East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Kingdom of Heaven, the director’s cut (2005)


There’s been a lot of talk about a director’s cut of a superhero film, recently. Everybody’s going on about it. The problem is, I am rarely interested in superhero movies – let’s say I still love the old Christopher Reeve/Margot Kidder Superman movies (well, the first two, at least) and after that … yeah, OK, Michael Keaton as Batman, maybe a few others. But I am not a big superhero fan to start with, and so I am not at all invested in this latest release.
But there are other movies that have come out in a Director’s Cut, and that I would be interested in catching.
So, why not today?

And when one talks about director’s cuts, Ridley Scott must be the world championship holder in the category. How many times did he recut Blade Runner?
And in 2005, his Crusader epic Kingdom of Heaven was distributed with 45 minutes cut after some test audiences groaned, and later re-released as a Director’s Cut.
I saw the theatrical release, and found it boring and unsatisfactory. But up until today, I had missed the Director’s Cut.
So today I watched it.

For those that missed the movie, Kingdom of Heaven covers the events leading up to the siege and fall of Jerusalem in 1187, from the point of view of an actual historical character, Balian of Ibelin, portrayed with competence if not with verve by Orlando Bloom.
The movie takes a few liberties with history (more about those later), but boasts an absolutely impressive cast: Eva Green, Ghassan Massoud, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Iain Glen, Marton Csokas, Liam Neeson, Edward Norton, Michael Sheen, Velibor Topić and Alexander Siddig… this movie has a huge cast of characters, most of them either historical or based on historical characters.

And then, OK,it is a Ridley Scott movie, so you get great direction, beautiful photography, breathtaking locations, sets and costumes, excellent music, the works. Great action scenes, by the way, and huge battles.

Clocking at three hours and ten minutes, the director’s cut of the film restores the missing forty-five minutes that the film company decided to cut, and is a much better movie. Despite being longer than the first one I saw, this one is much more engaging, and I was not bored. The political subplots were interesting, and the final duel brought the main character’s arc to its perfect close.

So yes, I liked it.
On my first viewing, I only saved Eva Green, but this version is absolutely good for many other reasons.
The movie has been re-edited, and it is, basically, a whole different thing.

And now, for the historical inaccuracies…
We’ve had a century of films about the crusades that were inaccurate, and nobody suffered any permanent consequence.
I was looking for an action adventure movie with a strong historical element, and I got exactly that. If here or there the screenwriter played fast and loose with history, it was certainly in the service of the story, and that’s fine with me.
Indeed, this movie made me more curious than I was before about the history of the Crusades (about which I am not too up to date), and I’ll probably check on Amazon for a good primer on the subject.
Also, somebody complained the film is too sympathetic in its portrayal of Saladin and the Saracens, and described Kingdom of Heaven as a pro-Muslim film.
From my point of view, this was more an anti-fanaticism movie, and in general all religions came out of it in a rather dubious light. It is certainly an anti-war movie. And a great adventure, that is what I was looking for.

So, yes, sometimes the Director’s Cut is better.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

3 thoughts on “Kingdom of Heaven, the director’s cut (2005)

  1. A rare example where the director’s much longer version is actually tighter and much more coherent. It went from a mediocre film to a very good one. And the business about it being “pro-Muslim” is GWOT-era foolishness. It is, as you say, an anti-fanaticism movie.

    Liked by 1 person

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