I can’t recall any “non-blockbuster” type movie as over-hyped as The Kingdom. I began seeing trailers for this way back in June. Besides the commercials and full-page ads, last Friday I picked up a copy of the L.A. Times only to discover it wrapped in an immense, two-page ad for — you guessed it — The Kingdom.
Starring Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner, the film tells the story of a crack FBI investigative team seeking to explore a deadly crime scene involving suicide bombers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (The Kingdom). However, the Saudi government is reluctant to allow more Westerners into the country, leading to inter-cultural frictions and back-stage politicking. Though drawing upon current events, in many ways the film appears to be just another CSI-style action flick.
Unless the producers are pushing for Oscar consideration, I’m wondering what’s so special about this film to garner so much pre-release hype. According to this report in the New York Times, “Universal. . . spent more than $70 million to make the movie and will invest tens of millions more to market it.” Gee, is it that good?
Because of the current political sensitivities surrounding America’s role in the Middle East and growing scrutiny of the religion of Islam, my hunches were that the early pub was part of a process of disarming potential political volatility. My suspicions were confirmed when I stumbled upon this early review from Smart-Popcorn.com:
The films allusions of depth come not from politics or a subtext of war criticism or the futility of terrorism but rather more facile references to how Americans and Saudis and even terrorists are all just people with families to protect and care for. Thus why we have a few uncomfortable scenes where Jamie Foxx is established as a loving doting dad, scenes where his Saudi counterpart Col. Al Ghazi is seen caring for his two sons and even a scene of a terrorist comforting and teaching his young son about Jihad and American imperialism.
The aforementioned New York Times article also noted:
In editing â€œThe Kingdom,â€ Mr. Berg [Director] said he tinkered only slightly to keep the movieâ€™s sympathies from straying into a zone that might seem unacceptably anti-Muslim or pro-Western. A softer scene, for instance, portrays a Muslim family praying. It went in and out of the movie several times, Mr. Berg said, but finally remained in, as necessary leavening.
Necessary leavening? Is Hollywood so concerned about world opinion that it must carefully avoid any “pro-Western” slant? No matter that Saudi Arabia — the Kingdom — is one of the worst violators of human rights on earth. Why not a movie that shows SA for what it is, rather than one afraid to appear “anti-Muslim”? Not coincidentally, the Saudi government refused Berg’s requests to film his “non pro-Western” movie there, forcing the Director and his cast to less hostile confines. . . like Arizona. Go figger.
Just how much of the excessive hype is political, I’m unsure. Still, I’m incredibly uncomfortable with films that attempt to draw moral equivalence between Americans and jihadists. Hopefully, Universal is not spending “tens of millions” to regurgitate the same politically correct junk. But I won’t hold my breath. I mean, God forbid we portray suicide bombers as the bad guys.