May 19, 2010

Robin Hood (2010)

Robin Hood Poster - Click to View Extra Large ImageI am not sure what my first introduction to the Robin Hood story was. I have to assume it was with Disney's 1973 Robin Hood animated feature that saw the outlaw singing and dancing while stealing from the rich and portrayed as a sly fox. It is still one of those animated features that I can pretty much watch at any time. It is a fun movie and just seems like the right way to tell the Robin Hood story. It is a story that has been told many times and in many fashions over the years. One of the more recent takes was a BBC series simply called Robin Hood. I have only seen a few episodes, but it is quite good. There is also the classic Errol Flynn The Adventures of Robin Hood (Another great one). And this brings me to the movie at hand, titled Robin Hood as so many have before.



I have always seen the Robin Hood legend as the fun, adventurous, swashbuckling sort. Like the Errol Flynn and Disney versions. Yes, I definitely saw room for believability and realistic "grittiness" but there still needs to be some sort of fun, don't you think? I feel this is where this movie went in the wrong direction. Ridley Scott's Robin Hood is well made, well shot, and generally well acted, but I would not call it fun. Where the movie is let down is in the writing. To be certain, while the film is a misfire, it is still a very watchable film. Just don't expect great things from it.




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Robin Hood is actually a prequel, a telling of how Robin Longstride came to be an outlaw. Perhaps this is why the movie has such a deadly serious feel to it. Even when the humorous moments happen, they seem to be drained of their humor. This is not your father's swashbuckler. This Robin is dour and serious, worn from his ten years away from home, fighting in the Crusades for King Richard the Lionhearted.

The idea of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor is still a concept to be explored. This Robin is much more interested in grieving the death of King Richard, saving himself and his companions, the Merry Men (dubbed so in a seemingly throwaway line) from the growing unrest in England. At the same time he begins to mount an army to fight against the new king, King John who does not seem to care much for the people as he does lining his own pockets off the hard work of the people.

That right there is pretty much the story right there. Robin returns from the Crusades, Richard dies, Robin and friends fight against King John and his corrupt court, which threatens to fold to French invaders. This leads to the branding of Robin as an outlaw and the folk legend is born.

Yes, I do think it is an interesting story and helps paint a picture of what the time was like, despite being mostly based upon legend and not anything known to be real. It is true that the history buffs will be able to pick this thing apart for inaccuracies, but why bother? The movie is about a legendary character, not fact and whatever artistic license needed should be allowed.




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Russell Crowe's take on Robin Hood is a humorless one. His looks alternate between blank and stern. This man has not experienced happiness in a long time. This Robin's Maid Marion is different than those seen in past incarnations, feisty, pessimistic, and seemingly in no need for a man.

On the other side of the coin is Oscar Isaac as King John. He brings one of my favorite performances of the film. This John is so self-centered, egotistical, and pompous that I could not help but enjoy his clueless villainy. His right-hand man, Godfrey, played with relish by Mark Strong. I kept think this was Guy of Gisborne (sp), but I think that story comes further down the road after being an outlaw and striking up his feud with the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Robin Hood is a skillfully made movie, I just do not see any real compelling reason for it to be a Robin Hood movie aside from the instant name recognition. This just does not feel like a Robin Hood movie. There needs to be adventure and maybe a little swashbuckling. Crowe strikes me as too old for the role even with the character being away for ten years.

The film does have some very good action and it rarely lets up for a movie that pushes towards two and a half hours. Technically I have no complaints with the execution of the film. The sets, costumes, action, cinematography, are all very good. I just wish I could say the same about Brian Helgeland's screenplay. I did not feel any compelling reason to care for any of the characters or their plight. I don't know, it just did not work for me.

Bottomline. This is not a bad movie. It has a lot to like, the problem is that making it a Robin Hood movie brings with it certain expectations. For me the expectations were not met. I still enjoyed myself, just not nearly as much as I could have. This is Robin Hood by way of Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven.

Mildly Recommended.


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