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Kingdom of Heaven was probably my favorite film of last year, and the 194-minute director's cut gives the film more room to breathe, but it won't make converts of the unbelievers. Instead, it's a more leisurely paced version of the film for the faithful who liked the theatrical cut and want to revisit its world and characters in a little more detail. Closer in style and tone to sixties roadshows than Scott's Gladiator, and all the better for it, in many ways it's the richest and most ambitious of the recent batch of epics. It's more of a journey in the extended version, and a bloodier one (the added violence will please the gore hounds), although there are a few moments that tip over into self-indulgence and could have been tightened or omitted entirely.

The extended opening allows more character detail, but at the expense of more of Michael Sheen's caricatured greedy priest, now revealed as Balian's brother. Orlando Bloom's limitations are also given a little more room than they had in the theatrical cut, but he certainly never stoops to the lows of Gerard "I'm wonderful, me" Butler in Beowulf and Grendel, Colin Farrell's Alexander or Clive Owen's truly catastrophic non-performance in King Arthur that left that film with a void at its center. Edward Norton's performance as the Leper King suffers a little from using different takes than the theatrical version, and at least one of his expanded scenes is simply longer without really being any better than its equivalent in the shorter version. The real winner in the extra footage stakes is Eva Green, who I think I'm falling in love with and whose part is considerably expanded and much more complex, allowing her a mass of contradictory motives (few of them noble), impulses and emotions that were smoothed away in the theatrical version. The subplot involving her son also helps add more of an emotional charge to Baldwin's death, with the shot of his leprous face no longer gratuitous but essential. In fact, in this version of the film, there are even a couple of genuinely touching sequences.

While the added complexity in this cut is more in the characters than in the plot, some of the problems of the theatrical version have been addressed. The shipwreck is just as rushed in this cut as in the theatrical version, but the pacing problems in the astonishingly spectacular siege finale are much improved by the addition of a fairly minimal amount of footage. It no longer seems quite so hurried and there's more of a sense of the human cost after the battle at the Christopher Gate that was lacking in the shorter version by the simple expedient of including characters we briefly get to know among the dead. There IS one massive miscalculation after the siege where a redundant swordfight has been added: not only is it completely ineffective, dwarfed by the sheer scale and weight of what has come before, but it's also unnecessary, winding up a plot point no-one cares about any more and simply underlining the events of the previous scene.

It also now comes with added Bill Paterson, which is rarely a bad thing, especially since his brief scene as a compassionate Bishop establishes the incompatibility of fanatical adherence to religious law with the actions of a loving savior that is one of the film's major themes. Although most of the Christian clerics here are transparent hypocrites, they are also counterbalanced by David Thewlis' Knight Hospitaler just as the `good' Muslims are counterbalanced by fanatics as both Saladin and Baldwin have to walk a tightrope with their own people to prevent war.

Thanks to a strong script this is easily Scott's best film since Blade Runner. Unlike Gladiator it doesn't feel like it was written on the hoof, and he has enough confidence in the material not to overdo the stylistics at the expense of the storytelling: here the visuals serve the picture, which isn't always the case in his past work. Even John Mathieson, probably the worst cinematographer to ever win an Oscar, finally delivers the goods. CGI is used sparingly and very effectively when it is (none of the poor FX problems that plagued parts of Gladiator here, thankfully). Instead, much of the spectacle is shot for real - not only is it usually cheaper, but it's certainly a lot more impressive to look at.

The transfer quality is not as good as on the theatrical version, but it's more than acceptable. While Blu-ray buyers get shafted with only a single trailer, the extra features on the 4-disc DVD set are impressive, including a deeply depressed screenwriter mulling over its US failure. Of the additional deleted scenes included as extras, there's nothing that needed to go back into the picture: most are ideas that didn't really work while a couple are just plain silly. The DVD also includes an interesting collection of trailers and TV spots that try to sell it as everything from The Passion of the Christ II in an outrageous piece of false advertising involving adding a "Don't worry, God is with me" line of dialog not in the film (particularly ironic considering its Humanist viewpoint and the crisis of faith of its hero), a family movie, an epic adventure, a country and western rock video and a kick-ass heavy metal teen bloodbath: anything to avoid mentioning Muslims or, God forbid, history. Can't think why this didn't take off at the US box-office...

EDIT: Since Amazon have unhelpfully bundled the reviews of all versions of the film - theatrical version, director's cut, DVD and Blu-ray - together, a review of the two-disc theatrical version DVD:

The theatrical version of Kingdom of Heaven turns out to be Ridley Scott's best film since Blade Runner, largely because for once his visuals are matched with a pretty good script that doesn't feel like an afterthought. While most critics, aware of the longer director's cut on the horizon, found it rushed, I had no such problem: true, the film has the quickest shipwreck in screen history and the love story quickly disappears (a shame, because Eva Green gives the film a lightness it otherwise lacks), but for the most part its journey is well told. Nor is it overly politically correct - the Muslims might be more honorable than some of the Crusaders, but that doesn't make them any less ruthless. Its biggest structural problem is the siege finale, which for all the impressive visuals pales besides Orlando's last few efforts at the battlements, The Lord of the Rings and Troy, and unfortunately feels rushed and underpowered and ultimately overstylized. We're never in the thick of it, either emotionally or visually.

For a film about religious and moral ideals, it's a curiously untriumphant epic dealing with the failure of reason and compromise. Even its hero's attempts to live a decent life becomes a part of that failure: when offered the chance to save the city from war and get the girl, his knightly code will not allow him, condemning the people of Jerusalem to war. That, and the fact that it's a film about a loser may well be part of the reason for the film's failure to find an audience in America, but it's also one of the things that makes it so interesting. Even though it's full of historical errors, it does encompass the ebb and flow of a state of mind in a point in history surprisingly well.

Orlando Bloom is far from disastrous even if he's not quite good enough. He does the grim and serious stuff well, but he doesn't offer much else: there's no light or shade to the performance, just a conscientiousness that isn't exactly wrong for the character but still leaves you hoping for something more as the third act comes along. If he's not exactly two-dimensional, he does at least manage one-and-a-half more dimensions than Clive Owen did in King Arthur and never embarrasses himself as much as Colin Farrell did in parts of Alexander. The supporting cast are mostly on good form, although Edward Norton seems to be doing Anthony Zerbe's leper turn from Papillon as the dying king.

The film was shot largely with real extras on real sets for all but the largest crowd scenes, which plays real dividends here. Aside from giving you a sense of a world outside the main characters, it also highlights one of the real limitations of CGi extras: their failure to interact with the elements. It doesn't feel like a computer game but a conflict involving real people, which helps ground the story and give it a sense of weight. John Mathieson's photography is infinitely superior to his overpraised work on Gladiator even though he does overdo the dreariness of Europe.

Harry Gregson-Williams' score is competent, but it's telling that much of the film needed to be scored with several cues from Graeme Revell's Crow, Marco Beltrani's Blade and, most effectively in the "Rise a knight" sequence, Jerry Goldsmith's Valhalla prayer from The 13th Warrior - so don't be surprised if you find yourself suddenly wanting to see one of them straight afterwards!

The extras package on the 2-disc set is impressive: several documentaries covering both production and the real history as well as a trailer (rather than the multiple trailers and TV spots promised on the packaging).
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on 21 September 2006
I have the US version of this. Kingdom of Heaven was a better film that people gave it credit for but it certainly had flaws. The Directors Cut is far, far better- making this into a great film in my opinion. At least as good as Gladiator (in fact, if it weren't for the class injected by the late Oliver Reed into Gladiator, I'd say that Kingdom of Heaven DC is a far better film). The longer cut of the film gives far more time for characterisation and fills in quite a few of the blanks from the theatrical version of the film. This isn't just a few dodgy deleted scenes put back into the film- it's a completely different film with whole new areas of plot development. It's a first class effort and I'd urge anyone who even half liked the original version to buy it.
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This Extended Ridley Scott Approved Cut of his movie is far better than the released version and is now re-issued out of its 4DVD Card Box (£30 or more) and into this collector's metal tin. This "Definitive Edition" places all discs (4 in this case) in a shiny metallic embossed tin (later issues are in a card wrap) and at £10 or under - is an absolute steal. Unfortunately there's no booklet - a shame that.

The film itself is split across Discs 1 and 2, beginning with an Overture and continued on Disc 2 with an Interval - like an old style epic. In some places it's way more uncomfortable in the bloody department. When Brendan Gleeson (part mad, part catalyst for other people's evil) is unleashed on the Muslim King's village and family - it's not pretty. It's a ruse to deliberately goad him and his armies into war - and it works. There is a superb extension of the Eva Green scenes which fleshes out the story so much more (speaking of flesh - hers is quite lovely!). And right from the opening shot of men around the suicide grave of Orlando's wife, as it's a RS movie, every shot is lovingly framed. There are snowflakes wafting through the air, engrained dirt on hands and under fingernails, sweaty horses heaving under blood-stained chainmail above, swords dripping red stuff like it was the Meat Counter at Tescos. The attention to detail is fabulous. The battle sequences are awesome - thousands of extras - war machines, flaming balls smashing through turrets - unbelievable stuff. The cast - especially Liam Neeson, David Thewlis, Eva Green, Martin Csokas and Jeremy Irons - all surround Orlando with superb back-up. Liam Neeson in particular is fantastic.

On the downside though, and this may seem odd after all the praise, somehow Kingdom of Heaven just doesn't float the boat so much like Gladiator did. It's difficult to describe why, but something is missing. Unfairly Bloom got blamed for this - I don't think so - he's very, very good in it. It's just a shame it somehow doesn't grab the heart like Maximus did when clearly so much effort went into it.

The "making-of" documentaries on Disc 3 and 4 go on for hours - and are fascinating and in-depth - they make so many thrown-together DVD extras look like the utter filler crap they are. But the best bit is called "THE DOCUMENTARY" which is so long that it spreads from Disc 3 to Disc 4. It goes through the entire production of this gargantuan project - right from initial script discussions to Ridley in the editing room putting it all together. He even suggests the dialogue from the movie to go over the trailer (a suggestion they stupidly ignore). It goes into the music; the casting, the costumes, the effects, screenings of the initial cut... everything! In fact the whole process seems draining - and the people and money logistics of the production alone are mind-blowing. Then he brings it all in on budget! Unbelievable!

Is it any wonder this Director is held in such affection and awe in the industry. Ridley Scott loves film - and it shows - giving his loyal punters the goods on this exemplary 4DVD set. This is how an issue of a film should be done.

PS: How about a remake of "Forbidden Planet"??
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on 1 October 2006
Last year Ridley Scott returned to the world of period epics with Kingdom of Heaven, his chronicle of Christian forces' defeat in Jerusalem at the hands of Muslims during the 12th Century. The original theatrical cut, was released May 2005 to underwhelming critical acclaim and disappointing box office returns. The end result was that Fox announced that Scott's Director's Cut, featuring at least 45 minutes of additional footage, will be released May 23, 2006, probably to compensate for the lost money.

I was particulary disturbed to hear the prospect of an even longer interpretation of William Monahan's screenplay. But after watching the full 4 disks of this Director's Cut revealed not only that my doubts were unwarranted, but that Scott has lost none of his talent for telling stories; because Kingdom of Heaven: The Director's Cut is not just a movie that has earned a few extra points in rating's, but one of Ridley Scott's best, and moreover, a film that deserves its place in cinema history.

Kingdom of Heaven's great strength is its intelligence, and these extra 45 minutes of film restore its IQ to genius levels after its predecessor drooled its way to a pitiful $47 million in bills.
If you haven't seen Kingdom of Heaven, make sure you rent or buy the 4-disc edition. If you've seen the old cut, let the movie redeem itself and buy this masterful 4-disc edition. Ridley Scott has created some fine films in the past, including Alien, Black Hawk Down, and Gladiator -- with this new cut, Kingdom of Heaven can proudly join that group. I highly recommend this edition of the film.
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on 19 September 2006
I've never watched a directors cut that added so much to the final version of the film. So mny questions that dogged the theatrical version are answered. The additional information puts Orlando Bloom's performance into context and allows it to be seen for the fine piece of acting it is.

Eva Green must have been particularly upset with the version that was released origianally since in that film so many of her reactions made such little sense.

I believe this to be a fantastic and undervalued film.
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VINE VOICEon 22 August 2007
I'm not going to review the film in any detail here, I'm sure there are plenty of better reviews elsewhere so I'm just going to go over the blu-ray experience:

Visuals: Jaw dropping to say the least. It's almost sad to say a 2 year old film is about the best blu-ray film available but don't let this put you off, in fact you should get it!

The clarity is incredible, as clear and sharp as can be. Breathtaking scenes in crisp high definition from start to finish (clocking in at just over 3 hours, that is a LOT of great detail!) I don't honestly know how to describe the visuals other than imagine how good a film should be able to look, and this is it. I couldn't imagine it much better at all!

For a great HD experience, Kingdom of Heaven is a great film to have in your collection. This is definitely the film I'll be using to show off Blu-Rays potential, and if that doesn't say something I don't know what will!!
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on 19 June 2007
Kingdom of Heaven (KOH) is an amazing film. I saw it in the theater but the reason it's so great is because of the 4-Disc Director's Cut, which is a must own for any KOH fan.

Story: A well written script, KOH is about a blacksmith whose wife has committed suicide and he seeks out to redeem her in the city of Jerusalem, but ends up defending the people in the great battle against the Muslims.

Cast: The cast for this film was outstanding. One would at first question Orlando Bloom as the leading role of Balian (let's face it, he's no Russell Crowe), but this is by far his best main character performance. Liam Neeson is great as usual, as Balian's long lost father. Jeremy Irons is a great pick because he looks like he's from the crusades and his voice is undeniable. Obviously he's a great actor as well. Eva Green does very well for basically being the only woman in the film and she also fits the the time period well. Martin Csoskas give a great show as the bloodthirsty wanna-be king. Brendan Gleeson.. Do I even need to say anything? The man is incredible. He's so great at being the jerk. Ghassan Massoud and Alexander Siddig do great as playing Muslims in the film. Edward Norton is completely astounding in his uncredited performance as the leper King Baldwin. He is one of my favorite characters in the film.

Music: The music score for this movie is definitely in the top 10. Harry Gregson-Williams delivers a powerful score in this one. Gregson-Williams was a great pick though straying from Ridley Scott's usual Hans Zimmer.

Other: The sets, the costumes, the editing, the cinematography are all superior. They are all very authentic and beautiful and add to the films realness.

Ridley Scott is brilliant. You can definitely see a resemblance of Gladiator in KOH, which is a great thing because who doesn't like Gladiator. His ability to create worlds is unlike any other director in history. The 4-Disc Director's Cut allows you to see more of what Ridley Scott's methods are like.

4-Disc Director's Cut: It has everything you want to see. It puts approximately 45 minutes back into the film and what a great 45 minutes it is. It goes much more in depth especially with Eva Green's Character Sibylla. It includes all the essentials that you would want in a 4-Disc set.

Overall this is a great film and has become one of my very favorites since the past year or so. There is something about it that even makes it rival the quality of Gladiator. It was very underrated by critics and was very well deserving of some Oscars. Watch it!
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on 20 March 2008
The Film? Superb! Quality? Faultless! Extras? NON EXISTENT! Amazon says there's over 18hrs of extras but all there is, is a trailer for the film! Very dissapointing. I think they must have meant 0.18 Hrs of Extras!
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"There can be no victory except through God"

Kingdom of Heaven is directed by Ridley Scott and written by William Monahan. It stars Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Marton Csokas, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, Alexander Siddig, David Thewlis, Ghassan Massoud and Edward Norton. Cinematography is by John Mathieson and music scored by Harry Gregson-Williams.

Director's Cut, two words that has these days come to mean a marketing ploy to get the home movie fan to part with more cash. Except maybe when they call it something else, such as Unrated Edition or Extended Edition, the Director's Cut has rarely been more than the original theatrical version with some added bits sewed back in. Case in point Ridley Scott's own Gladiator. But Scott is a big advocate of the home formats available to us, and what he says in his introduction on these releases are always telling. Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut is one of the rare cases that deserves the label, it is the cut Scott wanted and with 45 minutes extra in the film, it's now a fully formed epic and without doubt a better film than the one the theatrical cut suggested.

Nutshell plotting finds the story set during the Crusades of the 12th century. Balian (Bloom) is a French village blacksmith who after finally meeting his father Godfrey (Neeson), sets him on a course to aid the city of Jerusalem in its defence against the Muslim leader Saladin (Massoud). Saladin is battling to reclaim the city from the Christians. It's a fictionalised account of Balian de Ibelin the man, but with the Crusades featuring so rarely in movies it's good to see one with attention to detail in relation to the events and time period.

Now this version exists there is no reason to visit the theatrical cut, for although this has one or two missteps in the narrative, big holes have been plugged and characters importantly expanded. Benefiting the most are Eva Green as Sibylla, and Bloom himself as Balian. The former now gets substance on why she transforms from a measured princess to a borderline head-case, and the latter gets a back story which helps us understand why he does what he does. Both actors performances are seen in better light as their characters become more defined. Neeson and Norton, too, also get more screen time, and that can never be a bad thing.

In this day and age the topicality of the film as regards Muslims and Christians is obviously hard to ignore, but Scott and Monahan are not in the market for political posturing. Scott had long wanted to do a film about The Crusades, to make it an historical epic adventure reflecting the period, and he has achieved that without head banging messages. In fact the culmination of the films major battle comes by way of tolerance, compassion and mutual respect, not by over the top histrionics or side picking. It's a crucial point to note that the makers have not demonized the Arab leaders, both Saladin and Nasir (Siddig) are portrayed as intelligent and cultured men of standing. Their drive and determination coming off as respectful as Balian's defence of Jerusalem is. They also provide the film with two of its best acting performances. Impressive considering the film is full of very good acting turns.

It will come as no surprise to fans of Scott's work to find that Kingdom of Heaven is tremendous on production value. Filled out with astonishing visuals and no overuse of CGI, it's arguably Scott's best production: it's certainly his most ambitious. Filmed in Spain and Morocco, the makers easily whisk us back centuries to the France and Jerusalem of the time, the ability to plant us firmly in the time frame is not to be understated. Mathieson (Gladiator) is a big part of that, his colour lensing for France (metallic cold blues) and Jerusalem (dusky yellow and brown hues) is a visual treat and integral to the feel of the story. While Gregson-Williams' score rarely gets a mention, but it's very at one with Scott's vision, a delightful mix of ethnic strains, mystical flair and medieval emphasis. Scott also ups the ante for visceral battles, the horrors of war never more vivid as they are here. Supremely constructed, the siege of Jersualem is one of the finest in cinema, the first sight of fireballs igniting the night sky bringing the hairs on the back of the neck standing to attention. It's just one of many great moments that form part of Scott's breath taking epic.

Badly treated on cinema release by the studio, who even marketed that cut badly, Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut is these days worthy of a revisit and deeper inspection. For rich rewards await the genre faithful. 9.5/10
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on 7 October 2005
This film has come under fire for a number of things. Orlando not being as good a leading man as Russell Crowe, not giving an opinion on the Christian vs Muslim thing and not having a strong story.
I disagree on most points, okay Mr Bloom doesn't have the same presence as Mr Crowe does, this doesn't make him a poor actor. I thought he was very good, developing his charactor as the story progressed, from village blacksmith to battle hardened knight. It's a shame the film wasn't longer to show his emotional journey better. It seemed too quick, and a little unconvicing as a result. The comparisons to galdiator, while obvious are not fair, gladiator was a simple story painted on a large canvas, Kingdom of heaven is much more epic, a large story painted on a canvas slightly too small?
as for the religion aspect? it avoided sides very well, pointing out the whole thing was sensless. Although Balian is clearly the hero of the peice the nature of the villian is more ambiguous. A traditional epic would have painted saladin as the baddy, here he is an opposing force.
All in this is a beautiful film that falls short of it's hype by being too short.
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