Despite its drubbing at the B.O., “Kingdom of Heaven” is director Ridley Scott’s best film since “Gladiator,” combining an intelligent script which tackles the historical complexity of the Crusades, mostly top-notch cast and great visual beauty. Fox’s double-disc set, unfortunately, serves up several nifty features and a lot of filler.
Instead of the usual commentary track from director or stars, disc one offers “The Pilgrim’s Guide,” a text feature not unlike MTV’s Pop-Up Video. It’s a terrific idea for a movie based in a historical period the audience probably knows little about, and it does a thorough job of explaining the era and pointing out the real-life people the characters were based on.
The “Interactive Production Grid” on disc two purports to let the viewer control the moviemaking experience from the POV of director, crew, or cast through preproduction, filming, and postproduction. In reality, this is just another series of mini documentaries, but they are mostly worthwhile. Scott discusses how he chooses the length of his films by calculating how to avoid audience “bum-ache syndrome,” while scribe William Monahan observes, “You’re faithful to history as long as it plays.”
Lesser features include a generally shallow History Channel docu, which does include a tour of a still-standing Spanish Crusade-era castle; A&E’s “Movie Real” docu is much better, offering a scholarly look at the film’s issues. The four featurettes offer little of substance.