A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has several one-on-one fight scenes, as well as extreme and explicit battle violence, including sword-fighting, head-chopping, limbs-lopping, impaling, fiery catapults firing, buildings and bodies burning, and blood spurting. The film includes a euphemistic reference to the fact that the hero's father raped his mother (he says, "I knew your mother. To be courteous, I should say it was against her objections"), and various references to the Crusades (battles fought, warriors lost), as a backdrop for the hero's noble cause (he wants to bring Muslims and Christians together, contrary to the desires of all devout folks on all sides). Characters drink wine in goblets. The film includes a romance between the hero and the good king's sultry sister, who is also married to the bad king (this relationship leads to a passionate kiss that fades out before explicit sex). The leprous good king wears a silver mask throughout the film; after his death, the mask is removed to reveal his diseased, caved-in face (an image that might alarm some younger viewers).
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What's the story?
Good-hearted, hardworking blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) learns that his long-absent father is a Crusader, Baron Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson). Mourning the recent suicide of his wife, Balian kills a local priest who refers to her as a sinner. This puts Balian on the run. He seeks the aid of his father, who is en route to Jerusalem, where Balian plans to seek forgiveness for himself and his wife. Along the way, Godfrey trains Balian in sword-fighting and predicts he will be a warrior.
Is it any good?
As these characters represent various civilian or military factions and religious beliefs, this brutal drama also delivers an anachronous "message" with weight for America's current wars. That is, Balian makes speeches about everyone getting along and no one having a singular claim to Jerusalem, even as he vows to fight to protect the people who live there against the Muslims who mean to win it back (the previous battle is reported to have left thousands dead).
Still, the film must lead to the 1187 siege of Jerusalem (here brought on by Baldwin's death and Guy's ascendance to the throne; he immediately picks a fight with the Muslims), and Balian must appear to be valiant and morally sound. While the battle scenes are vast and the landscapes are breathtaking, the movie contorts history and political context to achieve these ends. Though the onetime blacksmith tells his own fighters that the history of the place is not their fault ("None of us took this city from the Muslims!"), he also leads the bloody fight to keep the Muslims out.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's representation of Muslims (those with speaking parts are virtuous, but those who serve as anonymous invaders of Jerusalem are shown to be barbarous and/or hacked up).
. Families might also talk about the ugly legacy of the Crusades, and the trivialization of the subject matter here.
How does the movie show Balian's courage as an effort to protect a population, compared to the vainglorious ambitions of Guy and Reynald?
How is Balian's friendship with Nasir a model for reaching across cultures to make peace?