Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Robin Hood Movie Review

If you see Robin Hood with the expectation of seeing a swashbuckling epic, forget it. You might think then this new take on the fable would be an allegory for the argument of socialism. Nope. What about a tea bagger's, um, tea party theme of fighting taxes. Sorry, you rightwingers, there's that whole "robbing from the rich and giving to the poor" thing Robin Hood liked to do. Which by the way doesn't happen in this movie. So, what's this film about? It's a prequel to the legend and a presumptuous attempt to start a franchise. There may be no evidence of a future sequel but why make a Robin Hood film without telling the rest of the story? You know, robbing the rich and giving to the poor, fighting the Sheriff of Nottingham and the tyrant King John. After this medieval dog, I doubt we'll see another Robin Hood movie anytime soon.

Robin Hood starts out with Robin Longstride (Russel Crowe) as an archer in King Richard's army. The English forces are returning from the crusades and have decided to stop off in France for some pillaging. The movie introduces us to the future band of Merry Men, Little John (Kevin Durand, "Lost"), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes, "Band of Brothers") and Allan A' Dayle (Alan Doyle) as other English archers. If you're looking for a fun scene where Robin Hood bests Little John, forget it. The best the screenwriter Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential) and director Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator) come up with is a fight over a shell game. Oh, joy. During a troop inspection, King Richard comes upon Robin and asks for his honest opinion of the wars. It's sort of like asking Miss USA what her opinion of gay marriage is. Unfortunately for Robin, his screenwriter decides to channel twenty first century thinking on the crusades and Robin spits out how bad they were in terms of how the Christians treated the Muslims. No Miss USA crown for you, Robin. He gets chained up while the good king decides to attack a French castle.

Okay, there is some history here. There was a 12th century English king named Richard the Lionheart. In the movie, Richard is killed by an arrow just like the real king. During the chaos, Robin and his men escape. As they are riding around the French countryside, they stumble upon Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge) who had been ambushed by Godfrey (Mark Strong, Kick-Ass) an aide to Prince John (Oscar Issac) who is running England while Richard is away. Fatally wounded, Loxley asks Robin to take his sword back to his father, Sir Walter. (Max Von Sydow) In order to sneak a ride back to England, Robin takes the guise of Loxley. Hold on. When they get back to England, nobody recognizes that he's not the real Loxley. WTF? I know eyewitness testimony is bad but really?

Back in England, Godfrey who is aligned with the French King Philip plans to undermine Prince John's reign by levying excessive taxes on everyone. This would weaken Prince John by causing rebellion and allow the French to invade a divided England. Wait a minute. Ridley, you're trying to cram this convoluted plot into a two and a half hoar movie during the summer? Either make this a mini-series or a three hour film. But I digress. Meanwhile, Sir Walter, upon learning that his son has died convinces Robin to take his identity so his now widow Marion (Cate Blanchett) can keep the land. Oh, Friar Tuck (Mark Addy, Still Standing) makes an appearance. Sigh. You see there's no fun scene where Robin wins over Tuck's allegiance. The rest of the movie is about whether in the future, the English will be eating croissants or fish and chips.

The problem with this movie is the opposite of Iron Man 2. Director Scott and Crowe take the subject matter way too seriously. This is probably the worst performance I've ever seen of Russell Crowe. He's glum and doesn't seem to know who his character is. Gentlemen, it's Robin Hood and his Merry Men not Robin and the Boyz N' the Hood! The best merriment that the filmmakers can do is to show the Merry Men get drunk. Now, that's cheap. What? No witty banter? There's zero chemistry between Crowe and Blanchett. And poor Max Von Sydow. He's made to look a senile old fool.

The film looks as it has been drained of color ala "Saving Private Ryan." Battle scenes are a mess, as there is too much camera movement. Sword fights are choreographed and shot badly. The men's hair styles are wildly incongruous. Robin and Little John's very short cropped hair and stubble, look like they just stepped out of an twenty first century Irish pub. Godfrey's bald head makes him look like Lex Luthor. Only William Marshall (William Hurt) looks like he belongs in that century. The music is completely forgettable. What can I say when the best part of the movie is the animated and colorful end credits. Even Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights had more adventure.

If you want to see a great film about Robin Hood, rent The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) starring Errol Flynn. Even Kevin Costner was better in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. (1991) While I praise Ridley Scott's Robin Hood for some historical accuracy, it's an uninspired mess. Grade is C.

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