel, giving us an intermission and an overture. Loved that presentation.
There are elements that I still feel the same about. I wish there had been more with Neeson’s band of knights at the beginning, including Kevin McKidd and that badass strongman that gets an arrow through the neck and doesn’t seem to give a shit. I would have loved to have seen more of them. It’s like they introduce us to these really awesome badasses and take ‘em away minutes later. But then again, I don’t know if I would have been happy with anything less than a full movie based on those badasses fighting wars and overthrowing corrupt assclowns and other such 12th Century fun.
Final thoughts: If you haven’t seen the movie at all, get the director’s cut. If you’ve seen the theatrical cut and didn’t like it, get the director’s cut. If you saw the theatrical cut and did like it, get the director’s cut. Throw it on the Netflix, scour used DVD stores, buy it new online. It’s a genuinely great movie that I hope will live in this form, the original castrated version gone from all memory. I know it’s gone from mine now.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Friday, July 18th: CADILLAC MAN (1990)
Saturday, July 19th: THE SURE THING (1985)
Sunday, July 20th: MOVING VIOLATIONS (1985)
Monday, July 21st: MEATBALLS (1979)
Tuesday, July 22nd: CAST A GIANT SHADOW (1966)
Wednesday, July 23rd: OUT OF THE PAST (1947)
Thursday, July 24th: THE BIG STEAL (1949)
Tomorrow we jump to an unlikely follow-up to Ridley Scott’s KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, 1990’s comedy CADILLAC MAN. I had to stretch to jump out of such a modern film, but I found a connection in famous casting agent Debra Zane, who cast both Kingdom of Heaven and Cadillac Man. Boo-ya! See you guys tomorrow for Robin Williams and Tim Robbins hilarity!