Thursday, October 13, 2005

For Every Action, There Is An Equal And Considerably More Bigoted Reaction.

Kingdom of Heaven
2005, USA
Ridley Scott

Kingdom of Heaven is an important film. Released in a time where tensions between the Christian and Muslim world are stretched to the near breaking point, this well-crafted film shows that not only are wars over religion not worth fighting, they’re certainly not worth watching. And for once, this abysmally dull Oscar grab fails not because of Ridley Scott. Not that Ridley Scott is not a gifted man. He has a fine eye for visuals, undeniable flair, and he knows how to tell a story. He does not, however, appear to have any idea whatsoever as to which stories to tell. I’m convinced this is because the man cannot read, as there is no other explanation for the widely dynamic range between good and bad in his filmography. Producers must just walk up to him and pitch a log line, or just write a bunch of numbers on a check to get him to sign on for some of these projects, without even bothering to send him the script, knowing that he’ll pawn it off on an overworked personal assistant or leave it at the hairdresser's after using the title page to doodle stick figures humping while he waits for his appointment. I’ll admit that Alien and Blade Runner were half-way decent, and I’ll even tolerate the occasional praise for The Duelists, but I defy anyone with a three-digit IQ to not burst out laughing at the sight of the poster for Black Rain, and somebody really needs to explain to me how a film called G.I. Jane is not a comedy.

Ladies and gentlemen: My father trying to look tough.

The main problem with Kingdom of Heaven is that it presents the violent religious wars of the Crusades with an even hand, faulting neither side but praising them both, thus removing any ounce of conflict from the final product. I’m not saying that the movie has to be based on Monolith Deathcult lyrics, or god forbid an A.C. song, but this movie is about war, not two noble warriors in a cold war chess match. Somebody has to be right, and somebody has to be wrong, or I don’t give a rat’s ass about the outcome. I understand that the filmmakers are trying to be sensitive, but I’m not interested in watching divorce court mediation. I need a protagonist and an antagonist, not some pimply faced grad student in corduroys holding my hand through a devil’s advocate discussion on Palestinian rights, or there’s no emotional investiture. And I’m not saying the Arabs have to be the bad guys. In fact, it’s best that they aren’t, because judging from films like Cinderella Man, Hollywood has a grasp of subtlety as firm as a sodomite’s bowels. They don’t need to portray Muslims as evil, and I’m not asking them to reduce the script to medieval discourses on heresies. After all, we're all intelligent, open minded liberals here in the Western world. We all know Muslims aren’t baby eating monsters. That’s the Jews. But somebody needs to grow some balls and take a side in this film. Why not make the Christians evil? Hell, the fact that the two sides are fighting over a worthless chunk of desert that’s only valuable because it’s mentioned in a shared fairy tale, makes them both out to be bad guys. I don’t care, just do something except muse poetically about the nobility and tragedy of war.

Yup. That's noble, alright.

I know I complain a lot about how Hollywood reduces complex issues to simplistic answers, but faced with the alternative, I’d rather a sweeping generalization than safe, calming pap dished out with a silver spoon and a blue lens filter. Good or bad, I need something to react to. Sometimes I'll agree with a film’s point of view, and sometimes I won’t, but without one, I’m uninterested. Is a little subtle racism too much to ask? Maybe an undercurrent of moral superiority, or a disparaging view of women? There’s got to be something objectionable in a movie. Otherwise, I’ve got nothing to climb on my moral high horse about, and I have to actually discuss the film in terms of boring technical elements like every other reviewer internet reviewer with an IMDB log-in, focusing on the cinematography (pretty, but so is stained glass and I don’t need to spend ten bucks to stare at that for two hours) and score (sounds like someone got the Prague Symphony Orchestra to cover one of those CDs of elevator music you can get at Starbucks). Or, heaven forbid, I might have to talk about the performances or the lame and predictable story, which has a blacksmith, played by Orlando Bloom, go to Jerusalem, where either God or a lazy screenwriter blesses him with the ability to plan perfect military campaigns without any training or experience whatsoever. Bloom seems to have a thing for playing in period pieces and fooling around with swords, possibly because his femme hair, sharp cheekbones, and pretty boy Eton accent would have him strapped to a fence post and beaten to death by the brain-dead Midwest frat boys that infest North America like rats in oversized basketball jerseys should he ever join the modern world. And I’ll bet you that if Ridley Scott made a movie about that, he’d give the frat boys’ side of the story.


Blogger Sam Kahn said...

I didn't like this movie either.

12:53 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, umm, how do you really feel about this film? LOL

8:40 a.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

I don't even know anymore. My head still hurts from the Firefly marathon.

Sam, we seem to be in the minority here, as with History of Violence. Everyone I know seems to like this movie, and hate the Cronenberg one.

9:11 a.m.  
Blogger Jerk Of All Trades 2.0 said...

I like Ridley, but I want to see this one less than I wanted to see 1492.

Which, I am happy to say, I still haven't seen.

I'm glad you're back to "Normal" after the Firefly Incident.

12:38 p.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

I'm not. I means I have to go back to work, and keep watching shitty Ridley Scott movies so you don't have to. Actually, 1492 wasn't so bad. At least it had a point of view. I used to very much like Ridley Scott, but I think all his films are dependent upon how good the script is, and he can't pick a good one from a bad one. I only really like his first three films. And I found Gladiator unbearably cheesy.

12:48 p.m.  
Blogger Fatman said...

This has always been on my pile of 'Don't bother watching films'. Unlike Ash who feels a martyr-like need to watch crap films so other people don't have to, I just can't be bothered with movies like this or Troy or Alexander. Epic films where a whole bunch of people kill another bunch of people. Who cares? If you're going to do a film about the Crusades I say let's get back to the First Crusade where a whole bunch of Christian lads decided to feast on the corpses of slain Saracens. It'd be part war film, part cooking show- a bit of battle then a recepe for Stewed Heathen.

I loved Alien. Also I am a big fan of the feel of Blade Runner. I don't care what anyone says there are moments of sheer cool in the flick even though the movie is a tad clunky in parts. The whole back story of it is also quite fascinating- the open hostility between Harrison Ford and Sean Young, the T-Shirt Wars with 'Yes Guv'nor My Ass!' prints and a whole lot of other stuff I read in Future Noir some years ago.

1:07 p.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

So? Weigh in. Is Deckard a Replicant or not?

2:11 p.m.  
Blogger Sam Kahn said...

I'll have to watch Blade Runner again because it's been a long time, but from I remember, I thought he was. Doesn't it also depend on which cut of the film you watch?

About History of Violence, it seems that the people I know here that didn't like it fell into one of these categories:
a. are turned off by the graphic violence
b. didn't see or think of any of the subtext
c. didn't like the "shift in tone" (there wasn't really one, the dark sense of humor as well as the graphic violent content is evident from the very first scene, which is why the scene is there in the first place)
d. didn't understand or didn't like the humor in the film

5:00 p.m.  
Blogger Fatman said...

The question should be: Are you a Repli-Can or a Repli-Can't?

Deckard most certainly is. I think a Voight-Kampf test would probably reveal that Ridley Scott is as well. I think the original hinted at the "Deckard is a Replicant" theme and the Director's Cut pretty much removes all doubt thus rendering all discussions moot.

11:15 p.m.  
Anonymous Rin said...

Ash, I've been away moving house. And I come back to this.


I cried for a bit. And then kind of got over it. I mean it's like all the time I spent hating Terry Gilliam and his shit films. I just had to accept the fact that some people aren't perfect.

So you're forgiven. In celebration I went to see Serenity. It was shit. See you!

6:04 p.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Wait, forgiven for what? Not liking Firefly? Watching Firefly? Liking 12 Monkeys? Don't confuse me, my brain is still tender.

6:08 p.m.  
Anonymous Rin said...

Forgiven for watching Firefly even though it's obvious how awful it was going to be. I mean all that time wasted. You could've just asked afterall. 12 Monkeys is the one exception where it's an everage Gilliam film rather than an awful one. Thanks for pointing that out.

In other news The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeolsie was brilliant. I hate being 30 years late to the party.

6:13 p.m.  
Blogger tom hall said...

Did you at least like Liam Neeson's line about fighting with an arrow through his testicle? A shrouded gem...

10:43 a.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Yes. Shrouded in sleep.

10:52 a.m.  


6:22 a.m.  

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