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Kingdom of Heaven (DC)
DVD disk
05.22.2006 By: Sturdy
Kingdom of Heaven (DC) order
Director:
Ridley Scott

Actors:
Orlando Bloom
Eva Green
Jeremy Irons

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A young blacksmith is reunited with his father shortly after the death of his wife and still born son. Realizing he has nothing to live for, he joins his father to Jerusalem where he becomes a knight and learns what it means to be a man and a Christian.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
I want to be careful not to make this review a compare and contrast essay between the two versions of the film. However, it is important to note some key differences. I can honestly say that Iíve seen many directorís cuts of films and Iíve never seen one that has changed the entire film as much as this version of KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. I thought the first cut of the film was decent, but this directorís cut is spectacular, and itís a shame this wasnít the version the world saw in the beginning.

The basics of the story are still the same. Whatís different is the emotional depth of Balian (Bloom). The original was a cut and dry poor-boy-to-hero tale with little emotional investment into the lead character. This cut shows the agony and suffering Balian has gone through and looks closer at why he acts like he does. Also, the original barely touched on the moral issues surrounding the crusades and the similarities between the wars of yesterday and the wars of today. I personally felt the newer version did a much better job by bringing the moral issues out in the open and allowing the viewer to make his or her own comparisons between the crusades and current events. Also, they added a lot of really good supporting characters that added a lot to the film, mainly Sibyllaís son.

Obviously, I loved the film and feel it is one of Ridley Scottís finest pieces (and Iím a huge Scott fan). Itís everything you want an epic historical drama/adventure to be; exciting, touching, sad, interesting, and most importantly, honest. Itís more than just another battle film. It has a message to it that was originally lost. Also, itís not Muslim or Christian propaganda. Ridley Scott has managed to make an unbiased film that depicts both sides equally well.

I feel that this film has been lost in the fold with all the poorly made epic battle films and thatís not fair to the movie. This is an amazing film and it deserves more credit than it has received. If you saw the original and were unimpressed, I ask that you get your hands on this version and you will definitely not be disappointed.
THE EXTRAS
Disc 1 & 2:

Commentary with Ridley Scott, William Monahan and Orlando Bloom: Unfortunately, all of the three participants were recorded separately. Of course, I prefer that they be in the same room so they can play off each other and keep it moving, but this is still pretty good. Itís really a collection of individual stories about the film rather than scene specific.

Commentary with Lisa Ellzey, Wesley Sewell, Adam Somner: Again, all of these are recorded separately, but itís more screen specific than the previous commentary. I was skeptical of this considering technical crew members can get kind of boring on commentaries, but these guys (and gal) are pretty interesting and they provide insight into the film that the director and actors cannot.

Commentary with Dody Dorn: This is probably the best of the three because she talks about each scene and actually addresses, in depth, the differences between the two films. She talks about why certain scenes were added back in and why they were cut in the first place. I recommend this one to everyone that has seen both versions.

The enginerís guide (text track with trivia and production notes): Trivia tracks are usually a lot of fun. This one is ok, but it moves a little slow. However, you have to cut it some slack considering it runs the entire 194 minutes. This would be nice if youíve seen the film a couple of times and you have it on while youíre doing something else.

Disc 3:

Good Intentions/Faith and Courage/Pilgrimage Begins (55:04): These are the first three parts of the six-part documentary. It couldíve easily been a feature length film on itís own. These three take you from the idea to casting, to scouting locations. Iím always fascinated with the pre-production stories on films and there are a lot here.

Cast Rehearsal/Colors of the Crusade (45:38): This is a great featurette where we watch Ridley Scott and the actors rehearse for the film. The second part of it concerns the wardrobe and colors of the film, which I respected, but didnít find as interesting.

Production Design Primer (35:34): In this one, members of the production team talk about what went into making the film. Itís pretty good and it moves along pretty fast so you donít get bored listening to a bunch of technical jargon.

Creative Accuracy (26:38): Obviously, Fox isnít going to get a bunch of scholars to rip apart their film and then make that a special feature on the DVD. So this handful of scholars basically told you what really happened and then danced around what Ridley didnít get right. However, it seems he ignored the timeline a little bit, but got the feel and idea of the time period right.

There are also a ton of Still galleries and an early Script.

Disc 4:

Into the Promised Land/Burning Bush/Sins and Absolution (87:02): Parts 4-6 take you from the beginning stages of shooting the film, to cutting the film, to the actual release of the movie. Thereís really nothing off limits in this documentary because we follow Mr. Scott in virtually every aspect of the film. Weíre in the screening room as heís talking about what he likes and what he doesnít. The problem is whatís not in the documentary and thatís because thereís no mention of why the directorís cut wasnít the original cut. I know that the directorís cut was the fist cut shown to audiences, and then it was cut down. I wanted them to address that on camera and it didnít happen.

Mounting the Siege (17:06): This is essentially a complete breakdown of the main battle scene a the end. Itís pretty normal stuff and thereís nothing thatís going to surprise you. Overall, itís interesting, but I feel like Iíve seen it before.

Visual Effects Breakdowns (21:48): This is a straightforward featurette concerning all the areas of the visual effects process. Itís interesting enough, but visual effects arenít my thing, so it moved a little slow for me.

Sound Design Suite (24:42): This is an interesting and innovative featurette dealing with sound design. Itís broken up into separate chapters so you can click on each area of the sound mixing process. Also, you can click through a scene from the movie as an example. Very cool.

Deleted Scenes (30:22): Iíve always been one of those that believe a good movie cannot be too long. With that in mind, I think all of these couldíve been added back into the movie and it wouldíve been better for it. Also, keep in mind that thereís only about 15 minutes worth of deleted footage here because most of them are just extended scenes.

Paradise Found (8:32): I got excited when I saw the title of this one, but it doesnít talk about WHY the film was cut, it just talks about HOW the new version was cut back together.

Press Junket Walkthrough (6:19): The team set up a walkthrough for the press with people dressed up and other gimmicks. The featurette is fine, but the cheesiness of the junkets was pretty bad. This was just one of the many bad decisions on the part of the marketing department.

World Premier London, New York and Tokyo (3:42): Red carpet footage and brief interviews with the cast at the various premiers. This is boring to me and kind of pointless.

There are also another ton of Still galleries, Trailers, TV spots and Poster art.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
I strongly feel that if this version of the film had been released originally, critics and the public alike would be calling it one of the best of the year. Unfortunately, they messed up big time and cheated most of us out of the theatrical release. However, this brilliant 4-disc edition helps make up for it and it deserves a place in every DVD collection.
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