Robin Hood

Ridley Scott’s difficult epic finally reaches movie theaters after several failed attempts at reincarnating the infamous legend of Robin Hood.  The laborious project began as an investigation thriller under the title of “Nottingham,” and took the perspective of the Sheriff of Nottingham tracking the hits of the mysterious Robin Hood and his merry men.  The script was later altered to cast Russell Crowe as both Robin Hood and as the sheriff in disguise.  Finally, the movie delivered to audiences strips away a lot of its artistry and does much the same as ‘Iron Man 2:’ it exists purely and simply to ready a different, seemingly more exciting movie altogether, with little ability to stand on its own legs.

This take on the famed archer features Russell Crowe doing his very best Russell Crowe-in-Gladiator impression as a soldier named Robin Longstride, sent to deliver the sword of a fallen comrade to the man’s father in Nottingham.  Upon meeting Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow), the elderly sightless fighter adopts Robin as his replacement son and forces an appearance-marriage on Robin and his daughter-in-law, Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett).  Things get sticky when the newly appointed King John (Oscar Issac) decides to lay siege to all lands that refuse an unlawful tax.  Robin and William Marshal (William Hurt), the former ruler’s adviser, take it upon themselves to dupe the king into a civil war against his most trusted military adviser (Mark Strong) that ultimately leads up to a battle of macho butchery.  Now I have to ask: does this sound like Robin Hood to you in the slightest?

No, it does not.  This prequel of sorts spends 99 percent of its running time attempting to establish a franchise, and one that I don’t think audiences are going to buy into.  Granted, at surface value, the idea of reteaming Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe for a Gladiator-esque epic sounds like a grand idea.  Their collaboration on “Robin Hood,” however, takes a devastating blow.  Scott seems intent on mixing fact with fiction, setting Robin in the middle of the Crusades as a soldier put to death for standing against his king, and having him escape only to deliver a sword and take part in a final throwdown of steel.  A lot of this feels like “Gladiator,” and the problem is that it doesn’t feel like “Robin Hood.”  This film is simply a generic Crusades epic that may only be marginally better than Scott’s own “Kingdom of Heaven.”  I read a miniature review stating that Crowe still thinks he’s on the set of Gladiator, and Scott still thinks he’s directing Kingdom of Heaven–and I honestly couldn’t agree more.  I’m all for Ridley and the studio wanting to turn Robin Hood into a trilogy or series or whatever they want, but they forgot to make it exciting and fresh.  “Robin Hood” continuously falls flat when trying to advance the story, while the action and supporting actors work their magic to hold our interest.  This installment’s greatest drawback is the lacking parallels to what audiences know and expect from a Robin Hood film and what Ridley Scott has put together here.

Walking out of the film, I wanted to say I enjoyed it as a passable action epic filled with mostly good performances, but upon closer inspection I felt as though I had been duped.  The couple of battle sequences in this film are quite good–very bloody and violent, especially for a PG-13 rating–but once the dust settles on the plot and characters culminating this project, nothing holds up.  Robin Hood is supposed to be a character who robs from the rich and gives to the poor.  As written by Brian Helgeland, directed by Ridley Scott, and interpreted through a miscast Russell Crowe, he’s a complete bore of hero with confused motivations.  The movie spends its gritty time treading through uninteresting back story before finally declaring: “This man is an outlaw!”  Then before the credits role we read: “And so the legend begins…”  All the action, gorgeous cinematography, and amazing set design can’t quite compensate for a hollow hero and a lacking story that was constructed to postpone the movie audiences are thinking they’re paying to see, but will probably never witness (since I don’t think a sequel will actually surface).  The idea of a prequel might have worked if the backstory had actually been engaging, exciting, interesting, etc. and containing familiar elements of the well-known character.  Unfortunately, “Robin Hood” mostly lulls along, splicing a few impressive battle sequences into a bare-bones plot, providing a movie about the infamous character that I don’t think anyone would care to see.  If it is marginally enjoyed, it is because viewers, like me, will be forced to forget this is a movie about “Robin Hood” until the end credits.

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