Robin Hood

Ask me nicely...”

This was a line that Director Ridley Scott and his screenwriter Brian Helgeland loved so much, that they used it twice in the just released Robin Hood. Both times it was spoken by Robin played by Russell Crowe.

But no matter how nicely they, or anyone else might ask me – I’m not going to be able to come up with a positive review.

To begin with, this is not your grandfather’s Robin Hood. And if you think you’ve read something similar from me before, you’d be right as I made the same stylized reference about last December’s Sherlock Holmes. The bad guy in that one was played by Mark Strong (below)who is the bad guy in this one too.

You see, this is not a re-imagined Robin Hood. This is a prequel – the story of how an ordinary bowman, or archer, a ‘grunt’ in the army of King Richard, whose name was Robin Longstride, came to be known later in life, and as legend has it, as Robin Hood.

This film ends with King John announcing that Robin has been declared as an outlaw – and death to any that help him. There’s a placard put up on-screen that reads, “And so the legend begins…”

This Scott film runs about 140 minutes. It isn’t the length that made it difficult to sit through, instead it was a number of other factors.

That’s Robin in the front, and Little John, at the end

First – there’s no humor at all in this film. The Merry Men, a scruffy lot to say the least, aren’t merry at all. Their high point is a night of carousing, drinking, and partying with the local wenches in Nottingham.
I’m fairly certain that Crowe’s Robin doesn’t smile even once in the entire film. Russell Crowe does a good job as this dour and taciturn ‘hero’. But he’s not all that likeable. He’s sort of a con man, something of an opportunist, and one to plot and scheme whenever he’s given the chance.

Second – the story wasn’t that easy to follow. There’s plenty of posturing by Robin, and by other assorted nobles and barons, including a nearly unrecognizable William Hurt as William Marshall, the most likable and honorable character in the film,  about freedom and liberty from tyranny and oppression (taxation). Didn’t we hear all of that in Braveheart?

Which brings us back to the first point and the second point again. For reasons that aren’t given any real depth, Robin is asked by Marian’s father-in-law, Walter Loxley, played beautifully by Max Von Sydow, to pose as his son Robert Loxley, for a while longer. This would include posing as Marian’s husband.

So, to make the play acting as husband and wife more realistic, Marian has to share her chambers with Robin. Marian, in this film is not Maid Marian, she is now a widow, and her married life lasted exactly one week, before her husband marched off with King Richard to fight in the Crusades in the Holy Land. And that was 10 years ago.

Anyway, Marian, played by Cate Blanchett, warns Robin, that despite them spending the night together, for appearance’s sake, that he is not welcome in her bed. In fact, she says, “I sleep with a dagger, and if you even try to touch me, I’ll cut off your manhood.”

Robin says, “Thanks for the warning.” But he says it with a flat delivery, without any irony, or sense of humor. And without even a hint of a smile. As I said, there’s no humor at all in the movie.

William Hurt as William Marshall

Third – the film lacks color. I don’t mean colorful characters. What I mean is the beautiful color we saw in the ’38 Robin Hood. Here there are gray skies, earth-colored and home-spun rough clothing, and even in the King’s Palace, there’s a distinct lack of color in the furnishings. Maybe Scott was going for realism, but it wasn’t pretty.

We get about 20 seconds of beautiful color when Robin and his men first arrive in Sherwood Forest. The dappled sunshine, filtering through the sylvan forest canopy looked marvelous. But it was so brief.

Fourth – there’s plenty of action – a siege is laid on to a French castle, and in the film’s closing action set piece, The French arrive at an English beach for the main battle. There’s a lot of the wielding of axes, slashing swords, and thrusting pikes, but the editing is done so fast, that you aren’t able to focus on any one such fight. Even when Robin and Godfrey are having their not quite final duel. the action is confusing. And you feel that you are a distance from it. It looks like action, sounds, like action, but doesn’t quite feel like action.

Ridley Scott spent a lot of money on this film, especially on CGI, like the shot above, but the film lacks warmth, heart, color, and humor. He bought into the idea from a successful original source. In the first draft of this film, which was called Nottingham, Crowe was to play the Sheriff of Nottingham. For reasons unknown to me, but most likely somehow tied into the idea of spending a lot of money in order to make a mountain of  money, they re-thought that idea, and opted for Crowe as Robin Hood. Just the comparisons of titles Nottingham and Robin Hood, and the point is proven.

Max Von Sydow as Walter Loxley

In my view, I felt the film was a major disappointment. Blanchett and Von Sydow steal the film. As for Crowe as Robin, I’ve seen the Robin Hood played by Errol Flynn who gave the role –  life, dignty, a sense of importance, honor, and humor. Crowe’s Robin Hood is stoic and cold. It’s simple, Russell, you’re no Errol Flynn.


One thought on “Robin Hood

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