Movie Review: Robin Hood
Let me preface this review by saying that I have never seen a Robin Hood movie, aside from the fox-driven Disney adaptation. This new version, featuring only humans in the lead roles, is apparently unrelated to that one.
Perhaps no director in recent memory has a greater affinity with large-scale battle sequences than Sir Ridley Scott, and that is largely the attraction in his revisionist take on Robin Hood. The film opens and closes with such sequences and features a rather slack, but often very entertaining middle portion. The opening battle is rather short and mainly serves as an elaborate entrance for Robin Longstride, who hasn’t yet earned the “Hood” monicker, and his buddies.
After a convoluted blend of character introductions and political mumbo-jumbo, the film really picks up when Robin (Russell Crowe, Gladiator) witnesses an English soldier die and agrees to return his coveted sword to his father (Max Von Sydow, Shutter Island). Robin impresses the old man, who in turn offers him a chance to marry his son’s widowed wife, the spunky Marion (Cate Blanchett, The Aviator).
On the wider spectrum of things, the bratty Prince John (Oscar Isaac, Body of Lies) assumes the throne after his brother, King Richard (Danny Huston, Edge of Darkness), is killed in battle. John’s job is immediately made very difficult when one of his most trusted followers, Godfrey (Mark Strong, Sherlock Holmes) begins infiltrating the system and aligns a French coalition with plans to usurp control of the nation. Aside from dealing with his own personal problems, Robin’s larger role is to rally the common men, convince them to support the king and lead them into battle.
For all the fuss made about Crowe’s age, that is the least of the film’s problems. Although he is a bit soft-spoken, he is fit, trim and makes a very convincing Robin. Blanchett owns the role of Marion, and has an impressive romantic chemistry with Crowe. Marion is a bit unsure of Robin at first, but the sexual tension between the two is obvious from the start.
The strongest performance in the movie, however, belongs to Oscar Isaac as the weasely King John. He seems to be channeling the Joaquin Phoenix turn from Gladiator, but he plays it much less serious and makes it his own. Some of the best scenes in the movie come when he is at odds with his right-hand man, played by the commanding William Hurt (Mr. Brooks).
This movie has a ton of comic relief. It’s pretty hit-or-miss, but it never feels forced or out of place. That’s because the movie as a whole is very hokey and folkish, complete with fireside sing-alongs and drunken hoe-downs. I was half expecting to see some dragons, trolls, or other mystical creatures. Yet, there are some really weird kids wearing Chewbacca masks so they must have known something was missing.
The action, albeit sparse, is legitimately violent and realistic without feeding us gratuitous amounts of blood. During an early archery scene, we see Godfrey suffer a Joker-esque mouth scar after being grazed by the tail of an arrow. Even still, the badass, ass-kicking version of Robin we see in the trailers never presents himself until the final battle scene.
It’s no Gladiator, but that’s okay. Not a lot of movies are. While the ending sets up nicely for a sequel, I’m not sure that’s where they’re headed. I hope it comes to fruition because the collective talent has the potential to make a truly great Robin Hood movie. This isn’t it, but it’s still a pretty fun two and a half hours at the movies.
RIYL: Beowulf, Troy, Alexander.