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Review: Robin Hood

May. 12, 2010by: JimmyO

PLOT: Robin Longstride (Hood) and his band of merry men are not the legends they have yet to become. They are soldiers fighting in King Richards war against the French. But when the King is slain, they find themselves disenchanted with the new King and his extremely harsh taxation on all the denizens in and around Sherwood Forest. So the men begin to fight a number of enemies, from King John himself to the murderous French looking to spill English blood. It is a time when the legend of Robin Hood was born.

REVIEW: Ridley Scott arguably has one of the most impressive resumes in Hollywood. Sure they are not all winners, but the ones that are, are near masterpieces for their prospective genres. But when it comes to his latest, ROBIN HOOD, he has created something of a misstep that sometimes borders on terrific yet mostly meanders in and out of just okay in Sherwood Forest. Sure the trailer feels a bit like GLADIATOR in the UK, but it isnt as much of that as youd think. The battle scenes are there, and sometimes they are engaging and powerful, yet other times they border on silly and laughable. Yet there is occasionally that sort of Gladiator feel, a standard, grim atmosphere with Russell Crowe stirring folks up and getting back at the bad guys. And lets face it, very few actors can really be as ass kickingly tough as Crowe. His Robin Hood is soft spoken, yet has no problem raising a battle cry.

This particular take on an often celebrated character starts much earlier than we are used to as this a prequel. Yet it seems to alter the main antagonist and attempt to create a much larger picture than needed. When we first meet Robin, he is fighting on the side of King Richard (Danny Huston) against the French. But it seems, unbeknownst to good old Lionheart, his younger brother Prince John (Oscar Issac) has his own plans to rule the kingdom. He has taken as a mistress, Isabella of Angoulme (La Seydoux), and plans to unite the French and his own kingdom after King Richard finally falls. All of this plays out in a very classic way, and it is sometimes quite interesting (although occasionally dull and laughable), but it is called Robin Hood, correct? Even the Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen), a main player in Hood lore, is a very minor part of this story.

I dont really mind the fact that Brian Helgelands script is different than previous versions of the legend; in fact, it wasnt nearly as different and original as it should have been. There are so many ideas that are smothered throughout, that we really lose focus on the title character and how he earned his fame. All these ideas that take away from the main story do not offer nearly enough to make Robin Hood exciting and fresh. And as great as both Crowe and Cate Blanchett are, it seemed very odd casting for a prequel to cast actors that are far too old to be Hood and Marion at a younger age. While that didnt bother me too much during the film, afterwards I wondered if a different cast mightve worked better. As unique as they tried to make this latest version, it might have been a stronger choice to keep some of the original story intact.

The big difference between this and the many other incarnations of Robin Hood have to be the battle sequences. Yes they are big and broad and powerful, but they dont seem to be a very strong fit for Robin and his band of merry men. In many ways this felt more like John Woos recent RED CLIFF than any Robin Hood Ive ever seen (just not nearly as powerful). As uneven and sometimes frustrating as I found this, there are certainly moments of power. Most of the bloody battles at least look good, even if you feel like youve seen it before. The massive arrow attacks as a group of men huddle together under their shields is particularly exciting. In what could be considered a Helms Deep type sequence, an army attempts to break through a castle wall, and it is tense and exciting. I even appreciated how Robins nature of giving to the poor came to pass. I wish we couldve seen the more human side of Hood as he began helping others. Why did he change his thoughts when it came to helping himself? Sure they do explore this, but not in the most satisfying way.

As far as charm goes, I did enjoy the supporting cast here. The merry men (Kevin Durand, Scott Grimes and Alan Doyle) were all very funny and gave nice support to Crowes Robin. But they were terribly underused, especially since they livened up the heavy handed script. Doyle was especially engaging as Allan ADayle, a man with the gift of music. I also appreciated the criminally wasted Matthew Macfadyen as the Sheriff of Nottingham. They certainly bring up his affection for Marion Loxley but they seem to drop that story in favor of the more colorful villain, Godfrey (played by Mark Strong) and the selfish Prince John (Oscar Issac). I also enjoyed Mark Addy as Friar Tuck. His relationship with Robin and his men was absolutely satisfying, thankfully, since it is really such an important role. In fact, most of the performances were quite good, as this was a solid cast. But somehow, this tale couldnt really decide which story to tell. Was it the loud and bombastic war picture, or was it the classic tale of a man who steals from the rich and gives to the poor? Whatever it was trying to be, it was nowhere near as fantastic as it could have been. My rating 5.5/10 -- JimmyO



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