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Robin Hood (2010) ***

May 14, 2010

written by:  Brian Helgeland, Ethan Reiff & Cyrus Voris
produced by:  Brian Grazer, Ridley Scott & Russell Crowe
directed by: Ridley Scott
Rated PG-13 (for violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content)
120 min.
U.S. release date: May 14th, 2010

It’s film number five for Russell Crowe and director Ridley Scott as they team-up for a new take on a character who has been brought to the big screen again and again but never quite like this. From Errol Flynn and Kevin Costner to Disney’s fox, the mythic character Robin Hood has stolen from the rich and giving to the poor in many manifestations. Thankfully this new film, simply titled “Robin Hood”, distances itself from those others by proposing a quasi-historical prequel. Scott brings a “Kingdom of Heaven” by way of  “Braveheart” vibe to the legend, delivering an effective look at a pre-outlaw Robin. While the film does suffer a bit from being a tad muddled, it would be an injustice to completely discount such an engaging and very capable cast guided by a proven director.
The Crusades are winding down and Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe), a nobleman and archer serving the army King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston), just wants to go home back to England. When Richard’s right-hand man, Robert of Loxley (Douglas Hodge), is murdered by French soldiers, Robin honors his request to take his sword back to his family in Nottingham. Not only does he take his sword but he also takes his name and his place and is soon thrust in battle between the Saxon barons, the power-hungry Prince John (Oscar Isaac) and a French invasion. Right away, it’s clear this a different Robin Hood then what audiences have come to know.

On his journey home, he is accompanied by loyal (if not merry) men consisting of Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes), Little John (Kevin Durand), and Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle), using the forests as their cover. Along their way, they encounter the treacherous ways of Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong), the right-hand of the newly-annointed King John, who is secretly working for the French. Upon arriving in Nottingham, Robin and his men are taken in by Robert’s blind father, Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow), and meet his widow, Marion (Cate Blanchett), both of whom captivate Robin and conjure a longing to remember who his father was. Walter states he can help fill in the blanks if continue as his son in order to protect the Loxley land from being taken by the King.
As Godfrey terrorizes the land in a maniacal swath of brutality, the northern Barons make their way to King John to demand the signing of a charter of rights (basically the Magna Carta). Realizing the battle for England’s future as eminent, Robin and the surrounding territories band together to deal with Godfrey and fight off the impending French forces.

ROBIN HOOD Mark Strong
This is not foreign territory for screenwriter Brian Helgeland, who had previously gone medieval with “A Knight’s Tale” and while he has some freedom with a prequel, there does seem to be perhaps too much going on here. The story is either too political or too battle-frenzied with not nearly enough characterization. Which is too bad since we find talented actors portraying interesting characters. Scott wants to include mainstays like Friar Tuck (Mark Addy) and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfayden) but doesn’t give either much to do. Well, except here Tuck has a thing for bee-keeping. Its hard to say what William Hurt is doing here and that’s sad. There’s just too many characters and not enough time given to flesh them out.

Despite those flaws, there’s no arguing that Scott is a master at this genre. He can stage epic battles whether they be with sandels or arrows. He benefits from injecting his film with a talented cast, one which knows they are adding a different take on familiar characters. We’re given another angle on these characters, with the most obvious difference being the ages of Robin and Marion. There will be many who complain about Crowe (46) and the always excellent Blanchett (41), saying they are too old yet I vehemently scoff at such a notion. This isn’t Tristan and Isolde after all, and I can’t recall a time when age played any jarring factor in the legend of Robin Hood, even when Sean Connery was playing an aging Robin.

ROBIN HOOD Russell Crowe Cate Blanchett
Any script shortcomings take a back seat to the talent and unlike the classic 1938 film, Crowe and Blanchett exude a believable chemistry. Although, they are forced together by circumstance, their growing mutual respect and eventual love for each other is obvious. That’s all we ask really. There’s no need for storybook love for these two in this “Robin Hood”, what with the fate of England upon them. Besides, their age brings to the film a welcome maturity. The years of experience brought to both their relationship and to the task of re-establishing England’s honor, grounds them in the reality of the moment.
With all the skeptics and naysayers already berating “another Robin Hood movie”, or cynical toward Scott and Crowe bringing anything different or new to this film….well, they probably won’t like this film. That’s because they’ve likely already made up their mind. They expect the same conventions of previous Robin Hood movies: tights, romance, light-hearted comedy with swashbuckling action, and when their expectations don’t meet what they see, they will write the film off. The same thing happened when the last James Bond film came out. Critics and fans were whining about the lack of Bond girls, gadgets and overall shaken and not stirred. I was baffled to find fans whining that they weren’t getting more of the same. Really? The whole idea of a reboot or, in this case, a retelling, is to take something familiar and shine a new light or possibly a new perspective.

ROBIN HOOD Russell Crowe Archer
With characters steeped in such mythic lore, it would be impossible to please everyone. All the more reason to respect and enjoy the idea of a prequel story, even if it’s stuffed with entirely too much. That’s nothing new for Scott though, seeing as how his extended cut of “Kingdom of Heaven” made much more sense than the theatrical cut. It will be interesting to see how this will be released on DVD. This all could have been much different and quite possibly worse though since the script Scott and Crowe were originally working with, entitled Nottingham, depicted a heroic Sheriff played by Crowe. Rumor has it Crowe was even supposed to have played both Robin AND the Sheriff. That kind of inversion would have been asking too much of the audience.

Having only recently seen Errol Flynn’s classic version for the first time, I had absolutely no embedded nostalgia going in to this film. Well, I do have a fond affinity for Disney’s animated adaptation but that’s a different animal altogether, pun intended. Knowing Scott and Crowe were at the helm and being a fan of the genre, I was eagerly anticipating this one while keeping my expectations to a minimum. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and could see revisiting this film any time. Although the script misses a bulls-eye, this remains a satisfying entry in the Robin Hood canon and gets high marks for romance, adventure and style from an acclaimed director.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    May 14, 2010 3:00 pm

    Hmmm…sounds like a worthwhile movie to me! Thanks for the review! 🙂

  2. Amy Stewart-Cooper permalink
    May 14, 2010 4:40 pm

    Thanks for the review! I’ve been very curious about this one because I really love historical dramas, do you think there’s enough history for my liking? I like the idea of a Robin Hood origin movie but since they treated it like a “prequel” it sounds like they may have left out a lot of legends that I might want to see, might this be a reboot? Still, I’m intrigued with the idea of Robin Hood being involved with Magna Carta.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      May 14, 2010 5:25 pm

      I think there is, especially if you know enough about both Robin Hood lore and the actual historical truth. It’s interesting to see what Scott and Helgeland are using and not using from both. I really woudn’t consider it a reboot. Scott is open to another but that is all talk at this time. NON-SPOILER ALERT: By the end of the film, he’s declared an outlaw and lives in Sherwood Forest with Marion and their crew.

  3. Amy Stewart-Cooper permalink
    May 14, 2010 6:23 pm

    I was just watching a show on Robin Hood, and the jail and dungeon in which legend said he was held is still there–and it’s being mapped. It seems as if there are plenty of tunnels that lead to Friar Tuck’s church, which is also still there and is just across the street. So Friar Tuck’s rescue of Robin Hood through secret tunnels is absolutely plausible, and would be fun to see in film! Is it in this movie? Or will I have to hope for a sequel. BTW, you know how much I hate sequels so for me to wish for a sequel is quite a statement!

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      May 14, 2010 6:46 pm

      No secret tunnels in the movie. If it wasn’t sequels you would never know who Luke’s father was or hear the command, “Kneel before Zod!”

  4. May 14, 2010 8:14 pm

    Very nicely written review, David. Enjoyed reading it.
    Btw, I have put a link to your website from my blog (can be seen in the right hand side of my blog under “OTHER MOVIE BLOGS”, so that anytime you make a new review, I can easily trace it. And my friends can access to your blog from mine too. Tq.

  5. augimatic permalink
    May 31, 2010 10:07 am

    It was entertaining for about a half hour. Then it just fell short. In short, it was just lame. Sorry if any of you guys liked it but all it was, was a semi cool idea on a different take on a well known story, but as far as the story, there was way too many gaps, too many things that were predictable and eventually, just boring, almost cheesy. At least I got to see the early show for 6.50

  6. Francesca Carboni Perry permalink
    May 31, 2010 3:08 pm

    I’m looking forward to this because I’m a sucker for the dynamic duo – Gladiator is a film I can put on every night and just let it wash over me. I know I’ll like it, I just hope on the next outing they find something more original. It’s a pity Michael Mann did Last of the Mohicans so toppingly, Crowe would have made a great Hawkeye….


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