When I hear that Ridley Scott is making a new movie, I know I will have a movie I at least have to give a shot. I mean, Ridley Scott on a bad day is better than most directors on their good day. Tell me that he’s making a new Robin Hood movie and you’ve got my ten dollars, so yeah, I was looking forward to this movie.
Everyone pretty much knows the story of Robin Hood already. There is a reason that his story is such a long lasting and endurable myth. There have been more movies and TV shows made about his exploits than I care to count, so of course one of the questions surrounding this film was “Do we really need another one?” Well, yes, there’s always room for a new interpretation of the characters and situations, and there’s always room for a new creator to put his stamp on the myth.
Does this film succeed? Yes. Not only do you have one of the best directors of the modern era, you get one of the best casts ever assembled to tell this story. But one thing to keep in mind before seeing this is that this is not the same old story that you’ve seen before. The creators seem to have gone out of their way to change a number of the familiar elements of the myth, while keeping all of the usual characters. Some might be disappointed by those changes.
Let’s get into some of those changes. Beware, ye gentlefolk, spoilers abound!
WARNING: If you have not seen Iron Man 2, do NOT read any further. There will be SPOILERS below.
-The first thing to know about this version of Robin Hood is, as I said before, that it is unlike any other version done before. It’s not the grand old time adventure of Errol Flynn’s classic, there are no animated foxes, it doesn’t have the gleeful excess and bad accents of Kevin Costner’s Prince of Thieves, and it certainly doesn’t have anyone walking around in tights. This is a completely different story.
-Right from the start you can tell this is going to be a revisionist take on the story of Robin Hood. We know Russell Crowe is the star of the film, and he is introduced as Robin Longstride, a lowly bowman in the King’s army, while Robin of Loxley is one of the King’s main lieutenants. This is just the start of the changes.
-The story serves as a prequel to what most people would think of as the “Robin Hood” story. If it wasn’t for the last three minutes of the movie, we’d never see Robin Hood as a criminal at all. He only robs from the rich and gives to the poor one time.
-I think the film was interesting, but it felt like this was the first half of a much longer movie. About halfway through the film, I was worried that I was going to be in for a five-hour epic. Even at over two hours long, it feels like we did not get the whole story.
-Hands down, one of the best things in the movie is Robin’s band of merry men. Little John (Kevin Durand, who seems to be everywhere these days), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes), and Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle) are given a number of great moments to fight and party and are very much the comic relief in the film, without being too goofy or too jokey, and still kick a lot of ass. This is the kind of “warrior’s crew” that I wanted out of Clash of the Titans.
–Mark Strong is now the king of film villains. If he ever actually plays a hero in a movie, I won’t be able to recognize him. I can’t wait to see him as Sinestro in the Green Lantern film.
–Cate Blanchett could read the phone book and get an Oscar for it. Any movie she’s in instantly becomes more watchable just for her presence. Same goes with William Hurt, who plays a nobleman trying to keep the King in line. In fact, this whole movie succeeds because of the entire cast. Say what you will about the changes made to the story, but all of the actors in the film do a fantastic job.
-Patrick Stewart is the only actor worthy of playing King Richard. Nothing against Danny Huston, who also does a good job. Just don’t expect King Richard to show up and marry off Maid Marion at the end of the film, since he’s killed off in the first half hour.
-Don’t you worry, never fear, Robin Hood will soon be here. Sorry, but as a long time Looney Tunes fan, I was thinking this through the whole movie.
-Not a problem, but kind of a disappointment, is that this is without a doubt the most inconsequential Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen) ever. It’s not annoyingly bad, it’s just odd that the character is completely pointless in the movie, he’s just another douche bag villain in a film filled with douche bag villains.
-The film does start off with a great siege battle in France, and you can tell from that scene that at least the action will be well done.
-The surprises come fairly early in the film when we see King Richard get definitively killed early on. Aside from the introduction of Robin as a common soldier, this is the first indication that this is going to be a very different version of the story.
-So, everyone accepts that there is basically a French army roaming the countryside, making no effort to hide their Frenchiness, stealing from everyone, and they blame the King of England for this? I know that the Frenchies are doing this in the name of the King, but the army may as well be walking around in berets, carrying baguettes, and drinking all the wine in Northern England. I think someone would notice that the King didn’t mean for this to happen.
-Okay, so we all know Prince John (Oscar Isaac), or King John in this version, is a jerk in most every version of the story, but in this one, they couldn’t seem to decide if he should be seen as a complete jerk, or as just a stupid jerk.
-Okay, a very big problem with the movie: Where the hell did those kids come from at the end? I mean, I know they were living out in Sherwood Forest, but they just kind of show up, and we’re supposed to believe they are going to add meaningfully to this fight? That was one part of the movie that I thought was a big misstep.
-Also, why does Marion show up at the end of the film as well? Her presence just distracts from the climax of the film.
-In fact, the ending of this film is just plain weird. You get your traditional ending battle scene, with the aforementioned kids showing up to help fight off an invading French army. And then you get the tacked on five minutes where King John decides that Robin Hood is too popular so he calls him an OUTLAWWWW!!!! The end is very abrupt, and just adds to my feeling that this is the first half of the story that Scott wanted to tell, but the script was just too long.
And now it’s your turn. How does this version of Robin Hood stack up against other versions? Does it take too many liberties with the story, or does it change it just the right amount to make it an interesting take on the myth?