May 17th, 2010

Robin Hood review

Time for a confession. I’m a huge Robin Hood nerd. I mean HUGE! Ever since I was a kid and I saw Prince of Thieves I wanted nothing more than to be Robin Hood. In a lot of ways Robin Hood may be the first superhero type of character to really captivate my imagination. The idea of standing up for people and giving the finger to tyranny is probably the most resounding lesson that I more than likely learned from the fabled archer. He’s probably the reason that Hawkeye and Green Arrow are some of my favorite superheroes. So when I heard that the master of making shit bleed, Ridley Scott, was making a new Robin Hood movie I got all kinds of excited. Hell, if Tyler Perry made a Robin Hood movie starring Dennis Rodman I’d be excited. Yes, I love Robin Hood that much.

I’m going to give a little history lesson here about our favorite man in tights. He’s not real. Why do I say this? Well because this movie is a completely different story about Robin that we’ve never really seen before. See, the only source material that’s traceable about the real, “Robin Hood,” is obscure and loose references in very old English poems. Everything else about him is dramatic romanticism. This is why I appreciate the new movie and also why I have problems with it. It takes the idea of Robin Hood that is so firmly planted in our minds and throws it out. This is a pretty original take on the character that isn’t a carbon copy of every other Robin Hood movie ever made. At the same time it takes away the fun, optimism and familiarity of my beloved hero.

This version of the story has a middle aged Robin Longstride deserting the belligerent King Richard’s army on their way back from the crusades. Accompanied by Will Scarlet, Little John and Allan A’dayle, Robin steals the identity of a dying knight and uses this upgrade in status to raise England’s self esteem. This is a much darker and cynical take on the classic hero much in the same way that Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur was. It tries to make the story more realistic and gritty, which it does, but at the expense of the magic that makes these characters work. I love Robin Hood because he’s inspirational and has a sense of humor. He’s like Spider-Man with a bow. His gang is called the Merry Men, but there’s very little that’s merry about this flick. The film also sets itself up as more of a prequel to the Robin Hood we know. This isn’t about him hanging out in Sherwood and pissing off the sheriff, this is the story about how he became the dude that hangs out in the forest and pisses off the sheriff. Hell, the sheriff is only in 3 scenes and has about 10 lines. Also, I don’t even think Sherwood is mentioned once in the entire film.

Let’s talk about Ridley Scott a bit. The dude is 72 years old and still kicking ass. Let’s give him a big round of applause. When he decides he wants to take on historical fiction he does it like no other. Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, and 1492: Conquest of Paradise are all great examples of this, and Robin Hood can be added to this list for the same reasons as the others, they kick ass. They unfortunately don’t hold true to any kind of historical accuracy. They make history lessons seem like a monster truck rally, but they do little to legitimize any actual events. Now even though they have some epic fight scenes and really interesting ways to see how a neck can break, they all tend to drag a bit, especially in the middle. Robin Hood did just that. It’s a 2 and a half hour movie and I felt every minute of it. Maybe it’s his age, but this has really been my main complaint with him as a director for most of his recent flicks (except Black Hawk Down. Never a dull moment in that movie).

Russell Crowe plays a pretty dry Robin as well. He always seems to have his Mr. Serious Pants face on the entire movie with the exception of a few jokes with Cate Blanchett‘s, Maid Marion. Again, this goes back to my point about having the fun sucked out of the character. Even Kevin Costner in all his blandness managed to crack a few smiles and make some jokes. The supporting cast of Kevin Durand (Little John), Scott Grimes (Will Scarlet) and Alan Doyle (Allan A’Dayle) were great though and really added the only levity in the entire film. Mark Strong (who now seems to be type cast as the villain lately) is just slimy enough for me to like him, but he doesn’t over do the role like I feel most actors would. The movie also features great performances from William Hurt, Max von Sydow, and Mark Addy.

This is easily the best looking Robin Hood movie I’ve seen so far as well as the best sounding. When the action starts I really get immersed in every sword stroke and loosed arrow. There’s also a great deal of scenic shots that make me really want to plan my trip to England right away. I’m convinced that under Ridley Scott’s direction a booger could look as awe inspiring as a meteor rushing towards earth.

I’ve said a lot of mixed things in my review about this movie, but let me set the record straight. This is not the best Robin Hood movie ever made. I do think it may be the ballsiest one though because it abandons everything you really know about the character. Honestly I’m glad that this is the version of Robin Hood Ridley Scott wanted to make and not the traditional approach which would basically be remaking the last movie that someone did only with new actors and a bigger budget. I’m probably going to buy this movie and I actually hope (although I doubt it will happen) that there’s a sequel since this movie plays more like the origin story as opposed to the real meat of his myth. This movie is not for most movie goers though. If you go thinking you’re going to get Gladiator you’re going to be disappointed. While they have the same director, Robin Hood isn’t as action focused. It’s good, but know what you’re getting into. This is more of a rental unless you’re a huge fan of the Hood like me or a Ridley Scott fan.


Tell me what you think about my review.

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