Monday, October 12, 2015

It's Not A Kingdom Anyone Should Want To Inherit

My new coworkers wanted to be social. That is, as you know, not generally my thing, but I tried. They were watching Army of Darkness, which helped, but once it ended, there was much bandying about of, "Well, maybe we could do this. . ." until we finally settled on another movie, and they chose Kindgom of Heaven.

I did not have high expectations. Orlando Bloom doesn't tend to do much for me, and it's set during the Crusades, so I was pretty worried we would get something about wonderful Christians killing evil Muslims or something equally stupid. And we get some of the white savior stuff with Bloom's character, though his positive qualities are presented as more a result growing up in lower economic classes and becoming a blacksmith than because he's Christian. It's a little surprising Liam Neeson's words affect him so deeply, considering how little time they spent together (Bloom having never met his baron of a father until Neeson rides up asking him to come along to Jerusalem). We're probably meant to infer they traveled together for at least a few months, but as it's presented, they interact for maybe 15 minutes (they take much the same approach to Bloom's development as a fighter).

It seemed the movie was more interested in condemning religious zealots of all stripes (though mostly those asshole Templars), rather than one specific religion, so I was pleasantly surprised. Most of the major players - Bloom's character, Tiberius (played by Jeremy Irons), the leperosy-stricken King of Jerusalem, Saladin - seem unconcerned with people's religions as long as they aren't going around causing trouble by killing people of other faiths. This is probably pragmatic rather than any high-minded ideal. Certainly for Jerusalem, it wouldn't be wise to exclude any one faith, lest they find themselves stuck fighting off either Saladin or still more European knights. But if it keeps the citizenry from being slaughtered by invading armies, the motivation is not terribly important. Certainly that's the perspective of Bloom's character. The cities themselves are irrelevant, only the safety of the lives within matter.

There is a moment I found awkward right before the big battle, when Bloom gives this speech to his assembled force, about how none of them were alive when the Christians took this city and killed many, and neither where any of Saladin's forces out there claiming right of vengeance. It put me in mind of the people who say African-Americans ought to get over slavery, because that happened in the past, and everyone involved is dead, so just move. It's not the same situation, but it still felt like one character speaking from a position of advantage, dismissing the other side. He may have been right as far as Saladin went, but I would imagine some of Saladin's army had ancestors killed in that earlier conflict, so to simply dismiss that as "not our problem", is kind of stupid. But hell, he's a blacksmith, not a politician. Though given how fast he seemingly became a superb fighter, I'm surprised he didn't instantly become a master orator. Liam Neeson should have spent a little time training him in that before he took that arrow in the sides.

There are far too many shots of Eva Green just staring, bleary-eyed, at something back over our shoulder. Sometimes in the middle of big battles, or just at other random moments. Sometimes they cut to Orlando Bloom looking in what I assume is supposed to be her general direction (even if they're miles apart), but not always. It gets silly after awhile. Fine, she's sad because she's stuck in a shitty situation, and she can't do anything to fix the situation herself and save a bunch of people. Don't belabor the point.

I wasn't very emotionally invested in the movie, outside of worrying Irons' character might be killed. None of the men who served, first under Neeson, then Bloom, were fleshed out to the point I cared when they started dying. Like, the German guy with the ax might have been cool, but he and the one black guy in Neeson's bunch died before they even got out of France. But it wasn't horrible, just too overwrought for me, when it's a subject I'm not that interested in to begin with.


SallyP said...

If it's any consolation, the Templar were pretty much wiped out by Phillip II of France in the early 14th century.

But yeah, making a movie about the crusades is tough

CalvinPitt said...

Sounds like Phillip II might be my new favorite European monarch, edging out, hmm, I don't know actually. Elizabeth? I used to think Peter the Great was pretty cool back in high school.

SallyP said...

He was the father of Queen Isabelle, who married Edward II of England. She plotted with her lover Mortimer to have poor Edward deposed and horribly murdered. She definitely was daddy's little girl.