.- Billed as what was to be one of the summerâs major blockbusters, Ridley Scottâs new big-dollar action film, Kingdom of Heaven, is, at best, drawing mixed reviews from film critics. Francis X. Maier, a Fellow at the American Film Instituteâs Center for Advanced Film Studies and chancellor for the Archdiocese of Denver, likened the movie to âa Monty Python film with big stars, much better production values and no humor.â
He called the film, which follows a young man during the Crusades of the Middle Ages, a âsecularist daydream about organized Western religion as the engine of warfare and intolerance, with literally every priest and bishop (except maybe one) a scoundrel, psychotic, thief or coward.â
Maier chided Scott, who directed such films as âAlienâ, âBlade Runnerâ and âGladiatorâ for making something that he called âsilly and bigoted.â
âThis could have been a compelling, even if a false, story,â he said, âbut it's mainly just wooden and ridiculous.â He said that Scott fails to understand âhistory or the factual human dramas behind it, and the shallowness of [his] story telling illustrates that.â
The chancellor cited scholars like Cambridgeâs Jonathan Riley-Smith and the University of Londonâs Jonathan Phillips, who, he said, âhave already savaged âKingdom of Heavenâ for its lack of historical accuracy.â
âAnd while the filmmakerâs bourgeois, agnostic fatigue may appeal to movie critics,â he added, âit would draw blank stares, or worse, from real Muslims and Christians of the period. Orlando Bloomâs baffling speech before the defense of Jerusalem â a kind of postmodern St. Crispinâs Day monologue that never rises above Rodney Kingâs line, âCanât we all just get along?â â would have triggered a popular riot.â
Director Scott has defended the film, saying, âwhen you see the film, you see balanceâ, claiming that both sides-Christians and Muslims-had been portrayed fairly.