The Pilgrim’s Guide – A text commentary stream consisting of both production and historical notes, synchronous with film
Interactive Production Grid – A simple to use navigation portal will ask viewers to choose the desired perspective and timeframe allowing them to tailor the “Making Of” material to their liking. There are no less than 16 different ways to experience The Grid. (approx 125 minutes)
A&E Movie Real: “Kingdom of Heaven” (approx 45 min)
The History Channel’s “History vs Hollywood” “Kingdom of Heaven” (approx 48 min)
Behind-the-scenes featurettes: Ridley Scott – “Creating Worlds”, Production Featurette, Wardrobe Featurette
Orlando Bloom “The Adventure of a Lifetime”
“From Ridley Scott, the visionary director of “Black Hawk Down” and “Gladiator,” comes this spectacular epic of courage, honor and adventure. Orlando Bloom stars as Balian, a young Frenchman in Medieval Jerusalem during the Crusades, who having lost everything, finds redemption in a heroic fight against overwhelming forces to save his people and fulfill his destiny as a knight.”
Kingdom of Heaven is rated R for strong violence and epic warfare.
One of the most notable things about this movie is the epic scale of the battles. They are right up there with the battles in Return of the King, only without the giant elephants. It’s quite breathtaking to see thousands of knights facing off with thousands of Arabs. (It would have been even more impressive on the big screen and I regret missing it.) The Muslims also wreak impressive havoc on Jerusalem with their machines of war. I didn’t realize they had that level of technology back then.
That leads to another point. Kingdom of Heaven seems to be very even handed in its treatment of Muslims and Christians. There are heroes and villains on both sides. The movie does a great job of pointing out the thoughts and feelings of both sides. This movie goes a long way in educating audiences on the Crusades and how Muslims and Christians really escalated their conflicts. Kingdom of Heaven also illustrates how both factions can get along with each other if they so desire.
Ridley Scott also delivers yet another beautiful film. Every frame of the movie could be turned into a fantastic portrait. He makes the most of every setting from the open desert to the city of Jerusalem. Scott uses a lot of effects to enhance backgrounds and tweak colors, but they are all quite subtle.
About the only problem I had with Kingdom of Heaven was the fact that I never really cared that much about the characters. I was interested in where they went and who they interacted with, but I could care less if they lived or died. None of them had that much personality. The performances were all very muted and there wasn’t much to make any of them memorable. I like Orlando Bloom and I like the movies he makes, but he’s quite wooden as Balian, the star of this hero’s journey. The same goes for newcomer Eva Green as Sibylla and David Thewlis as Hospitaler. Marton Csokas and Brendan Gleeson show a little bit of life as the villains of the story, but they aren’t on the screen very long. The same goes for Liam Neeson as Godfrey, Balian’s father. Jeremy Irons finally gets to play a good guy as Tiberias, but I was most shocked to find out that the masked King Baldwin was Edward Norton. I didn’t know he was in this movie.
If you liked Troy or Gladiator, there’s a good chance you’re going to like Kingdom of Heaven. Fans of Orlando Bloom will also enjoy it while Crusade buffs will enjoy seeing it from a historical perspective.
The Pilgrim’s Guide Rather than an audio commentary, this DVD offers up blurbs of trivia that appear as the movie plays. I was amazed at how detailed the comments were. They discussed everything from how Muslims perfected the art or sword making (by impaling red hot swords into the bodies of slaves to harden the steel) to quotes from people that lived at the time. If you enjoy history, it’s well worth watching Kingdom of Heaven with this feature activated.
Interactive Production Grid This is simply a fancy way for the DVD to present its “making of” featurettes. There are 16 all together and they total around 125 minutes. They cover the development of the script, the costumes, the extras, sound effects, the music, editing, visual effects, casting, and more. There are all sorts of great videos here. I was particularly amused to hear Liam Neeson say he prepared for the role by reading “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Crusades”. It’s also worth noting that these features show extremely brief clips of the many deleted scenes. There are brief clips of Orlando Bloom’s character with his wife before she committed suicide. There’s also an entire subplot removed that featured Sibylla and her son. One thing becomes quickly apparent a director’s cut with all this extra footage is going to be coming some time in the future.
A&E Movie Real: “Kingdom of Heaven” This is the better of the two historical documentaries that highlight the Crusades and the film. Various historians join with the cast and crew from the movie to discuss the Crusades. It goes in depth into what really happened, the motivations behind the Crusades, and the real life figures featured in the film. History buffs will enjoy this.
The History Channel’s “History vs Hollywood” “Kingdom of Heaven” While the previous video was a more scholarly look at the Crusades and the movie, this feature is more about flash and entertainment. There are a lot of fancy graphics, quick cuts, and hyped “mini docs”. It looks like it was made for high school history students raised on MTV. Despite the title, this documentary doesn’t make much of an effort to debunk the history in the film. Instead there is general discussion of castles, the Crusades, weaponry, etc. There’s good stuff here, but you have to sit through the flash and glitter to find it.
Behind-the-scenes featurettes: Ridley Scott – “Creating Worlds”, Production Featurette, Wardrobe Featurette, Orlando Bloom “The Adventure of a Lifetime” These are simply short features that were on the internet before the movie was released. A lot of it is seen in the other features on this DVD, so they aren’t terribly noteworthy. Still, it’s nice to have them included here for the sake of completeness.
The Bottom Line: