Saturday, May 07, 2005

Kingdom of Political Correctness

I took the unusual (for me) decision to watch Kingdom of Heaven on the second day itself because I thought, that given its seemingly controversial nature, the movie might be banned soon. In fact, conservative Christian and Muslim groups were already up in arms about it, with Director Ridley Scott recieving death threats. Also I figured any move that gets so much flak from both sides must be historically accurate. But I was wrong.

The truth is that Kingdom of Heaven is as offensive to religious sensibilities as Amar Akbar Anthony. Scott goes to great lengths to show that Christians and Mulims should learn to live together and all that jazz. On both the Crusader and Muslim sides, you see leaders who basically just want to get along, but are pressurised by fanatical zealots who only want a lot of Holy War on their records when they meet their makers. I have no problem with that depiction, I just wish they'd stop sermonizing all the time. And as if that wasn't enough social message for one film, they've added a social justice aspect, with the lead character being an ex-blacksmith who rises to an indeterminate high position in Jerusalem. Ugh!

That said, it wasn't all that bad. Scott played around with history a bit, but not as much as Gladiator. Although the lead character Balian of Ibelin is a regular Goody Two Shoes, Orlando Bloom looks the least gay I have ever seen him, and that must be commended. The supporting cast is amazing, with Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons at their best. I just wish they had been given a bit more airtime, though. Edward Norton as the King of Jerusalem is great, too, especially if you consider that his face remains hidden throughout. Ghassan Massoud as Saladin is also good.. The villains (read fanatics), however are in a word, stupid. The sets are quite good, with a truly amazing recreation of Old Jerusalem. The costumes, too are great, though I don't know how accurate they are.

Now the true reason I wanted to see the movie was the battle scenes, and I must say, Mr. Scott has delivered. Though the only real battle of any consequence is the Siege of Jerusalem, it was brilliant. In fact, I would go out to say that it compares with the Seiges of Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The scenes of the vast Muslim and Crusader armies are spectacularly done, and respect is due for that. All in all, I'd say that the battle is what finally redeems the movie.

Back to the controvery issue, the movie's been out two days, and already Christians, Muslim and Jews are refighting two thousand years worth of conflict here. The acrimony that has been generated here has nothing to do with the movie, its just "My religion is better than yours." Inspite of this, I think the call for banning the movie in India will come very soon, and I recommnd those of you interested in watching the movie do so very soon.


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