“Kingdom of Heaven,” Ridley Scott’s tale of love, honor and intrigue during the Crusades, is as impressively vast and immaculately detailed as you’d expect from the Oscar-nominated director of “Gladiator.”

The cinematography from Scott’s frequent collaborator, John Mathieson, is exquisite – almost painterly.

It’s a feast for the eyes. There’s just nothing moving about it. And at more than two hours, the film feels like it’s lurching interminably from one visceral combat sequence to the next, until they all blend together.

Beneath the long, scraggly hair and patchy facial scruff, Orlando Bloom is all doe-eyed idealism as a blacksmith-turned-reluctant-warrior, though you’d scarcely know from watching this movie – which takes place between the Second and Third Crusades – that the warring was over anything remotely religious. This is an action movie with a sprinkling of romance. Don’t kid yourselves otherwise.

Bloom’s character, Balian, has salvation in mind, though, when he leaves his small French town and agrees to join the father he never knew, the knight Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson), in Jerusalem.

Balian’s wife killed herself and their child. When a priest belittles her posthumously, Balian stabs him, shoves him in the fire in his blacksmith shop, then yanks the cross from the priest’s neck as he burns to death.

“I have lost my religion,” Balian says in the script from William Monahan, as if he’s quoting an R.E.M. song, and figures he has some atoning to do on everyone’s behalf.

But soon after he arrives in Jerusalem, Ibelin dies, leaving Balian his knighthood and his legacy and thrusting him in the midst of an uneasy detente between the Christians – led by the masked King Baldwin, who suffers from leprosy – and Muslim leader Saladin (Ghassan Massoud).

He’s also the target of scheming and manipulation by Baldwin’s growling military adviser, Tiberias (Jeremy Irons); the warmongering baron Guy de Lusignan (Martin Csokas); and the generally angry Reynald of Chatillon (Brendan Gleeson), who resembles a punk-rock version of the Cowardly Lion with his magenta-tinged mane.

And for a man who’s supposed to be mourning his deceased wife, he hops into bed way too quickly with the beautiful Princess Sibylla (Eva Green from “The Dreamers”), the wife of Guy de Lusignan, who seduces him pretty much from the moment he hits town.

But Balian eventually adopts a noble demeanor and proves himself a natural leader as feuds erupt with the Muslims. How the young blacksmith has such vast knowledge of military strategy is sort of vague – perhaps it’s in his DNA, or he read Sun Tzu – but he does make especially effective use of catapults and fireballs.

After a while it’s almost unclear what they’re fighting for, the bloodshed and the repeated clang of metal on metal becomes so numbing. And after last year’s “Troy” and “Alexander,” “Kingdom of Heaven” feels like yet another big-budget historical epic.

Part of the reason the film fails to connect is in the casting of Bloom as its hero. The actor who became a heartthrob with his graceful presence as Legolas the archer elf in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy isn’t intimidating enough to play a butt-kicking warrior; he’s just too pretty.

It’s the kind of role that would have been a perfect fit five or 10 years ago for “Gladiator” star Russell Crowe. Actually, it would still be easy to imagine Crowe in the part now.


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