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Review: Robin Hood

Robin Hood
05.12.2010
5 10

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 Richard’s 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 isn’t as much of that as you’d 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 let’s 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 Angoulême (Léa 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 don’t really mind the fact that Brian Helgeland’s script is different than previous versions of the legend; in fact, it wasn’t 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 didn’t bother me too much during the film, afterwards I wondered if a different cast might’ve 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 don’t seem to be a very strong fit for Robin and his band of merry men. In many ways this felt more like John Woo’s recent RED CLIFF than any Robin Hood I’ve 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 you’ve 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 “Helm’s Deep” type sequence, an army attempts to break through a castle wall, and it is tense and exciting. I even appreciated how Robin’s nature of giving to the poor came to pass. I wish we could’ve 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 Crowe’s Robin. But they were terribly underused, especially since they livened up the heavy handed script. Doyle was especially engaging as Allan A’Dayle, 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 couldn’t 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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Source: JoBlo.com

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