Kingdom of ... uh, whatever

There's something missing in "Kingdom of Heaven," Ridley Scott's latest eye-popper about the Second Crusade. But most of the reviews don't tell you what. Instead, they blame the star, Orlando Bloom, for lacking "true gravitas" (Austin Chronicle). Some express regret that Russell Crowe was not available to play Balian, the humble blacksmith who ends up defending Jerusalem against the Muslim general Saladin. Others bash Bloom for being a "pretty boy" barely able to swing a sword.

I will grant that Bloom is not the industrial-strength warrior type. But neither is Elijah Wood, who as Frodo in "The Fellowship of the Rings" did a pretty good job of battling Orcs. No, the problem is the script. Written by one-time novelist and first-time screenwriter William Monahan, it is painfully laconic and annoyingly noncommittal.

I know, I know. Hollywood is under a lot of pressure to eliminate human language from its product. Research has shown that popcorn-munching skateboarders don't like "talky" movies. Foreigners don't like subtitles. And DVD-watching couch potatoes don't like dialogue about stuff they didn't bother to learn about in school. But give me a break. This film wants to make a statement, and you can't do that without talking.

What is the statement Scott wants to make? In a world riven by religious fear and hatred, he seeks to dignify religious tolerance, past and present. To some extent, he succeeds: those who mock "Kingdom of Heaven" as politically correct and anachronistic are mistaken. Mercy and justice were not unknown in the 12th century. For example, Saladin (played magnificently by the Syrian actor Ghassan Massoud) was an extremely devout Muslim who was nonetheless capable of compromising with Christians and Jews when it was in his interest to do so.

The main problem, according to historian Thomas F. Madden, is that in its effort to tout tolerance, "The Kingdom of Heaven" waters down the religiosity of all the characters. How much more timely and interesting this film would be if someone had dared to show deeply, even zealously religious people practicing tolerance!

After all, Dante was a medieval Christian, and he respected Saladin enough to put him in Limbo with the great pagan poets and philosophers. But then, Dante wasn't afraid to write about great themes in the vernacular...

May 13, 2005 10:15 AM |

Categories:

Soundtrax

PRC Pop 

The Chinese pop music scene is like no other ...

Remembering Elvis 

The best part of him will never leave the building ...

Beyond Country 

Like all chart categories, "country" is an arbitrary heading under which one finds the ridiculous, the sublime, and everything in between. On the sublime end, a track that I have been listening to over and over for the last six months: Wynnona Judd's version of "She Is His Only Need." The way she sings it, irony is not a color or even a set of contrasting colors; it is iridescence.

Miles the Rock Star? 

Does Miles Davis belong in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame? Here's my take on his career ...

Essay Contest 

Attention, high school jazz listeners ...

more trax

Me Elsewhere

Edward Hopper 

Painter of light (and darkness) ...

Dissed in Translation 

Here's my best shot at taking Scorcese down a few pegs ...

Henri Rousseau Revisited 

"Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris" appeared at the National Gallery of Art in Washington this fall ...

Paul Klee's Art 

Paul Klee was not childish, despite frequent comparisons between his art and that of children...

Our Art Belongs to Dada 

Rent my "Dadioguide" tour of the Dada show (before it moves to MoMA) ...

more picks

Blogroll

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by published on May 13, 2005 10:15 AM.

decline was the previous entry in this blog.

"Terrible Americans" Defended is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads


AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

culture
About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Dewey21C
Richard Kessler on arts education
diacritical
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Flyover
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

dance
Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

jazz
Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
ListenGood
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Rifftides
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

media
Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Overflow
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
PianoMorphosis
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
PostClassic
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Sandow
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

publishing
book/daddy
Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

theatre
Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

visual
Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
Artopia
John Perreault's art diary
CultureGrrl
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.