05 June 2010

Review: "Robin Hood"

I do not think that it was necessary to make another film about Robin Hood. The newest installment is Robin Hood, directed by Ridley Scott, who has given us great films like Alien (1979), Thelma & Louise (1991) and Gladiator (2001), which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Since 2001 the quality of his work has suffered. A Good Year (2006), American Gangster (2007) and Body of Lies (2008) are mediocre efforts at best. There is a common link for the three films: Russell Crowe. After three consecutive Academy Award nominations for Best Actor from 1999 to 2001 (winning in 2000 for Gladiator), Russell Crowe has failed to live up to expectations. He has shown an inability to adapt and he appears very arrogant on screen. Did Ridley Scott make the right choice in casting Russell Crowe to become the new Robin Hood? No, but it could hardly be considered the worst mistake in Robin Hood, the film. There have been countless versions of Robin Hood, with Robin Hood in 1922, Disney's Robin Hood in 1973, Robin and Marian in 1976 (with Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in 1991 that starred Kevin Costner, and my personal favourite, 1993's Robin Hood: Men in Tights. In 2010 Ridley Scott has attempted to make Robin Hood a story about how the man became Robin Hood, but the film fails on too many levels. Robin Hood is too long, Russell Crowe's talent as an actor is once again questionable, the love story between Robin and Marion is ill-conceived, and the violence in the film, while gratuitous and mostly unnecessary, is too reminiscent of Gladiator.

The film begins in 1199 and Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is an archer in the army of King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston). The army is fighting in France en route to England after the Third Crusade. In England, Richard's brother John (Oscar Isaac) has been plotting to have the king killed. King Richard dies in battle, and Robin takes this as a sign to flee the battle and return to England as soon as possible. He and three soldiers, Little John (Kevin Durand), Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes) and Alan A'Dayle (Alan Doyle), set out for the coast and stumble upon an ambush,
orchestrated by John's servant Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong) that attacked Richard's knights. Robin and his men assume the identities of the knights and return to England with the king's crown. Robin, now the son of Sir Walter Loxley, sets out to return the sword to Sir Walter and to inform him of his son's death. Walter (Max von Sydow) owes a considerable amount of taxes and King John demands that all taxes are to be collected. The village of Nottingham, home to Sir Walter, has become very poor and Sir Walter can not afford to pay his taxes. He welcomes Robin into his home and urges him to pretend to be his son, which does not sit well with the recently widowed Marion (Cate Blanchett). We soon learn that Godfrey has been fooling King John and with the hopes that the tax collection will turn his people against him so that England will not fight against the French, who are planning an attack. It is Robin Hood, alongside William Marshal (William Hurt), who must unite the English people to challenge the French invasion.

Universal Pictures spent a lot of time and effort promoting the release of Robin Hood. The first trailer was a constant stream of violence that made comparisons to Gladiator far too easy. It might have been a good idea to make audiences forget what Ridley Scott had done for a decade but Robin Hood is as much about the relationship between Robin and Marion as it is about the fight against the evil King John. The film premiered in May 2010 at the Cannes Film Festival as the opening film. Early reviews were poor and mainstream media soon joined in the bashing. I am not a fan of Russell Crowe, but if Robin Hood is supposed to be a story about the young man that became an outlaw, why is he being played by a forty-six year old actor? Cate Blanchett was underused throughout the film and even her radiance could not make Russell Crowe appealing. A lot has been said about the bleak cinematography in the film. I did not mind it and I feel that if Robin Hood was truly a story about war and graphic violence that the colours on screen would have been worked advantageously. However, it is not until the last few minutes of the 140 minute film that there is any sense of Robin Hood. I feel that I would have been more satisfied by the film had it just been about brand new characters without our preconceived notions. All I can say overall is that Robin Hood is not as bad as I had anticipated, but please do not take that as a recommendation.

My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.

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