I tried inviting people to this screening, with the plan that we’d make fun of it. The audience seemed to have the same agenda, and as the opening title/word sequence appeared, many people shouted and laughed at the screen. No one had wanted to join me, but the joke was on them — though I myself even wrote down some snarky comments for this review, but 20 minutes in, I realized I was on the Robin Hood bandwagon! Or maybe I was just so happy I wasn’t watching Iron Man 2, that anything seemed better.
I always forget how many Ridley Scott movies I like vs. not like. I blame that ridiculous Gladiator! It makes me put his directing into the Legend, Kingdom of Heaven, and American Gangster “bad” category and forget the Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down, Hannibal, and Alien “good” category.
Prepare yourself: I think the pace of this film is quite different from the pace of what’s currently out there, it’s slow. Not as drawn out as Terrence Malick, but comfortable like Grimm’s Fairy Tales and old legends.
King Richard, the good, gracious, courageous lionheart, played briefly and brilliantly by a fat Danny Huston, gets killed during battle. His handsome, sexually charged, egotistical, money-driven and power-hungry brother John becomes King, with a little French hottie as his girlfriend. His henchman, Godfrey (Mark Strong), a two-faced asshole with French ties, fans the King’s flame and ultimately causes Civil War, and makes the French think they should stick their large noses up in England’s business.
Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe), for the most part, is separate from all these politics, except for doing good and protecting Nottingham, a small, broke, village of farmers, affected by heavy taxation. Robin stumbles into Nottingham on his way home from battle by impersonating Sir Robert Loxley, dead husband to Lady Marian, and dead son to blind Sir Walter (Max Von Sydow). He exhibits kindness, machismo, and protectiveness.
When the French invade to make love and pillage Nottingham, Robin takes it up with the government, and battle scenes and medieval-ish words are spoken. Love is found too. There’s a pretty cheesy orphan backstory, and the chemistry between him and Lady Marian is nill. These are pretty much the major problems.
The action sequences are boring. I don’t need a ton of blood or gore to be satisfied, but something about the easy arrow in = death, sword in = death lulled me to slumber. The only interesting action sequence was the finale, in which it mimicked Saving Private Ryan’s opening scene, except that this is the12th Century, so horses and arrows replace tanks and bullets.
There are strong, fair-skinned actresses other than Sir Cate Blanchett, but they of course decided to go with the big name for Lady Marian, which was the wrong decision. Marian does manly stuff like tend to the fields and get muck out of horses hooves, tasks which apparently only tall skinny females can handle (ie Nicole Kidman in Cold Mountain) but she is a weakling when it comes to the French slappin’ her around. It’s a lot of stoic talk but surprised looks when there’s violence. Maybe it’s the faulty character, but she seems too tall, too white, and too sophisticated for this role. It bugged me.
Russell Crowe is old these days, and I don’t see how he can be an action star anymore. Even though he’s large and husky, he still looks fit. But he really didn’t do that much action except for ride a horse well and ping off a couple of arrows. So at first, I’m thinking that Gerard Butler would pair with this film, but no, Russell Crowe is actually good for this role! He fuels the vision of the Robin Hood that Scott is trying to portray, gritty, rustic, and serious – not like the handsomish fox of the earlier Robin Hoods we are all accustomed to.
Max Von Sydow is amazing. Pure and simple. William Hurt is underused and therefore shouldn’t have been in it at all. Mark Strong, even though has an amazing face and good body language, was modernly misplaced, with no accent and a crash-test-dummy head. Friar Tuck (Mark Addy) plays it up a little hippie, and is annoying but also sorta okay at the same time.
The lack of color, or abundance of neutral color, and non-flashy flashiness of the costumes reminds me of Days of Heaven, but instead of dawn, it’s the dull gray after a rain. Probably to hide the car chamois around Russell’s neck, or to make the misshapen ceramic glasses people use to drink mead look more authentic.
But movies aren’t made like this as of late, so I’m sorta into it. Sure, there are problems with the plot (such as Robin being an orphan and finding out stuff about his father he never knew), boring action, and the curse of it being a prequel, but I enjoyed it more thoroughly than Iron Man 2, which is the epitome of movies of the now: snarkiness, chicken bone ladies, badly replaced actors and no moral consequences for any actions.