Best Of 2006: Special Mention

The summer of 2005 kicked off with Ridley Scott’s crusade epic, KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. It was long (144 minutes), dull and mildly incoherent (or at least a chore to pay attention to.) The film rested heavy on the slight shoulders of Orlando Bloom (who is no Russell Crowe) and, to paraphrase GLADIATOR, I was not entertained. Of the 113 films I saw that year, KINGDOM is #98.

So why bring this up now?

Because in 2006, for only a few weeks and in only one Los Angeles theatre, they played Ridley’s original 194 minute cut of the film. The difference between the two cuts is so extreme, and the new version (widely available on DVD) is so amazing, I couldn’t let the year pass without discussing it. Everybody involved in releasing the shorter version should hang their heads in shame. Everyone who helped bury the longer one, should be thrown out of the business.
Do you complain about the lack of great movies? KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: DIRECTOR’S CUT is one of the great films of this decade. For Ridley Scott, this film is to GLADIATOR what RETURN OF THE KING is to FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. Everything is bigger and more complex. While Ridley may not approach the greatness of RINGS, he also didn’t have the budget or creative freedom Peter Jackson was granted. (The extensive documentary on the DVD will make you appreciate the film and Ridley’s skill even more.)
The longer film is faster paced, because events unfold in a smoother fashion. (Think of it as a great 1/2 season of an HBO series.) You also see that Bloom was never meant to carry the film by himself. The longer cut is definitely an ensemble, and Bloom disappears for stretches, making way for bigger, juicier work from Edward Norton, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis and Eva Green. That being said, in its new context Bloom gives his finest performance to date, and brings a previously unseen maturity to the part.
As my list of the top 100 films of 2006 takes shape, it’s a shame I don’t feel right keeping KINGDOM on it. It’s been a bad year in general for movies, with only one true masterpiece. (Those who read my site know what film I’m referring to.) I’d like to think that in 10-20 years, the film will be recognized as a classic motion picture, comparable to LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.

I understand many of you saw the short version and don’t care to revisit such a bad movie. I was there with you. But I’m telling you, you will love this new version of KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, easily one of the year’s very best.


Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

I stayed away from this one after it just got such savage reviews, but if the director's cut really improves it that much, I'll have to give it a chance .. thanks for the heads up

4:47 AM  

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