Defending Kingdom of Heaven
There have been many claims and accusations made about this film – it is historically inaccurate, it is dull, lumbering and too long, Orlando Bloom is miscast, and even that it “panders to Osama bin Laden”. It is certainly no Gladiator, but that is far from saying it is poor. Yes, the first hour is a bit slow, but the threads begun there are woven together nicely by the end, so it is necessary. Orlando Bloom is a man with “Supporting Actor” stamped all over his face, but does a much better job here than I’d hoped for, to the point of being believable enough not to detract from the film.
Anyway, onto the heart of the matter. Personally I don’t really care about the historical accuracy on this occasion. For me, the message of the film is much more important. The whole Bin Laden issue has arisen because the Muslims are not portrayed as the bad guys, instead they are on the whole more moral and decent than their Christian counterparts. This may not have been the case historically, but the Crusaders certainly did their fair share of horrible deeds too, and this is the message of the film. It is spelt out explicitly by Hospitaler (David Thewlis) in precise agreement with my own feelings on the matter:
I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I’ve seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of God. Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness.
The phrase “God wills it” is used many times in the film, by both Christians and Muslims, often to justify an act of inhumanity by the speaker. I have not seen a better advert for atheism for a very long time, and for that I am very grateful to the film. The fact that, while the subject matter is obviously a religious one, the main character is the least religious in the film, and at the same time the most moral and good emphasises this point strongly.
On a side note, the battle scenes are particularly impressive for their lack of sanitization – war is a brutal, terrible, and confused event and should be depicted as such. One scene stood out for me – Orlando fighting desperately in the centre of a writhing crush of bodies, the action going to slow motion to show the seemingly never-ending struggle for the fighters, then speeding back up to capture the madness of it all.
So to those people claiming this film is support of Osama bin Laden’s view of the world I say this: you are missing the point. The message is that all religions and all peoples should try to live together in peace, and probably could if it weren’t for the Fundamentalists. If there is a better argument against organised religion I would dearly like to know it.