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Kingdom of Heaven tops UK & US box office despite mixed critical reaction

Compiled by: Jack Foley

SIR Ridley Scott's Crusades epic, Kingdom of Heaven, has topped the UK and US Box Office in its first week of release.

The film, which stars Orlando Bloom, posted strong figures in its first week of release in the UK, and took an estimated $20m (£10.5m) at the US over the weekend.

However, its US takings were not enough to lift Hollywood from its current box office slump, where takings for the last 11 weekends have been down compared with the same period last year.

Kingdom of Heaven's $20m is also being viewed as a relatively poor performance for one of the summer's first blockbusters, given that in the same weekend last year, Van Helsing took $52m, while the likes of X-Men 2 made $86m in 2003 and Spider-Man opened with $115m in 2002.

The critical reaction has also been mixed in both countries, with as many negative reviews as positives.

The New Yorker, for instance, wrote that: "One imagined that a movie about the Crusades would be gallant and mad; one feared that it might stoke some antiquated prejudice. But who could have dreamed that it would produce this rambling, hollow show about a boy?"

While the Globe and Mail lamented that 'no one should be offended except, of course, those who like movies that excite the mind as well as the pulse'.

But the Hollywood Reporter opined that 'Kingdom fulfills the requirements of grand-scale moviemaking while serving as a timely reminder that in the conflict between Christianity and Islam it was the Christians who picked the first fight'.

And Variety described it as 'genuinely spectacular and historically quite respectable'.

More encouraging was the fact that Scott's epic has largely been welcomed in the Arab world, many of whom praised it for doing away with traditional Muslim stereotypes.

Lebanese author, Amin Maalouf, declared that 'Kingdom of Heaven goes against religious fanaticism very clearly', while Egyptian film critic, Tarek al-Shenawy, was pleased to report that 'the aim of the film is to heal wounds, not reopen them'.

Given that there had been much concern that the epic would heighten tension in the current climate, with many feeling a sense of relief that the film did not appear damaging in any way.

Deana Elimam, an Egyptian-American critic, for instance, said that 'my impression is that the historical sequences were fairly accurate. The spirit of those times is there'.

While other declared that 'it is enough that he [Scott] presents an image in which there is some balance'.

Given the pre-release controversy surrounding the film, and its harsh battle violence, distributor, Twentieth Century Fox, is 'delighted' with the global reaction to it, both in terms of box office and critical support.

Aside from America, the film also took $56m (£29.7m) in other parts of the world, including the UK.

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