In 2006 Fox Home Video released a Bluray of the director’s cut of Ridley Scott‘s Kingdom of Heaven, which ran about 190 minutes or a bit more than 45 minutes longer than the theatrical version. On 10.7 Fox is issuing a four-disc roadshow director’s cut Bluray that pays tribute to the film’s ten-year anniversary. The only difference is that it runs about 194 minutes due to the inclusion of an overture, intermission and entr-acte music.
Marquee of Laemmle’s Fairfax, taken in early January 2006, where the 190-minute director’s cut of Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven played for a two-week period. This is where I first saw this far superior version.
Here’s the piece I wrote about the longer cut: “It’s not a rumor and there’s absolutely no question about it: Ridley Scott’s 190-minute version of Kingdom of Heaven is a considerably better film than the 145-minute theatrical version that opened in May 2005.
“I saw it yesterday afternoon at the seedy-but-functioning Laemmle Fairfax in West Hollywood. The projection and sound were fine, but why is a must-see, calling-all-cars revival like this playing in a theatrical equivalent of a doghouse?
“Stand-up critics ought to review this version for history’s sake, for the sake of salu- ting top-grade filmmaking…whatever. An obviously improved version of what was a respected film to begin with, and from a major director…attention should be paid. When a film this admirable is deliberately gutted by a major studio, critics have an obligation to assess what was what. Every good movie has a prime “fighting weight.” 190 minutes is what Kingdom of Heaven should have been all along, and seeing it at this length proves it.
“Last May’s 145-minute Kingdom was a painterly, politically nutritious meal that felt more than a touch truncated and a bit shy of playing like a true epic-type thing. The longer cut makes it into a fuller, tastier, more banquet-y type deal…sweepier and more sumptuous and better told. The extra 45 minutes or so adds a good deal more in terms of story and character to an extremely moral (I would call it ethically enlightened), highly perceptive, anti-Christian-right epic.
“Pretty much every character (except for Ghassan Massoud’s Saladin character, who still generates as much panache and admiration as Orlando Bloom’s Balian) seems more interesting and filled out. And it reveals a significant new character (the blonde-haired son of Eva Green) and a sub-plot about his fate that the shorter version had completely eliminated.
“As exacting and stirring as it is in many respects, the improved Kingdom is still, for me, more of a 90% rather than a 100% thing. There’s still something slightly opaque about it. But the longer version is certainly a finer and more substantial film. And this fact makes Fox’s decision to release its shorter, runtier kid brother seem more than a little distasteful.
“Only an idiot could have watched both versions last spring (or late winter…whenever it was that Fox and Scott sorted things through) and not realized that the 190-minute version was the distinctly better film. Obviously the 145-minute version was released to make room for more shows per day, but it was a disappointment regardless. It would up making about $200 million worldwide, which, for a movie that cost $130 million to shoot, wasn’t enough.
“The decision to put out the shorter Kingdom of Heaven was a shameful dereliction of duty in terms of…okay, an admittedly sentimental responsibility that nonetheless ought to be embraced by all distributors and filmmakers, which is to put the best films they can make before the public.
“In deliberately releasing a not-as-good version in order to increase the chances of making more money during the first 14 days of release, Fox did the ‘right thing’ from the point-of-view of the stockholders, but they betrayed the ticket-buying public…they really did.
“DreamWorks pulled the same crap when they released the not-as-good version ofAlmost Famous instead of the obviously better Unititled that came out on DVD later on. Warner Bros. and the Ladd Company did it also in the early ’80s with a truncated version of Once Upon a Time in America. It’s happened with some other worthy films.
“What hasn’t changed about Kingdom of Heaven? All the stuff that was good to begin with. It’s a big-canvas historical drama that dares to be different by being complex and unusual, and altogether a textural masterpiece.
“Has there ever been a big expensive film about warring armies in which one side didn’t triumph absolutely? In which the loser wasn’t totally beaten down and slaughtered? I felt amazed and lifted up when this didn’t manifest…when life and sanity, in effect, is chosen over death and fanaticism.
“The 12th Century milieu feels entirely authentic, the big siege-of-Jerusalem battle scene totally aces Peter Jackson’s similar third-act sequence in Return of the King, there are fine supporting performances throughout (especially from Jeremy Irons and a masked Edward Norton), and William Monahan’s script, praise Allah, avoids a lot of black-and-white, good-and-evil stereotypes.
“I suppose that the political attitude of this film — respectful and even admiring of the Muslims, contemptuous of the arrogant Christian attitudes that led to war — is partly what I love about Kingdom of Heaven.
“It’s obviously an impassioned f.u. to the Bush administration’s rationale for being in Iraq. It addresses the fundamental folly of being an occupier, and in fact offers an honorable solution for those who find themselves in this situation.”