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.

Oscar Isaac as Prince John in "Robin Hood."

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.

Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett in "Robin Hood"

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.

Rating: 7/10

RIYL: Beowulf, Troy, Alexander.

7 Responses to “Movie Review: Robin Hood”
  1. Castor says:

    That’s right! Not every movie needs to be a Gladiator. 7/10 sounds like a decent enough score and I will check it out in a day or two so we will see where I stand.

  2. Going to see Robin Hood today. Looking forward to seeing what Oscar Isaac does with the role…especially if he’s channeling Phoenix! I’m surprised to hear that there is a wealth of comic relief in the film. After some of the negative reviews I read, I had been unsure of whether to even go and see it but if it manages to blend comedy, action and drama with a good cast, then must be above average in “mainstream” terms 🙂

  3. Well, I went to see it and…let’s me sum up my thoughts on it by saying that I like it enough to go see a sequel.

    Oscar Isaac was superb – Captivating to watch and I liked the way he brought out a bratty, childish side of King John. The sheriff is another character I would be delighted to watch in the sequel – Comedy and darkness..A winning combination! The casting was definitely the best thing about this film.

    I have to say, however, that there was more than one lull in the plot, so my attention wasn’t held throughout. There were also a few unintentionally amusing Clash of the Titans moments of melodrama. I think, had the film been a little shorter, it would have served it better.

    I don’t think I liked it as much as you did, but I’d go see a sequel with the hope of a fuller storyline which matches the already great cast – I felt that the former was the main let down for the film. In other words, I wasn’t crazy about the “first” film as a whole, but with the right material, a sequel could be above average.

    Or, to negate everything I’ve just said, if you take Robin Hood as purely an “intro film”, it was actually quite good!

  4. I didn’t see “Clash” so I’m not sure what you are referring to there. And yes, origin films are hard to pull off. That’s why the sequel is often better than the first film in superhero franchises (The Dark Knight, Spiderman 2, etc.). I would hope that the sequel (if his one makes enough money to warrant one) would be much better than this.

  5. This picture will give you an idea of the silliness that is COTT – Twas still great entertainment though 🙂

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