OH, GOD. Such was our first thought when we saw a particular article in today's edition of The Washington Times, which informed us that British academics have "savaged" a film director for making a bad movie about the Crusades. As we learn from reading the article, that is not an inaccurate word to use:
Oscar-nominated director Ridley Scott was savaged by senior British academics yesterday over his forthcoming film, which they say "distorts" the history of the Crusades to portray Arabs in a favorable light.
The $135 million film, which stars Orlando Bloom, Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson, is described by the makers as being "historically accurate" and designed to be "a fascinating history lesson."
However, academics — including Britain's leading authority on the Crusades, Jonathan Riley-Smith — attacked the plot of "Kingdom of Heaven," describing it as "rubbish," "ridiculous," "complete fiction" and "dangerous to Arab relations ..."
Well, we suppose we can scotch this particular film off our viewing list, given A) our penchant for true history; and B) that Dr Riley-Smith says, in so many words, that the movie is flawed in nearly all respects. From the Times, here's more on the movie's plot:
... The script depicts Baldwin's brother-in-law, Guy de Lusignan, who succeeds him as King of Jerusalem, as "the archvillain." A further group, "the Brotherhood of Muslims, Jews and Christians," is introduced, promoting an image of cross-faith kinship. "They were working together," the film's spokesman said. "It was a strong bond until the Knights Templar cause friction between them."
Gad. Look -- don't get us wrong. We very much approve when folks of differing traditions work together. But this doesn't sound anything like the Crusades. This sounds like some sort of zany screwball comedy!
Say. That gives us an idea.
Why not throw in a Buddhist monk along with this brotherhood? He can deliver important-sounding wisdom when the hot-headed Christian (Owen Wilson) makes the inevitable call for violent action against the Templars. And then, later in the film, our heroes can stop the fighting by organizing a rap concert! (1)
Oh, we can see it now.
KING GUY: There lies the enemy! ST JAMES AND AT -- ! (2)
RAYMOND of TRIPOLI: My lord king! Do you not hear that sweet singing from yonder plain below?
KING GUY: Well, as a matter of fact --
BALIAN of IBELIN: Dude! It's the Black-Eyed Peas!
(CRUSADERS halt, murmuring among themselves.)
KING GUY: Oh. Well. Yes, I suppose that could very well be the hit sensation sweeping America playing below the Horns of Hattin. Might I remind you we're fighting for Jerusalem?
RAYMOND of TRIPOLI: M'lord! How can we fight with the glorious strains of "Where is the Love?" ringing in our ears?
KING GUY: Never mind! What part of "extreme danger from angry foreign army" don't you get?
BALIAN of IBELIN: Dude! The Old Man's down there partying! We can score some killer weed!
KING GUY: What! Look here! I order you to ...
BALIAN of IBELIN: (to Crusaders) It's a free concert! A FREE CONCERT!
(CRUSADERS drop their weapons and rush down the hill. In their haste, THE TRUE CROSS is knocked aside and topples. Meanwhile, in SALADIN'S CAMP, a similar situation is at hand).
SALADIN: Observe the Crusaders! Stand ready! Now -- give the devil the lie -- ! (3)
TAKI ed-DIN: Sir! A Buddhist monk has conveniently arrived as you prepare to smash the infidel!
SALADIN: Do make it quick, would you?
BUDDHIST MONK: My lord. "Hatred is never appeased by hatred. Hatred is only appeased by love. This is an eternal law." (4)
(concert music drifts over to camp)
SALADIN: Gee, they're having a lot of fun over there, aren't they? And it wouldn't be noble to attack them while they're getting down in a totally righteous manner, now would it?
TAKI ed-DIN: What! Oh no. You've got to be kidding me.
SALADIN: Sorry, Taki. Let's go join them.
NARRATOR: And thus, it was on this day that both sides learned the value of peace. And everyone lived happily ever after. Well, until Constantinople got sacked in 1204. Hoo boy.
OK, so maybe these ideas wouldn't fit in with the rest of the film. But we're just offering them up. After all, if the movie is arguably complete fiction, why not go the full nine yards? (FIN)
HISTORICAL NOTES: In criticizing a movie based on historical accuracy, we realize the importance of providing well-researched historical facts for our readers, in addition to showing where we have taken a bit of license.
(1) This is a broad application of a theory first advanced by the writer M. Stanton Evans.
(2) As best we can tell, "St James and at 'em!" was not actually a medieval Frankish war cry, but rather a Spanish war cry during the Reformation.
(3) On the other hand, "Give the devil the lie!" was a war cry used by Saladin at the Battle of Hattin. See Runciman's "A History of the Crusades," vol. ii, p. 459.
(4) See the Pali Dhammapada, verse 5.