The occasional historical accuracy of Kingdom of Heaven is hampered by Ridley Scott's desire to make everyone seem nice





Kingdom of Heaven tells the story of the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, the climax of the Saracen sultan's dramatic reconquest of the Holy Land from the Crusaders. Saladin's victory triggered the Third Crusade, led by Richard the Lionheart. In Ridley Scott's film, it is also replete with allusions to modern American adventures in the Middle East.

The film's hero, Balian (a disastrously miscast Orlando Bloom), is a composite of two real-life brothers, Balian and Baldwin of Ibelin. In 1184, he sails for the Holy Land, but a storm wrecks his ship. Washed up on a Syrian beach, he makes for a watering hole. Two Arabs ride up, and there's a macho standoff. This plotline has nothing to do with the Crusades, but it is stolen shamelessly from Lawrence of Arabia. Almost seven and a half centuries out. Not a promising start.

In Jerusalem, King Baldwin IV (Edward Norton) is busy dying of leprosy. He's wearing a silver mask that makes him look a bit like the Green Goblin, but he can be forgiven that, because he reminisces correctly about his victory as a 16-year-old lad over Saladin's forces at the Battle of Montgisard....


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