Saturday, January 12, 2008

DVD Review : Kingdom of Heaven

I re-saw Kingdom of Heaven a few days ago.

The first time I saw it was when it was first released on DVD, about a year ago.

I felt it was a disappointment then.

In retrospect, I guess at that time, memories of Gladiator were still too fresh in everyone's minds, and we were all waiting for a bigger and better, more macho and violent, sequel to it.

It did not help that Kingdom was heavily promoted as being by the same director who gave you Gladiator.

When Kingdom did not meet these expectations, I guess we all quickly wrote it off.

There was a beauty of re-watching Kingdom two years later.

This time the ghost of Gladiator is well forgotten, and Kingdom could be judged on its own merits, outside Gladiator's shadow.

Looking at it again, I realised that Kingdom was clearly not meant to be a mere follow up act to Gladiator.

Gladiator was a pure visceral adrenaline rollercoaster ride of a film, meant to engage your guts more than your heart. There was no message there except "rip the guts out of the emperor in the most spectacularly bloody way possible".

Kingdom had its exciting moments, but none anywhere close to Gladiator in spectacle.

However, Kingdom was clearly a film with a message, and the director Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, Legend, Matchstick Men, A Good Year, Black Hawk Down, American Gangster) was messaging more in this film than any other before.

In the second viewing of Kingdom, I grew to like Orlando Bloom.

Whereas he was everyone's unanimous choice as the reason why the film flopped, I now think he is perfect for the part.

He does not look too European, he is clean cut, and youthful-looking, which stands him out from the rest of the jaded, war-weary souls in Jerusalem.

He looks the perfect hero to negotiate the surrender of Jerusalem - can you imagine a more macho Hollywood actor like Russel Crowe doing something like - surrendering - to Arabs?

Anyway, I liked some of the musings thrown about in the film, which is more noticeable only in a second viewing.

Ed Norton was brilliant even with a mask on -

He exuded beauty of character trapped in deformity of body.

Ed Norton, well, he is just great as an actor to project a commanding presence without showing his face the whole time.

Eva Green (my current hot favourite actress) was clearly the token female character, but she provided a good bridge between the players and provided a little love interest to break the dramatic tension.

I must say that she looked smashing whilst decently dressed, even with hijab. That's another thing in this movie you probably will never see anywhere else.

The British actors were stereotyped as - well - characters speaking with British accents.

One of them is Jeremy Irons (whose voice I will always remember reading the Alchemist in my car CD) and another is the guy who appears in the TV series Heroes as the invisible man. Of course, Liam Neeson too.

The theme of the film is about the pointlessness of war.

The war in Jerusalem was pointlesss then, and it is pointless now.

Balian (Orlando Bloom) asks Salahuddeen "What is Jerusalem?" and the latter answers "Nothing - everything!".

To understand this we must realise that just before than Balilan had threatened to destroy all the holy places in Jerusalem, and that for each Crusader killed, 10 Muslims would be killed, leaving Salahuddeen with no army thereafter.

The reply from Salahuddeen was not what one would expect.

His answer to Balian's threat to destroy the city was "I wonder if it would not be better that you did" - indicating he does not care about the buildings.

And his answer to Balian's threat to kill 10 Muslim soldiers for each Crusader, Salahuddeen's answer was "You have women and children in your city, what about them?".

With Balian clearly left with nothing to negotiate with, Salahuddeen nevertheless offers the Christian safe passage out of Jerusalem.

His victory was not to be only military, but moral as well.

To offer your enemy a gift at the moment when you have defeated him - it reminds me of our Master, the Prophet, himself did at the liberation of Mecca.

There are lessons to all of us in this movie.

Many Muslims are clamouring for defeat of the Israelis and re-conquest of Jerusalem.

However, we forget that Jerusalem had been conquered by the Muslims twice before in history.

First, it was under Syiddina Omar.

There was no blood shed in the city.

The Christians gave the keys to the Church of Holy Sepulchre to him.

Second, when Salahuddeen re-took it from the Crusaders.

Again he negotiated a bloodless surrender.

In neither case did the Muslim side spill blood in Jerusalem.

Now, Jerusalem is the third holiest city in Islam. Like the other two, it should be treated as sacrosanct.

In Makkah and Madinah, it would be unthinkable to spill blood.

However, in Jerusalem now, blood flows like water.

I personally believe that Jerusalem will never be liberated from the Israelis simply because the people defiling it now are the Muslims.

We defile it with the blood of innocents everyday.

Also, we all know that Hamas is Saudi-backed, and the minute they were to take over Jerusalem, they would demolish al-Aqsa mosque and rebuild it in a more "Islamic" form - meaning no more Dome of the Rock, which is actually a shrine to heretical innovation in the eyes of Wahabbism.

The Palestinian people have to wake up and realise that.

The day we treat Baitulmaqdis with reverence is the day that we deserve her, and God will only give us what we deserve, right?

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