May 9, 2005

The Kingdom Of Heaven Exists In The Mind

koh.jpgCinecultist is just a captive audience for certain new releases. Romantic comedies, no matter how abysmal looking. Crap starring Jennifer Lopez. Sci-fi and historical epics. We're like a disappointed lover listening for the key in the door; we wait for that particular magical experience to be repeated though, lord knows we expect it not to really be the same.

In all of the pre-release speculation on Ridley Scott's newest, Kingdom of Heaven a bunch of box office stinkers of various degree were trotted out as examples of the filmmaker's folly: Troy, Alexander, King Arthur. Everytime we read about these, CC'd look around, shifty-eyed and guilty-like. We saw all three of those in the theater the weekend they came out. CGI some castles or forts, throws some fiberglass shields on that mass of extras you've got in the deserts of Lodi, Cinecultist is totally there in the plush seat.

Frankly, we're still working out what compels us so. It might have something to do with Queen Margot. For some reason, it might also have something to do with David Lynch's Dune. Anyhoo! That's the long way of saying we watched Orlando Bloom make a mad dash for leading man status this weekend. He's a fast runner that Bloom and he can haul the broad sword above his head in a realistic fashion, but we're not sure if he's got the stuff that made Russell Crowe an action star AND a serious actor all in one fell swoop. Especially when he's sharing the screen with such fascinating beasts as Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons or even just the voice of Edward Norton (who plays the disfigured King pictured above).

So between Ed in the silver mask, some nicely choreographed battles, a sprinkling of camels (we rode one once! they spit and make funny noises!) and Eva Green with her bewitching kohl eyes, it took the full 2 hour plus running time in addition to the time it took to hit the street before we realized we couldn't really follow the plot. Crusaders, filial duty, Christian guilt, respect for the exoticized Muslims -- we don't know. There was a story in there somewhere but it was difficult to follow despite its event laden timeline. Now, it's but a smush of sensory overload in our brain, not nearly the thought-provoking engagement with Middle East relations promised by the pre-release think pieces.

Somehow, it seems more honest to market a Troy or King Arthur as randy historical reinterpretation or Mike Bay rambunctious po-mo fun rather than this political discourse with boiling oil scenes junk. As a critic, we guess we like to draw meaning from the meaningless instead of the schlockmeisters promising that there will be something intriguing inside of the summer action blockbuster. That may seem ass-backwards but we don't want the work done too much for us.

Posted by karen at May 9, 2005 10:55 PM