- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Will Harris
s long as there is a Hollywood, creative properties will continue to be recycled and revisited on a regular basis in order to keep them fresh for the next generation. So it always has been, so it ever shall be. Something has gone terribly wrong in the machine, however, if we have reached a point where we can no longer become excited about a new adventure of one of the greatest heroes in English folklore.
The tale is one which even the average grade school student knows by heart – Robin Hood and his Merry Men live in Sherwood Forest, where they rob from the rich to give to the poor while constantly finding themselves at odds with the despicable Sheriff of Nottingham – and, oh, what a wondrous tale of adventure it is. It has been told many times before, but now the teller is Ridley Scott, a man whose ability to create period pieces which look and sound spectacular was established with “Gladiator” and cemented with “Kingdom of Heaven.” We may have reason to place our faith in Scott, but what we do not possess, alas, is any reason to believe that we need a new “Robin Hood” film.
Granted, there were probably theatergoers in 1938 who scoffed at the idea of Errol Flynn tackling “The Adventures of Robin Hood” because they believed that Douglas Fairbanks had already done the definitive take on the character. It is highly unlikely, however, that anyone will leave cinemas in 2010 gushing, “Russell Crowe is the only Robin Hood that matters!”
Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” takes a step backwards in the mythos and presents the character’s secret origin, if you will. Robin Longstride (Crowe) returns from the Crusades with less confidence in the British monarchy than he had when he departed, a mindset which leads him to a parting of ways with the armed forces. Actually, that’s kind of an understatement: when he expresses his opinion to Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston), the king places Robin in stocks, and it’s only after His Majesty is struck down in battle that Robin is able to secure his freedom. As he and a handful of likeminded comrades – Little John (Kevin Durand), Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle), and Robin’s nephew, Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes) – attempt to make their way back home, however, they stumble into the final moments of an ambush of the King’s Guard by the devilish Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong). Though it’s too late to save any lives, Robin does agree to fulfill the final request of one of the dying knights, promising to deliver Sir Robert Loxley’s sword to his father in Nottingham. From there, the film becomes a family affair. With Richard’s demise, his creepy brother John (Oscar Isaac) takes the throne and promptly taxes the hell out of his kingdom, using Sir Godfrey as his financial emissary. Meanwhile, Robin finds his way to Nottingham, where he presents the sword to Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow), offers his condolences to the knight’s widow, Lady Marian (Cate Blanchett), and…
Oh, but you don’t really need to know any more of what goes on. You’re already familiar with all of the players, and since it’s established up front that this is the beginning of Robin’s story, you’re aware of approximately how the game will end, i.e. who’s going to survive all the way to the closing credits. All you really want to know is whether or not this version of “Robin Hood” is any good.
Well, it looks good, but it feels completely unnecessary. Those who have been getting a “Gladiator”-meets-“Braveheart” vibe from the film’s trailer are in no way mistaken (and it’s clear that the studio is unafraid to embrace those comparisons), but the result is that, while watching “Robin Hood,” you get the very distinct feeling that you’ve seen this film before. Maybe that was always inevitable with Crowe as the title character, but Scott didn’t have to play it up by putting in a bunch of bloody, slow-motion battle scenes. Ultimately, the most egregious sin committed by “Robin Hood” is that, excepting a few scenes with Friar Tuck (Mark Addy), the mood from start to finish is one of deadly seriousness. Robin Hood has always been a character who, despite his desire to circumvent King John and the Sheriff of Nottingham, still always managed to keep a smirk on his lips. Here, however, he spends most of his time grumbling. Where’s the fun in that?
Not in this film, that’s for sure.
Unrated Director's Cut Blu-Ray Review:
Universal’s Blu-ray release of “Robin Hood” is packed with hours of special features including two versions of the film – the theatrical edition and a director’s cut with 15 minutes of additional material – and a picture-in-picture track (“Director’s Notebook”) boasting behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and more. The highlight of the set, however, is the 62-minute documentary, “Rise and Rise Again,” which explores the making of the film from pre-production through the arduous editing process that resulted in over an hour of the movie being left on the cutting room floor. Rounding out the three-disc set is a handful of deleted scenes with an introduction and commentary by editor Pietro Scalia, four photo galleries, and a DVD and digital copy of the film.