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Kingdom of Heaven

Genre: Historical War Epic
Rated: R
Directed by
Released by: 20th Century Fox

In Short: The Crusades go on and on in this muddled attempt at exploring the roots of the Christian-Muslim religious conflicts, circa the 12th century.

No Bliss in This "Heaven"
Slogging Toward Jerusalem
By Jenny Peters

All the right elements were in place to make "Kingdom of Heaven" an unforgettable moviegoing experience: a great director, Sir Ridley Scott, with multiple Oscar nominations ("Gladiator," "Black Hawk Down"); legendary actors Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson; a brand-new female face with French ingenue Eva Green; and male heartthrob of the moment Orlando Bloom in the lead. And what theme could be more timely than the problematic co-existence of the major religions of the world, Christianity and Islam?

The film opens well, as the humble blacksmith Balian, Bloom's character, discovers that he is the son of a knight (Neeson) and joins his father in his Crusade toward Jerusalem. There the film begins to crawl along, with complex rivalries, romances and Christian vs. Muslim themes ploddingly unraveled. It's not for lack of trying on the actors' part, as the performances across the board are believable and in keeping with the time, especially Edward Norton's turn as the king whose leprosy forces him to live behind a silver mask.

The film revs up again after about two hours, when the ultimate battle for the holy city takes place, with Balian defending Jerusalem against Saladin and his massive Muslim forces. The battle scenes are definitely compelling, in a "The Lord of the Rings" kind of way, with flaming arrows, battering rams and hand-to-hand combat evoking what the reality of war must have been back in those ancient times.

Inside word is that Ridley Scott's original cut of "Kingdom of Heaven" is closer to four hours long and that the longer version answers all the questions that make the theatrical cut seem so confused in its story line. It is that adaptation that will reportedly come to life when the DVD releases; and that's the movie we want to see.

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