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Kingdom of Heaven

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Oh boy. I'm already tired of the debates that are sure to come with this project.

Following the rousing Oscar best picture winner "Gladiator,' Scott delivered the garish crowd pleaser "Hannibal,' the unrelenting war movie "Black Hawk Down' and now, in what can only be described as a distinct change-up, "Matchstick Men.' In four months, he'll turn his attention to cruelty in the name of Catholicism in "Crusades,' which promises to deliver a spectacle as grand as it is controversial.

Q: And now you're off to Morocco (where Scott made "Gladiator') for a movie about the Crusades. That kind of movie has the potential for trouble on several levels.

A: Well, that's a good reason to make it, isn't it? (Laughs) Actually, with all the furor surrounding Mel Gibson (and his movie of Christ's final hours, "Passion'), I'll be able to step a little farther with what I want to do.

Q: Which is ...?

A: It's a movie I've been thinking about for 20 years. It's going to take place in the middle of the Crusades, around 1130, 1136, and feature Saladin, a Muslim, who was the wisest of all the knights, a trustworthy man of his word. He kept the peace around Jerusalem, which was held by Baldwin, a Christian who believed that any religion should be able to come to the city and pray. The two men had a connection of respect.

I don't want the movie to be about knights in armor and chaps charging around with red crosses and waving swords and hacking off heads. It really should be a fundamental discussion between the two religions and not only that, but the actual misrepresentation of the Holy Roman Empire by the Catholic church, which was in those times seriously corrupt. When they got down there, the people the church regarded as infidels had a faith that was as strong, if not stronger than the fundamental rules of Christianity.

Q: What do you think of all the controversy surrounding Gibson's "Passion'?

A: I think what he's probably done is taken literally the story in the Bible and translated it, showing the awful realities, what it was like and who these people were. I expect it to be quite brilliant.

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Oh boy. I'm already tired of the debates that are sure to come with this project.

Oh, I don't know. I mean, even SDG isn't going to defend the Crusades. smile.gif

And Saladin is, by and large, considered to be one of the "good Muslims." So I can't imagine there'll be too many debates. And if there are, who cares? My easy solution to all that is to avoid the debate until I've seen the movie. It's worked great with Passion. I haven't read a single thread/magazine/newspaper article, and I'm none the worse for it. Debating something you haven't seen is for people who have waaay too much time on their hands. I prefer to watch movies.

J Robert

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Well, if I'm still writing Film Forum at the time, I imagine I'll have to cover the conversation if it arrives. (Who knows? There hasn't been ANY fuss of The Gospel of John, which I believe portrays Jews similarly to Passion.)

My concern is that Crusades films at this juncture will just further the Catholic-bashing that surrounded Magdalene Sisters. Sure, regarding the specifics of the stories, the criticisms are probably deserved, but are the ranters going to bother to be specific, or will it be a general "See? Catholicism is bad." thing?

But you're right, Robert... avoid such stuff if at all possible.

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: My concern is that Crusades films at this juncture will just further the

: Catholic-bashing that surrounded Magdalene Sisters.

The real question for me is how EASTERN Christians will be portrayed in this film. This film takes place roughly a century after the Great Schism, and roughly a century before the Catholic Crusaders ransacked and plundered Constantinople (and thus arguably softened up the Byzantine Empire and made it easy pickings for the Muslim armies), so it would be very easy to make a Catholic-bashing movie that still portrayed 'the Church' or some variation thereof in a good light.

AlanW wrote:

: My concern about this film would be that he continues in the historical

: la-la land of Gladiator.

I think the REAL point of comparison here should be 1492: Conquest of Paradise, which had a rather revisionist take on Christopher Columbus's spiritual leanings, as I recall. (The other Columbus film that came out that year -- I forget the name, but it starred Tom Selleck as the King of Spain -- was more explicit about Columbus's evangelistic ambitions, whereas the Columbus of Scott's film tended to sing the praises of Native American spirituality, as I recall.)

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Peter T Chattaway wrote:

so it would be very easy to make a Catholic-bashing movie that still portrayed 'the Church' or some variation thereof in a good light.

Oh yes, won't that be lovely.

Sheesh. We Catholics just can't get a break these days...

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Ridley Scott said:

: I don't want the movie to be about knights in armor and chaps charging

: around with red crosses and waving swords and hacking off heads. It

: really should be a fundamental discussion between the two religions and

: not only that, but the actual misrepresentation of the Holy Roman Empire

: by the Catholic church, which was in those times seriously corrupt.

Then again, according to the Hollywood Reporter, "William Monahan wrote the script, which centers on a young peasant who becomes a knight and falls in love with a queen during the crusades in the 12th and 13th centuries."

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I haven't read through the links, but is the same film that was once going to star Arnold Schwarzenegger?

I know that Paul Verhoeven (there were crazy rumours that he wanted to rebuild ncient Jerusalem...for the cost of 200 million dollars) or James Cameron wanted to do a Crusades movie, and that Arnold Schwarzenegger was considering a part as the crusader. I'm not sure whether that project was separate and scrapped or the same one and has changed hands.

Edited by Indigojones

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If you read the linked article, you will see that Ridley Scott says he passed on directing the Arnold film. So no, this is not that film.

Oh, and as I recall, Verhoeven wanted to rebuild ANCIENT Jerusalem (not MEDIEVAL Jerusalem) for a movie about CHRIST, not the CRUSADES.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Mr. Scott said he was not concerned about disturbing the sensitivities of any religious group. The film "sounds like a Boy Scout ethic," he said in an interview last week, adding: "It talks about using your heart and your head, being ethical. How can you argue with that? There's no stomping on the Koran, none of that."

This the most naive quote I've heard for ages. It makes Mel Gibson look as streetwise as Martyn Riggs. Was Scott not on planet earth for the 6 months leading up to February?

Matt

PS INteresting that Bloom's in another Epic. Wonder what it says about the new wave of Epics that one of the actors most associated with them is someone like bloom who is so unlike Heston / Mature.

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Oh! oh! oh! I just got a 2005 release schedule from Fox, and this film is listed as coming out May 6. May 6. Less than five months away. I can almost TASTE it.

Should be interesting to see how it measures up, commercially and critically, to King Arthur and Alexander. If I'm not mistaken, the only really successful ancient-or-medieval epic since Gladiator revived the genre four years ago has been Troy -- and even THAT film performed more moderately than I think its makers intended.

Well, okay, there was that little Mel Gibson flick, too.

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Sigh.

I feel like I've already seen this film a hundred times. Look at what Jackson's war for the ring has unleashed ... yet another sweeping war epic sure to bore audiences with familiar and increasingly wearying special effects extravaganzas.

Bloom is going to suffer from all of this over-exposure, I think. He was so effective as Legolas, but nobody seems to be picking up on the fact that he doesn't have what it takes to be an interesting leading man.

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I feel like I've already seen this film a hundred times. Look at what Jackson's war for the ring has unleashed ... yet another sweeping war epic sure to bore audiences with familiar and increasingly wearying special effects extravaganzas.

I'd blame Braveheart. The concept was tired long before Lord of the Rings. That said, I'm interested in this film for two reasons. First, I'm curious to see how Eva Green performs in a role that doesn't involve a ton of nudity. Second, I'm interested to see if the script is terrible, since it was written by the same man who penned the Infernal Affairs remake titled The Departed.

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theoddone33 wrote:

: I'd blame Braveheart.

Interesting -- I was going to blame Gladiator, which was also directed by Ridley Scott, and which came out a year and a half before The Fellowship of the Ring did. But yeah, the orchestration of mass pre-modern carnage does go back a ways. Were there any other major films of this sort between 1995 (the year of Braveheart) and 2000 (the year of Gladiator)? We have seen a flood of such films SINCE then -- the three Lord of the Rings movies, Troy, Alexander, King Arthur, etc. -- but I can't recall any ancient or medieval war epics in the gap between those two films. (Modern war movies, like 1998's Saving Private Ryan, are a somewhat different breed -- you don't have any scenes of Tom Hanks rallying the troops on horseback, etc.!)

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I'd lump in Saving Private Ryan, as I probably define the trend more generally. Perhaps too generally... if I had to categorize them I'd probably call it the "somebody loses a limb during a massive battle filmed with a handheld-camera" genre. I'd list the characteristics of such movies as:

1) "Shaky-cam" battles

2) CG enhanced armies

3) Focus on gore and dismemberment

and optionally...

4) Long running times

War movies in the Saving Private Ryan vein probably only differ in that they don't use number 2 above as frequently or obviously.

As for the question at hand... aside from the aforementioned Saving Private Ryan, I have a hard time coming up with films in the 1995-2000 gap. Certainly I think 2000's The Patriot qualifies, which probably couldn't be traced to Gladiator.

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theoddone33 wrote:

: I'd lump in Saving Private Ryan, as I probably define the trend more generally.

Well, I'd prefer to keep our focus on movies about pre-modern warfare, here. These films are a whole different kettle of fish, particularly in terms of how the battles are fought (with big lines of armies and cavalry ready to rush at each other, etc.) and thus in terms of how the battles are woven into the drama (with leaders making big speeches on horseback, etc.).

It is THIS trend that Jeff is referring to, I think -- and since this trend definitely goes back at least as far as Gladiator (which even has the same director as Kingdom of Heaven), it thus goes back further than Peter Jackson's films. Beyond that, I think we can JUST about plausibly make a case for this trend going back to Braveheart -- that film certainly marks a key moment in the development of gory battle footage -- but if no other ancient-or-modern war movies were made in the intervening five years, then I think that's already a bit of a stretch.

: 2) CG enhanced armies

That rules out Braveheart!

: Certainly I think 2000's The Patriot qualifies . . .

Yet another Mel Gibson movie! I actually thought about that one too, but that one takes place in the early days of modern warfare -- the soldiers do use firearms, at least. Then again, the film also makes a point of showing how the British armies lined up for battle just like armies used to do in the ancient-or-medieval days, and how this habitual form of combat proved detrimental in their fight against the technologically savvy, upstart American guerillas.

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Don't forget Branagh's Henry V , which was 1989. Didn't use CGI special effects, but plenty of carnage and horseback type speeches.

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anthony_dunn wrote:

: Don't forget Branagh's Henry V, which was 1989. Didn't use CGI special effects,

: but plenty of carnage and horseback type speeches.

Ah, right. In fact, that was the same year the Civil War movie Glory came out, and I remember critics weren't quite sure how to "take" both of those films -- thanks to their grim battle footage, they seemed to be kind of anti-war, as just about every war movie post-Vietnam had been, but they both seemed to end on a more heroic note; the one film ends with the victorious king wooing the princess whose father he defeated, and the other ends with courageous warriors dying martyrs' deaths.

But that was all six years before Braveheart came along.

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I'm in the 1995 camp - but not just because of Braveheart. Rob Roy came out the same year, (Fwiw, the themes in Gladiator seem to be a mix of those two films).

Matt

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The movie is due out in theaters next month, but Ridley Scott is already talking about an extended cut for DVD:

The upcoming Ridley Scott Crusades epic "Kingdom of Heaven" clocks in at around 135 minutes, but be prepared for a multi-disc set some time next year which will add another full hour of footage.

The assorted actors and Scott himself confirmed today that the original cut of the film clocked in at a little over three hours (around 195 mins). Actress Eva Green revealed that the longer cut focuses more on the characters, and less on the crusades themselves.

Amongst the stuff edited out is more of the love story between Green and Bloom's character, and a subplot involving her son. Green says her Lady Macbeth style tragic character is more complex in the longer version - a journey of self discovery.

Why then did they bother with a shorter theatrical cut? Scott says "The DVD world is a different experience. A theatrical audience goes out to see the movie, and I think to a degree there's a tolerance...do you think operas tend to be a bit long? do you think theatre tends to be a bit long? You think 'oh my g--' there's going to be another act...The extended version, you can tell why we had certain scenes in the extended version. The one that went out was the best version, no question about it in my opinion."

[DARKHORIZONS.com]

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