Robin Hood: Steal From The Rich, Give To A Bore

Full disclosure: I fell asleep during this film. It was a matinee showing after a full night of rest, so I can’t excuse it by saying I was in the wrong state of mind to watch Robin Hood. Perhaps during the five to ten minutes I nodded off, there was a revelation or two that would have elevated my opinion of the film. Or perhaps I would have spent those five to ten minutes contemplating the same things I thought throughout the rest of the film– the leads are miscast, the combat is lazily staged and frantically edited, and the story in general is as dull as can be. Robin Hood is supposed to be a legend, a charming vagabond with noble intentions. Ridley Scott is less interested in the magic and more interested in creating historically accurate representations of castles. The only magic captured here is the ability to make a man who has never fallen asleep in a movie theater magically grow disinterested enough to nod off.

We meet Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) as an average archer in the Crusades fighting for Richard the Lionhearted (Danny Huston). When Richard is killed in battle, Robin and his friends Allan A’Dale, Will Scarlett, and Little John head back for England. Problem: they encounter Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong), an Englishman with French allegiance sent by the French king to assassinate Richard, but since Richard was already dead, he killed everyone traveling with the crown except Robert Loxley, who makes Robin vow to return his sword home to his father (Max Von Sydow). Sound plot-heavy yet? Just wait– John, the new King of England (Oscar Isaac), is pleased his brother is dead, and he lays a tyrannical tax onto the land, preferring to ignore the advice of William Marshall (William Hurt), and instead taking the counsel of the nefarious Sir Godfrey. Meanwhile, Robin arrives in Nottingham, and in order to protect the safety of the Loxley land, he pretends to be Robert Loxley returned home from the Crusades. Robert’s wife, Marian (Cate Blanchett), is at first put off by this, but warms to Robin with a swiftness that could only happen in the movies. When Godfrey’s tax collectors turn out to be wicked Frenchmen, Robin helps England band together and stop Godfrey and the French invasion.

For a movie that has so many characters and so many twists and turns in the plot, it’s somewhat surprising that it feels like nothing happens. Ridley Scott directs this film as if it holds so much prestige that it feels preserved rather than living and breathing on the screen. There are many titles telling us where geographically we are, and lots of sweeping shots of castles and sieges that certainly look realistic… but to what end? Since I’m not a castle historian or British combat enthusiast, I’m held far more captive by a good story. Robin as a character is fairly one-note: he plays by his own rules while also managing to be completely pure in heart and motivation. Russell Crowe plays him as Russell Crowe– actually, strike that. Russell Crowe in interviews is full of dimension and fire, taking lines of questioning in unexpected directions. Robin Longstride is always composed and predictable.

Maid Marian also seems all wrong. Cate Blanchett does nothing wrong, as she plays to her strengths and makes Maid Marian her own. The casting directors did something wrong in thinking Cate Blanchett was right for this role. Cate Blanchett plays her as a strong-willed woman, trying not to let the world of men break her spirit– a.k.a. exactly the way you’d expect Cate Blanchett to play the part. There’s not a sense of delicacy, or a sense of compassion, or a sense that even though she comes from a different world, she can grow to live with these Merry Men. She’s more than happy to get her hands dirty from the get-go… what is her character arc? Also, her appearance in the final battle scene is completely ludicrous, as are the circumstances surrounding why she is allowed to fight, as is her big kiss with Robin that takes place in the middle of the battle with arrows and mayhem and murder happening all around them.

The film is beautifully shot. I’m sure much of the visuals and costumes are accurate– or at least Scott seems to think so, since long adoring shots of the scenery sweep before my eyes with very important titles dating when and where we are, when we could have figured out we were at a castle somewhere in Europe, not known the particulars, and it wouldn’t have hurt our knowledge of what was going on in the slightest. Despite the abundance of plot, not much of great consequence happens. Someone attempts to start a war, sees that folks will fight back, and then decides not to start it. The movie even ends with the title, “So the legend begins…” as if to say, “Sorry this was boring, but please come back for the sequel!” I’ll give the film credit for its visuals and fine performances– Kevin Durand as Little John in particular is charismatic enough that I would have preferred an entire film based on his story. However, there needs to be an interesting plot. Patton Oswalt said in a famous bit about George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels from the fantastic Werewolves and Lollipops album, “I don’t give a shit where the stuff I love comes from! I just love the stuff I love!” I wish Ridley Scott would’ve taken this note before pursuing a pointless Robin Hood prequel.

Note: In Todd McCarthy’s review, he wonders aloud if Ridley Scott has something against Peter O’Toole, since this is the second film (along with Gladiator) that hosted a role for a dignified if mischievous elderly man that would have been perfect for O’Toole. While I enjoyed Von Sydow’s performance, I certainly wouldn’t have fallen asleep if Peter O’Toole was on that screen.

~ by russellhainline on June 1, 2010.

One Response to “Robin Hood: Steal From The Rich, Give To A Bore”

  1. […] being the highest grossing film of the year and the mediocre Clash of the Titans and mediocre Robin Hood not far behind. Prince of Persia didn’t have an established name in the film community like the […]

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