Robin Hood

2010-05-20 15:05
 
Robin Hood

What it's about:

Telling the story of Robin Hood before he became legendary for "stealing from the rich and giving to the poor", we find Robin Langswood in the service of King Richard the Lionheart when things quickly spiral out of control as the king is killed in battle and Robin finds himself in possession of the fallen king's crown and a knight's sword that would forever change his destiny.

What we thought:

As the credits rolled after nearly two and a half hours of Ridley Scott's rather original take on the Robin Hood legend, I was left with a single thought - a single thought that sums up everything good and bad about the film: Man, I would love to see what Sir Ridley could do with the real Robin Hood story.

The film may be called Robin Hood but it is essentially Robin Hood Begins. When you consider just how many versions there have been of this immortal tale of the ultimate outlaw, Scott's decision to try something different with it has to be admired. Even more impressively, it is hard to believe that it hasn't been attempted before. It's such a brilliantly simple idea: by exploring the historical context from which the legend of Robin Hood was born, we get a far better understanding of the character, the world he inhabits and what motivates a good man to act well outside the letter of the law.

That was, I'm sure, at least the theory behind it. Unfortunately Robin Hood's greatest failing is that, however good the premise might have seemed on paper, it just didn't transition very successfully onto celluloid. It obviously wasn't for a lack of trying either.

After the meandering mediocrity of Ridley Scott's last film, Body of Lies, it's good to see the legendary director of such masterpieces as Blade Runner and Thelma and Louise (mostly) back on form. Despite the film's overstretched running time, Scott keeps the film moving and ensures that boredom simply doesn't even become a factor. Most notably, this being an epic historical drama, he once again gets to showcase his near-peerless status as a genuinely visionary director.

I'm as big fan of quieter, less showy indie fare as the next film geek but there is something to be said for the sheer spectacle of Ridley Scott's filmmaking at his best. Throughout the film, we are treated to sweeping vistas, hyper-kinetic battle scenes and a stunning array of impressive visual tricks, most especially around Robin Hood's trademark skills with a bow and arrow.

On the acting side too, Robin Hood never fails to impress. Aside for Matthew Macfadyen as the Sherriff of Nottingham - who simply didn't stand a chance of escaping the shadow that the great Alan Rickman cast over the character with that unforgettable performance in The Prince of Thieves - everyone is perfectly cast. Russell Crowe is gruffer than most previous Robin Hoods but he still brings a likability and charm that serves the character well, never more so in his scenes with Cate Blanchett who is unsurprisingly excellent as a much more take-charge Lady Marion. The rest of the impressive cast fares little worse with William Hurt, again giving an understated but very memorable performance as the king's estranged adviser and, as the main villain, we have yet another deliciously sinister performance from the busiest actor in Hollywood, Mark Strong (Kick-Ass, Sherlock Holmes, Endgame).                            

It's a tremendous pity, then, that for all of its good intentions and for all the things that the film does get right, Robin Hood never escapes its uneven and underwhelming plot. England was clearly going through a very interesting part of its history during this period and the film does a moderately good job of portraying that. The problem is that Robin Hood often feels like a bit player in his own movie. There are, in effect, two different films going on at once. One a sweeping epic about the intrigue, the politics and the warfare that defined this period, the other a far more intimate, low key story about the Robin Hood himself, and while the two may intersect at times, they never really mesh. Personally, I enjoyed the latter aspects of the film more and felt distracted by the larger story that didn't involve our titular hero. I'm sure others will feel the opposite but I would be surprised if anyone becomes invested in both stories equally.     

In the end, Robin Hood ultimately felt like an overlong pre-credits sequence of a much better film and while it might be OK for that, I do hope to eventually see the rest of the movie done by these same very talented people. Or, at least, these same very talented people but with the addition of Alan Rickman in the role he was born to play.


Is it possible to tell a convincing origins story of one of the most legendary outlaws of all time? Ridley Scott makes a worthwhile attempt.

Preshen Govender 2010/05/13 4:29 PM
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The Kevin Costner version was better
alda 2010/05/18 12:07 PM
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Excellent movie. Loved the fight scenes
CraigMac 2010/05/20 9:53 AM
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Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! Much better than Iron Man 2 or Clash of the Titans! Well worth watching - loved the fact that it is almost like a prequel showing where Robin Hood came from.
LK 2010/06/18 11:20 AM
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Thought it was a brilliant movie. But I do agree that Alan Rickman just would have made it that more brilliant! Russel Crowe was once again doing what he does best... the more historical movies really suits him the best! A must see for Robin Hood fans
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