'Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut'
The addition of 45 minutes help transform 'Kingdom of Heaven' from a muddled mess into a worthy epic
"Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut" still isn't a great film or even, necessarily, a very good film. No matter how solid the artistic craftsmanship, it's impossible for "Heaven" to overcome the fact that Orlando Bloom's performance in the lead role is cold and one-note. At least in this form, an active intellectual involvement is encouraged, if the emotions fall flat.
On the surface, "Heaven" is the story of Balian (Bloom), a blacksmith who flees his life in Europe and is reborn in the Holy Land as a warrior and engineer. He's helped along the way by his estranged father Godfrey (Liam Neeson) and he befriends the Leper King (Edward Norton) and beds a beautiful married princess (Eva Green). More pragmatically, the movie is an exploration of extremism -- Christian and Muslim -- and the differences between living a religious life versus living a holy life. With contemporary resonances aplenty, the movie contemplates the divided lands and loyalties of the Middle East, making an effort to balance the tale whenever possible.
Although Scott is repeatedly conciliatory on the bonus materials and claims that he understands Fox's motives in mandating a shorter running time and a tighter focus, you almost wish he would come out and say it: The studio butchered my very personal movie. As it was released last year, "Kingdom of Heaven" was an unfocused and nearly incoherent jumble of battle scenes surrounding a half-hearted soap opera romance involving Balian and Green's Sibylla, a character whose motivations never made a lick of sense. One of the major restorations to the new cut is Sibylla's young son, the heir to the throne of Jerusalem. Although little depth is given to the boy, his standing and potential rule justifies everything Sibylla does and the addition of those few scenes transforms Green's performance from beautifully empty to nearly heart-breaking, nearly providing the film with the heart it needs in light of Bloom's blandness.
It's hard to put a finger on many of the added moments, but a film that felt oppressively long and simplistic to me in theaters last May seems shorter and clearer now, its message powerful. Fox has helpfully divided the new cut over two discs here as a Roadshow Presentation, complete with opening overture and intermission. Those first two discs also include a trio of audio commentaries, including one with Scott, writer William Monahan and Bloom, as well as a particularly relevant track from editor Dody Dorn.
The remaining disks are dominated by the beyond-feature-length documentary "The Path to Redemption," which shows the entire filmmaking process, but also gives great insight into the changes that had to be made both in the script and in post-production. In addition, there are featurettes on casting, historical accuracy and the making of the climactic siege sequence. There are also 15 additional deleted and extended scenes with commentary. It's enough material to fill many many hours and it's amazing how much is worth the time.
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: May 23
TIME: 191 minutes
DVD EXTRAS: Three audio commentary tracks; The Engineer's Guide trivia and notes track; feature-length "Path to Redemption" doc; 15 deleted and extended scenes with commentary; And much, much, much more