Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
I knew it was bound to happen. I had managed to wait until video to see "Gladiator", and I had managed to avoid "Troy", "Alexander" and "King Arthur" altogether. But it was only a matter of time before I succumbed to the Costume Epic and found myself sitting in a theater, watching "Kingdom of Heaven".

Roger Ebert, a critic who I have a lot of respect for (and whose taste usually reflect mine) said of the movie, "better than 'Gladiator' -- deeper, more thoughtful, more about human motivation and less about action." Perhaps he accidentally walked into the wrong theater and saw "Million Dollar Baby", because what I saw was an overacted, overwritten, overdirected "epic" that had the most boring action sequences since "Bad Boys II" (and that's saying something).

The movie was made by Ripley Scott, whose known for being one of the most hit-and-miss of current Hollywood directors. Either he shoots a bullseye ("Alien", "Blade Runner", "Black Hawk Down", "Matchstick Men") or he's off-target to a frustrating degree ("Legend", "Hannibal", "Gladiator"). "Kingdom of Heaven" can be put in the latter.

The story is basically "Gladiator: Special Crusades Unit". The slave-turned-celebrity device is now bestowed upon Orlando Bloom, who goes from being a 12th-century French blacksmith to the defender of Jerusalem. All the while, he glances this way and that, fighting for honor and looking pensive. It's Bloom's best performance since that last one where he was holding a sword (I swear, that guy would carry a sword in a romantic comedy).

Bloom, however, did give me an idea. Most of his performance was not based on natural emotion, but more on physical agility (running around, horse riding, swordfighting, etc.), speech-shouting ("We fight for the glory...of JERUSALEM!!! Today we celebrate...our INDEPENDENCE DAY!!! I have always depended on the kindness...of STRANGERS!!!" Okay, I stole those last two lines), and staring off into the distance with a look that says, "God, I'm a sexy bitch!"

It's not really a breathtaking performance. I think that I, along with most of the actors that I know, could have given the same performance with some sword training and a halfway decent director. I decided that I really want to see a director make a movie like this with Pauly Shore in the lead role. I honestly think that he could have given just as good of a performance, and it would make the movie that much better if you were saying, "Wow, Pauly Shore's actually decent" (although I'm sure he would be billed simply as "Paul Shore"). Please, Hollywood, give Pauly a chance!

Otherwise, the film has everything you would expect: A king with leprosy (played in a useless piece of casting by Edward Norton wearing a shiny silver mask), an exotic beauty (though she's no Shannyn Sossamon in "A Knight's Tale"...yes, of course I'm kidding), CGI battle scenes up the yin-yang (did Scott really expect us to go "Ooooh!" every single time he showed us the enormous Muslim army?), a scene with Eva Green cutting her hair with scissors that hadn't been invented yet (hell, even Mulan used a sword and that movie ended with a disco party), and the requisite cheesy dialogue (everybody liked to speak in contradictions, saying things like "No one has claim! All have claim!" and "Jerusalem is worth nothing. Everything").

Two of the best unintentionally funny moments were the Green-Bloom kiss, where what I could only describe as Arabian porn music started playing (and since the film already had an R rating, why didn't they take that scene further?), and a part where Bloom asks, "Old man, can you tell me where Christ was crucified?" and the man points to the large cross on top of the tallest hill in the area. I half expected Bloom to reply with, "Oh, right, the large cross on the hill! Whoops, my goof!"

By the time we get to the big climactic Christian-Muslim fight for Jerusalem, there are swords clashing, arrows flying, fireballs exploding, men shouting, horses neighing, walls tumbling, actors ACTING (what was with Jeremy Irons punctuating his sentences with jerks of his head?)...and all the while, I sat watching with eyes glazing, legs numbing, brain melting, stomach growling. When the movie ended, I had seen a great many things over the course of 150 minutes, and I didn't feel like I watched anything at all.

Hopefully, though, "Kingdom of Heaven" will serve a very useful purpose. It was budgeted around 130 million dollars, and made only 20 million dollars in its opening weekend. Following the disappointing box-office of "Troy" (Budget: $185 million; Gross: $133 million), "Alexander" (Budget: $150 million; Gross: $34 million) and "King Arthur" (Budget: $90 million; Gross: $51 million), this may just be the end of the Costume Epic until its next resurrection in another 30 years.

On a final, completely unrelated note, it's my birthday today, and I keep having to remind myself of this fact (the blue and oddly suggestive purple balloons that the co-workers taped to my desk are making it very easy to remember). I'm hoping that this isn't a sign of my becoming too adult. Aren't I supposed to be excited two weeks before hand that my birthday is coming up? Shouldn't the idea of cake and presents excite me? At least I'm excited about the prospect of going to Disneyland tonight (Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, here I come!). Maybe hitting the big 2-3 won't be so bad.

I think it's kind of funny that we all sat through that movie, paying attention (just kidding - I fell asleep), and when the credits rolled we all stood up, looked at each other, and said "Well, that blew."

Yes, it was definitely unanimous. Oh my GOD! The dialogue made me want to gouge my ears with a fork, just so I didn't have to listen to it anymore. And ... could they possibly make less attempt to have us care about the characters?

But what made the film truly worthwhile were our comments to each other during the show. I swear, we should get paid to do commentary on bad films. That'd be fun.

PS: I'm going to whoop your ass on the Astro-Blaster tonight! That's right, my friend. It's on! :)
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