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Monday, September 20, 2010

Robin Hood's Merry Men Get Gritty

Robin Hood: 3 and 1/2 out of 5
Robin Longstride: Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions.
I was unfortunately not looking forward to this movie all that much, which is a shame, given that it's a Ridley Scott epic starring Russell Crowe as Robin Hood. The reasoning comes down to the flavor of Robin Hood that I enjoy. To me, Robin Hood is a more light-hearted tale that doesn't necessarily need the gritty/epic treatment. All that being said, I did enjoy this movie because Ridley Scott is a very good director and the cast is strong; however, this may not be the Robin Hood film that everyone wanted.

Russell Crowe stars as Robin Longstride, an archer coming back from the crusades in King Richard Lionheart's army. Following the death of Richard during a battle in France, Robin and some of his merry friends head back to England on their own. Do to some circumstances along the way, Robin is soon tasked to return King Richard's crown to its new owner, Prince John, played by Oscar Isaac, as well as returning a sword to the owner's father, Walter Loxley, played by Max Von Sydow.

Once Robin has arrived in Nottingham, he returns the sword to its owner, only to be tasked with remaining, posing as the son, Robert of Loxley, so the family, which includes Marion, played by Cate Blanchett, can keep hold of the land, avoiding the tax laws in play. Robin and his men grow close this land and start developing plans of their own related to what follows.

Meanwhile, as a King, John must contend with all the different problems, which he tries to solve through taxation and the use of his cold-hearted man on the side, Godfrey (who should have been Guy of Gisborne) played by the always reliable Mark Strong. Unbeknown to John however, Godfrey has allegiance to France, which leads to other actions to take place.

Allan A'Dayle: We're just archers Robin.
So this film goes for the prequel route, telling us the story that we've yet to see, factoring in "the real" much like King Arthor or Troy. It's not necessarily a bad idea (I'm a big fan of most things Crusades related) but it's not necessarily the story that has cinematic entertainment written all over it. More interesting would have been the initial ideas for this film, which put the Sheriff of Nottingham as the good guy and Robin Hood as the villain; however, writer Brian Helgeland does what he can with this story.

Now, despite the elements that essentially make this movie a bit of a bore in its plotting, it does succeed in the fact that it is a Ridley Scott film, and here, Scott is working in his element - large scale epics, complete with the need to fill every scene with little details that certainly put the budget on screen. The film looks great throughout, and despite my dislike for the "dark Robin Hood" (screw Costner by the way), the way Scott shoots a film is consistently solid and works into another world that he has built. Gorgeous cinematography and solid action, once it finally gets underway. It was unfortunate to not have a Hans Zimmer score to go with this, but still well made from a technical level regardless.

Crowe is solid in the role of Robin. Despite his age, which really doesn't elevate the prequel status of this film, he has the kind of gravitas to pull this off. Blanchett - I can apply the same statement too, but she shares good chemistry with her costar. Max Von Sydow does his mentor role well enough. Strong is solid, again, as the villain. Everyone else is mostly well cast, despite poor development in a sea of supporting characters.

Essentially, the film works if your in the need for another action epic from Ridley Scott. It's not as good as Gladiator, or the superior Kingdom of Heaven (director's cut), but it gets the job done. It's unfortunate that this movie probably won't do that well, because a sequel could really make this Robin Hood tale evolve into something much more worthwhile.

Oh, and if there's one thing a Robin Hood film needs, its an awesome shot of Robin Hood using his bow and arrow; and this film does deliver that.

[couldn't help it]
King John: I declare him an outlaaaaawwwwww!

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