View Full Version : Believability of "historical" themed movies

09-20-2005, 03:47 PM
For my writing intensive class this semester, I have to do a 15-20 page paper. The class itself is called Historian's Craft. The basic idea is to do research as a historian and that sort of stuff. The subject I chose was how well Hollywood does it's "research". It goes without saying that Hollywood will fictionalize any and everything to sell a movie. But, I want to see how well the research is done and how much is fiction.

I am focusing in on one movie, Kingdom of Heaven, and the time period between the 2nd and 3rd crusades. I know alot so far as to what research I have done. I know that there is so much fiction in this movie that Ridley Scott had better do more homework and screenwriting next time.

So, what I would like to get from everyone that saw the movie is a poll as to what you believed as portrayed in the movie. Please, do not post anything regarding the acting of the...well...actors or how well the special effects were done. Think in terms of if you knew nothing of the crusades, what would you take as historical truth. Thanks for the help.

Edit: Please, if you would, specify why you voted the way you did.

09-21-2005, 07:55 AM
Kingdom of Heaven is a fairly good example of how hollywood works. (as is gladiator or braveheart). They do some research and pick out a few historical bullet points (names, places, specific events), then they create one of their generic plots (love story, revenge, etc.) and paste those historical bullet points into the blank spaces in the plot.

Which means there is often just enough truth to lend an air of authenticity to the proceedings, but its so selective and condensed (and in some cases altered) that its often fairly misleading.
And the fact its often told through the eyes of fictional characters also often adds to the distortion.

With KOH I think that most of the basic major characters were real, and most of the major battles portrayed actually occurred (though probably not unfolding in the way we saw them). Alot of the personal stuff (the stuff in france, bailan and the queen chick, etc..) was probably made up, and the fact they decided to try and make a hero of the guy who surrendered Jerusalem meant they had to twist a few things.

The one unusual thing about KOH was that they didn't completely carricature the "bad guys" as hollywood movies often do.

The wikipedia article on braveheart shows how much they changed int hat film: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braveheart#Historical_Relevance
I've tried to find a quote fromt he writer of that film that i remember, but i can't. It was something like: "I try not to let the facts get in the way of a good story".

I've just looked up the details on the accuracy of KOH (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Heaven_%28movie%29#Historical_accuracy) and i've actually found it to be MORE historically accurate than I expected.
As usual a lot of the romantic relationships have been inserted, and the characters ahve been altered or merged to make them more or less sympathetic (especially the main character), but i'm surprised to find a lot of the stuff about the two main bad guys was actually true.

I guess you could say that I'm now so sceptical of Hollywood movie's historical accuracy that I may be overestimating how bad they are. But I doubt i'm a typical viewer in that respect.

Coming from England doesn't help, as we always get screwed when hollywood re-writes history... ;)

El Sitherino
09-21-2005, 08:14 AM
Actually, I think a lot of countries are guilty of this, not just America.

Japan has had films that BS'd history, so has China.

09-21-2005, 03:15 PM
I havn't seen that film but I must say in the recent film about a some chap called Arthur, I'm not sure what it was called, it definatly had nothing to do with the well know legeandry king of England, anyway.... they really could have done with some sort of militry historian helping them. I thought most of the film was inacurate but the battle tactics were shocking.

09-21-2005, 03:29 PM
Well, you would be surprised about how much of actual history they used in KOH. Yeah, the crap in France and with the Sybilla (the queen) are just that. Also, Balian was much older. From what I read, Balian was closer to the age of Liam Neeson's character at the time of the movie. Also, he had his own family and the queen was definitely not his love interest. What I do like is that they did do their homework on Saladin.