When I first read about the plot summary of Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven at Cinfex.com many months ago while it was still pretty much in production, the immediate thought that crossed my mind was a biased one; how will the filmmakers portray the legendary military general Saladin ? My impressions were swayed in the direction that he would be misrepresented as a tyrant, merciless in his war against the crusaders, given the many instances in past Hollywood films where Muslims are often depicted as terrorists or religious extremists, ie the bad guys. Certainly I am no expert in the history of the Crusade but in watching this film a little background knowledge in the real history behind the story really does make the film significantly more enriching. ( perhaps this is the reason my classmates found the film largely boring, having never heard of Saladin nor the Crusade. )
For example, the famous scene where Saladin offers the king his physicians is a big nod to a real historical event, although it was offered to Richard the Lionheart ( the guy who announces himself the king of England at the end of the film ) rather than Baldwin ( the leper King ). Saladin was also known in history as a chivalric and merciful leader who generally left the Crusader Kingdom – Jerusalem – alone until the Crusaders repeatedly provoked him, attacking caravans of pilgrims, including one, yes, where his sister was travelling in. When they opened Saladin’s treasury after his death they found there was not enough money to pay for his funeral; he had given his money away to those in need.