Skip to comments."Kingdom of Heaven" movie review.
Posted on 05/22/2005 7:01:19 PM PDT by TradicalRC
The Kingdom of Self-Hate
Kingdom of Heaven is spectacular, silly, historically inaccurate, unwittingly funny, badly scripted, and pretentious. So far, so conventional, you may say: just another Hollywood big-budget yarn a la DeMille and Troy. What makes Ridley Scott's epic about the Crusades different is a political message more insidious than the standard leftist-revisionist pap we've been fed by Tinseltown for decades. That message is that, in a conflict between Christians and Muslims, the former attack, the latter react. The true hero of the movie is Saladin, a wise warrior-king sans peur et sans reproche; its villains, the coarse and bloodthirsty Knights Templar.
The soap-opera storyline (go and see it for details) has the potential for great movie-making. What we get instead is Orlando Bloom rallying the defenders of Jerusalem with an oration in which he asserts that the holy city belongs to all three faiths equally. Saladin's captured sister is killed by Christians (a historical falsehood), but upon entering Jerusalem he nevertheless respectfully picks up a fallen cross (another fantasy). On such form, it is unsurprising that the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee praised the film as a "balanced" portrayal of the Crusades. Even the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a pro-terrorist front group based in Washington D.C., liked the movie. A spokesman for CAIR who remains unindicted as of this writing (unlike several of his colleagues) has said that "Muslims are shown as dignified and proud people whose lives are based on ethics and morality." A French actress whose contribution to the epic consists of flashing her sensual eyes in a dozen ways, boasted that the film will make all Muslims "extremely proud and happy, because they are seen as noble, chivalrous characters . . . [T]he Arab people behaved in a more noble way than the Christian people. Saladin was such a great character. He was the hero of his time."
Kingdom of Heaven does not tell you that the Crusades were defensive in nature, a reaction to the Muslim conquest, pillage, and enslavement of two thirds of Christendom. It does not even hint at the fact that, a few generations earlier, Christianity had covered, outside Europe, the ancient Roman province of Asia, extending across the Caucasus to the Caspian Sea, Syria with the Holy Land, and a wide belt of North Africa all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, most of the early medieval Christians lived not in Europe but in Asia Minor and Africa, which gave us countless fathers and martyrs. Unleashed on this world as the militant faith of a nomadic war band, Islam turned its boundary with the outside world into a perpetual war zone. The early attack on Christendom almost captured Constantinople when that city was still the most important center of the Christian world. But the Muslims also conquered Spain, and, had they not been stopped at Tours, the Koran in Gibbon's memorable phrase might have been taught in the schools of Oxford to a circumcised people.
The Crusades were but a temporary setback to Islamic expansion. But they have provided the source of endless arguments within the Western academia that sought to establish some moral equivalence between Muslims and Christians at first, and eventually to use the Crusades as a tool to elevate the former to victimhood and condemn the latter as aggressors. This is a spectacular role-reversal to which Kingdom of Heaven makes an enthusiastic contribution. Historically, the aggressors were Muslims, coarse fighting men, accustomed to living by pillage and the exploitation of settled populations. Heaping loot and jizya (Koranically ordained poll tax from conquered non-Muslims) was the only means of making a living known to them. Theirs was an "expansionism denuded of any concrete objective, brutal, and born of a necessity in its past" (Ibn Warraq).
Islam provided a powerful ideological justification for such expansionism. The view of modern Islamic activists, that "Islam must rule the world and until Islam does rule the world we will continue to sacrifice our lives" is in perfect tune with traditional Islam."O Prophet! Rouse the Believers to the fight," the Koran orders, and promises that 20 Muslims, "patient and persevering," would vanquish 200 unbelievers; if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand (Koran, 8:65). Allah further orders the faithful to fight the unbelievers, and be firm with them: "And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter" (Koran, 2:191). The end of the fight is possible only when "there prevail justice and faith in Allah"(Koran, 2:193). Muhammad assured his flock that Allah guarantees to all jihadi warriors instant paradise in case of martyrdom, or "reward or booty he has earned": "Jihad is the best method of earning, both spiritual and temporal. If victory is won, there is enormous booty and conquest of a country, which cannot be equaled to any other source of earning. If there is defeat or death, there is everlasting Paradise and a great spiritual benefit."
Far from being wars of aggression, the Crusades were a belated military response of Christian Europe to over three centuries of Muslim aggression against Christian lands, the systemic mistreatment of the indigenous Christian population of those lands, and harassment of Christian pilgrims. The modern myth, so comprehensively propagated by the Kingdom of Heaven, has been promoted by Islamic propagandists for centuries and supported by their Western allies and apologists for decades. It claims that the peaceful Muslims, allegedly native to the Holy Land, were forced to take up arms in defense against European-Christian aggression. This myth takes A.D. 1095 as its starting point, but it ignores the preceding centuries, starting with the early caliphs, when Muslim armies swept through the Byzantine Empire, conquering about two thirds of the Christian world of that time.
The Muslim record of the preceding century was grim. In 1009, Hakem, the Fatimite Caliph of Egypt, ordered the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre and all the Christian establishments in Jerusalem. For years thereafter, Christians were persecuted even more cruelly than in the early period of Muslim rule. In 1065, thousands of Christian pilgrims who had crossed Europe under the leadership of Günther, Bishop of Bamberg, while on their way through Palestine, had to seek shelter in a ruined fortress where they defended themselves against Muslim attackers, in violation of earlier pledges that they would enjoy safe access to the holy sites. The rise of the Seljuk Turks compromised even the tenuous safety of Christian pilgrims. They conquered Armenia and Asia Minor, where their descendants still live. In 1070 they took Jerusalem, and in 1071 Diogenes, the Greek emperor, was defeated and made captive at Mantzikert. Syria was the next to become the prey of the Turks. Antioch succumbed in 1084, and by 1092 not one of the great metropolitan sees of Asia remained in the possession of the Christians.
In spite of the Great Schism of 1054, the Byzantine emperors deemed the renewed threat from the east serious enough to seek help from Rome. The battle of Manzikert was the indirect cause of the Crusades, heralding Byzantium's loss of control in Asia Minor. In 1073, letters were exchanged between Emperor Michael VII and Pope Gregory VII, who planned to send an army of 50,000 men to repulse the Turks. Gregory's successor, Urban II, took up those plans and convened a council at Clermont-Ferrand. A great number of knights and men of all conditions came and encamped on the plain of Chantoin, outside the city. On November 27, 1095, the Pope himself addressed the assembled multitudes, exhorting them to go forth and rescue the Holy Sepulchre. Amid cries of Deus hoc vult!God wills it!all pledged themselves by vow to depart for the Holy Land and received the cross of red cloth to be worn on the shoulder. The Pope sent letters to various courts, and the movement made rapid headway throughout Europe. The first detachments to leave Europe were poorly led, however, undisciplined, under-funded, destitute of equipment, prone to plunder of Christian lands they were crossing, and they ultimately met with disaster:
One of these bands, headed by Folkmar, a German cleric, was slaughtered by the Hungarians. Peter the Hermit, however, and the German knight, Walter the Pennyless (Gautier Sans Avoir), finally reached Constantinople with their disorganized troops. To save the city from plunder, Alexius Comnenus ordered them to be conveyed across the Bosphorus (August 1096); in Asia Minor they turned to pillage and were nearly all slain by the Turks. Meanwhile, the regular crusade was being organized in the West and, according to a well-conceived plan, the four principal armies were to meet at Constantinople.
Peter the Hermit was the most effective of preachers, and the lines of battle were clearly drawn: It was us against them, Christendom against the "Evil Empire of Mahound." The driving impulse was not that of conquest and aggression, but of recovery and defense, and liberation of the Christians who still in many places constituted the majority of the population. The Crusades were not Christendom's answer to Caliph Umar, they were a reaction to what he and his successors had done to Christians.
By May 1097, the armies were assembled, but many misunderstandings between the Greeks and the Latin Christians soon emerged. After an early victory over the Turks at the battle of Dorylæum on July 1, 1097, the Crusaders advanced through Asia Minor, constantly harassed by Muslims, suffering from heat, and sinking under the weight of their armor. They rested and recuperated among the Armenians of the Taurus region, made their way into Syria, and on October 20, 1097, laid siege to the fortified city of Antioch. On the night of June 2, 1098, they took the city by storm, but subsequent plague and famine decimated their ranks.
Rest, replenishment of men and supplies, and recuperation of worn-out survivors continued through the winter. It was not until April 1099 that the Crusader army marched on to Jerusalem, and on June 7 besieged the city. The attack began July 14, 1099 and the next day the Crusaders entered Jerusalem from all sides and slew its inhabitants. The soldiers of the Church Militant on this occasion proved that they could not only outfight but also out-massacre their Mohammedan foes. Further victories soon followed: In 1112, with the aid of Norwegians and the support of Genoese, Pisan, and Venetian fleets, Crusaders began the conquest of the ports of Syria, which was completed in 1124 by the capture of Tyre. Ascalon alone kept an Egyptian Muslim garrison until its fall in 1153.
The Crusades were initially successful because Islam was by no means a monolithic body-politic. The caliphate's authority was purely notional: Egypt was under the rule of the Fatimids, a Shi'ite sect, while the Sunni Turks from central Asia were gaining the upper hand in Shi'ite Persia, as well as Iraq, Syria, and Palestine. By the beginning of the "Glorious Twelfth," the Christian states-the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Countship of Tripoli, the Principality of Antioch, and the Countship of Edessa-controlled an unbroken but tenuously held belt of territory roughly corresponding to the Fertile Crescent between the Euphrates and the Sinai. It was long and thin: the preoccupation with the holy places and ports precluded any serious attempt to develop strategic depth, or to create a viable local economic and demographic base for the new Christian states.
The necessity of defending these fragile Outremer domains, coupled with the lack of reliable local recruits, resulted in the creation of the religious orders of knighthood: the Hospitallers and the Templars. They attracted the younger sons of feudal houses and acquired both in Palestine and in Europe considerable property. Their bravery and discipline-allegedly but unprovenly cemented by certain unspeakable practices within the Templar brotherhood-could not compensate for the Crusader states lack of cohesion and discipline, however. The help they received from the West was too scattered and intermittent. The Principality of Edessa was the first to succumb to the Muslim counteroffensive on Christmas Day 1144, and Damascus fell in 1154.
I'm going to see it because I love Ridley Scott movies, spectacles, and all that fun stuff. I will laugh at the PC junk. I will also laugh at those who expect movies to be historically accurate, when we can't even get TEACHERS to be historically accurate.
Wh-wha-WHAT? Rambo WASN'T accurate??!?
"Kingdom of Heaven" was a good movie. I hope you enjoy it. I know I did. :-)
I posted this a couple days ago BTW.
Thank you for sharing, though.
When, oh when will we stop underestimating the power of visual media to shape opinion?
He is good. I've liked a lot of his stuff, though I never bothered with Thelma and Louise.
One thing I dislike about some critics is that each character in a movie represents their gender or ethnicity, and, say, if a female character does a bad thing the director is saying ALL women are bad. I prefer to think about these movies as being individual stories. In this one it's about two rebels who are leaving their stifling lives, so I didn't feel it was as bad as I'd been led to believe.
Kingdom of Heaven aside, Scott is a pretty conservative guy by Hollywood standards.
Sorry. I never see stuff from these guys get posted so I didn't bother checking. Damn you're good.
"You folks who are getting so hysterical over a movie is embarrassing."
Have you read "Hollywood Party?"
Have you read the Bible?
"Have you read the Bible?"
Yes, but I don't see where it bears directly on your point.
That's because Hollywood hates nothing like it hates Christ.
It's basically the Peace Corps goes to the Middle East.
Most of the pieces from Chronicles don't conform to the neo-con orthodoxy on this board. I imagine they will eventually be banned as pieces from lewrockwell.com are. In fact pieces by the late Samuel Francis are banned here.
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