A crusades epic that's easy on the eye but hard on the backside, Kingdom Of Heaven is disappointing. Doing his best to sound all grown up, Orlando Bloom plays Balian, a French blacksmith who's reunited with his long-lost noble father (Liam Neeson) and journeys to Jerusalem for political intrigue, the odd battle and endless, endless talking. From Gladiator director Ridley Scott, it has little of that picture's passion or emotion. In fact it feels spectacularly empty.
Bloom is a talented actor too often dismissed as just a pretty face, but here he's lumbered with a drab, occasionally idiotic character and 'inspirational' speeches that make Clive Owen's leaden pep talks in King Arthur sound like Shakespeare. Follow him into battle? You wouldn't follow him into Woolworths.
"YOU NEVER FEEL ANYTHING'S AT STAKE"
Neeson is terrific and the film's at its best when he's to the fore - as in the first, frantic fight scene, with its whipcrack edits and convincing brutality. Jeremy Irons impresses, too, as an advisor to Jerusalem's leper king (Edward Norton, under an iron mask). But an intriguing exploration of the Holy Land's power struggle between Christian and Muslim forces is muddled by a panto villain (Marton Csokas, the only 'French' character to actually have a vaguely French accent), a damp love story (with Evan Green's limp princess) and a third act so predictable, it's entirely pointless.
For all the spectacle, you never feel anything's at stake - and Balian's in-your-face "everyone is equal" moralising is immensely tedious. Part history lesson, part lecture, all dull, Kingdom Of Heaven is purgatory.