Archive for May 17th, 2010

Robin Hood: Year One

The character of Robin Hood has appeared in more than a hundred movies and TV programs in the last hundred years, it has gotten to the stage that every new movie seems to go through the motions of all the clichés associated with the legend. Ridley Scott gives us something different and unexpected, but in the process has he given us something that will struggle to find its audience?

Following the failure of the third crusade Richard The Lionheart (Danny Huston) is on his way back to England, on the way he stops to plunder a French castle but is killed in the process. Spotting an opportunity for passage home Robin Longstride (Russel Crowe) along with his friends Little John (Kevin Durand), Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle) and Scott Grimes (Will Scarlet) poses as the also dead Sir Robert of Loxley (Douglas Hodge) and to return the crown to London. Haunted by the inscription on the hilt of Loxley’s sword Robin decides to fulfil a promise he made to return it to return it to Loxley’s farther. As Richards brother John (Oscar Isaac) takes the crown Robin finds himself being pulled deeper into the politics of a broken (and broke financially) country further complicated by a plot by Philip II of France.

Where does the movie sit? Its clearly an action movie in places but it it is actually more a character study than anything. It is also a product of its environment, like all other incarnations of the myth it is reinvented for each new generation. The talk of taxation and the balance of power as a new ruler takes over is very apt a week after a general election. We also get a rhetoric about the wrongs that where done during the crusades – Iraq & Afghanistan anyone? The idea of killing King Richard in the first act isn’t an original one Robin and Marion did it in 1976. Robin and Marion was a very different movie, whist the movie started with the death of Richard it told the story of Robin Hood after the traditionally told story. The new movie tells the story leading up to that usual story, it actually finishes at the point you would expect it to start. Although the earlier movie tells of the latter days of the character and new one is a sort of “year one/begins” story they both use a 46 year old actor (Sean Connery and Russell Crowe respectively). As well as telling a different story the movies are very different in tone despite a comic undertone Robin and Marion is filled with disappointment, despair and disillusionment. Ridley Scott’s movie has more of an optimistic tone, a sort of rebirth.

Anyone who read anything about this movie when it was first suggested a couple of years ago will know that Crowe’s intention was to make a movie called Nottingham where the sheriff is the main protagonist, that’s why the greatest surprise of the sheriff plays no significant part in the movie. The main antagonist is Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong) who as is so often the case in movies like this the best thing in it closely followed by Oscar Isaac who plays King John with relish and is rewarded with some of the best dialogue.

The movie has its problems, the movies pace isn’t fantastic, it takes a bit of time to get going and has a real lull in the middle then rushes the conclusion. The final battle starts well with French landing craft arriving in Dover to a hail of arrows from the archers of British Longbows. Complete with underwater shots of arrows cutting through water the scene is reminiscent of the Omaha Beach landing from Saving Private Ryan. The problem arises with the battle itself is strictly PG with no blood killing any realism. There is also the problem of Crowe’s accent it seems to wander all around the British Isles ranging from the west country to the north east via Scotland and Ireland. It is distracting at times making me think Kevin Costner’s Californian drawl wasn’t that bad. The final problem is the plot, the convenience of many parts of it often feel contrived where a more subtle story would have worked better. The way the movie finishes will infuriate some viewers expecting Robins usual antics, the positive to this is a sequel virtually writes itself.

In conclusion the movie deserves credit for throwing away the rule book and telling its own story and on the whole it is a good story. Comparisons with other Ridley Scott movies Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven are inevitable. On a first viewing Robin Hood isn’t as good as either of those movies but looking back Gladiator was a huge hit but hasn’t aged as well as I thought it would, Kingdom of Heaven failed to find an audience but stands up as good movie. I don’t expect Robin Hood to be a huge hit but it I think it will age well.

Four Stars out of Five



I fear I am being too generous but it is better than a three star movie.

Check back in the next few days to see how the movie sits in a historical context.

Read Full Post »