The Kingdom Of Heaven: Director’s Cut dramatically improved Ridley Scott’s 2005 historical epic – here’s why the new cut is better. Ridley Scott had long wanted to make an epic exploring the Crusades and Kingdom Of Heaven follows Balian (Orlando Bloom) as he travels with knight father to the kingdom of Jerusalem. Balian hopes to gain redemption for the spirit of his wife, who recently committed suicide, and for his own sins.
The studio felt Kingdom Of Heaven was too long and complicated for general audiences, and asked Scott to trim around 45 minutes from it. While the movie still functioned as a historical action movie, cutting out key subplots and character beats ended up making the story feel hollow. These re-edits also placed more of a focus on Balian, and while Orlando Bloom delivers a good performance in the role, the movie suffered from this narrow focus.
Thankfully, the studio allowed Scott to assemble a Kingdom Of Heaven: Director’s Cut, which restored the missing 45 minutes. The difference in quality between the two versions proved shocking to critics and fans. The added context and subplots corrected a lot of problems with the theatrical version and allowed viewers to enjoy the great performances, production design, and epic battle scenes.
The first major change is explaining that the priest (Michael Sheen) responsible for burying Balian’s wife, and stealing her cross, is actually his half-brother. Another added scene with Balian at his wife’s graveside featured his half-brother taunting him and mocking his passive nature, which later explains why Balian finally snaps and murders him. While these scenes are short, they greatly fleshed out Balian’s character and explain why the normally passive character suddenly commits murder.
Another major addition to Kingdom Of Heaven: Director’s Cut is a subplot revealing Sibylla (Eva Green) has a young boy. Sibylla is Balian’s love interest, sister of the leper King Baldwin and wife of Guy de Lusignan, who wishes to incite war against the Muslims. Sibylla’s dislike of her husband is apparent in the theatrical version, but for some reason, she supports his war efforts after King Baldwin dies. Ridley Scott's director’s cut explains her son was actually next in line to be king, and with Guy leaving her little choice, she essentially sacrifices the kingdom her brother was trying to build to ensure his safety. Tragically, she soon discovers her son is also a leper and euthanizes him to spare her child the pain her brother suffered.
This arc is key to the Sibylla character and its loss in the theatrical cut hurt the movie. The Kingdom Of Heaven: Director’s Cut also paces the movie much better, giving the story room to breathe and properly setting up the various conflicts, unlike the rushed approached of the theatrical version. Balian’s decision to turn down the King’s offer to marry his sister, which would have resulted in Guy’s execution, carries much more weight and supporting players like David Thewlis’ Hospitaller are fleshed out. The final swordfight between Balian and Guy following the surrender of Jerusalem doesn’t feel strictly necessary, but it’s a nice payoff to the rivalry between the two.
Kingdom Of Heaven: Director’s Cut turned a disappointing historical epic in one of Ridley Scott’s best movies. Just like Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut the improvements are dramatic, but sadly, Kingdom Of Heaven still reminds one of Ridley Scott’s most unsung movies.