Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: Brian Helgeland
Staring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, Max Von Sydow, William Hurt, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Mark Addy, Matthew Macfadyen, Kevin Durand, Scott Grimes, and Alan Doyle
An Englishman’s home is his castle. -Robin Longstride
Robin Hood was one of those movies where I was a little unsure how I would feel. I grew up loving Robin Hood with Kevin Costner and let me just say that this version of Robin Hood by Ridley Scott starring Russell Crowe blew every other version of Robin Hood I am familiar with out of the water. I love the story and the overall approach to the telling of this story. Other films have not gone into as great a detail on how Robin Hood came to be an outlaw in my opinion.
I loved the overall story, direction and feel of the film. The cinematography was sweeping and showed off the beauty of the country. There was one scene where the greens of the leaves on the trees looked so beautiful and luminescent that I was in awe. The other sequences of the rolling British countryside were great as well. The costuming and the set production is very realistic which is important for this type of film. I felt like I was watching a sweeping epic of a movie which is great.
Ridley Scott has a lot of experience at capturing a period with his films and the same is true with Robin Hood. I felt the realism of the battle sequences were great. I have always loved hearing about the Crusades ever since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade sparked my interest. It is amazing that these men followed their King into battle for ten years because of respect and for love of crown and country. That strength can be seen in the eyes of the soldiers fighting and dying on the battlefield. Overall the action sequences were awesome!
This is not a perfect film, very few films are. The final act seemed very rushed where as at times during the middle of the film I felt as though the pacing dragged. Max Von Sydow was wonderful as Sir William. William Hurt was great as the Marshall. I was glad that the Sheriff of Nottingham did not play as large a part as the prime bad guy in this film, the king did a perfect job as the role of the villain giving the audience someone to hate.
The bottom line is that the film had great action sequences, wonderful dialogue, excellent production value, and has a bit of romance. This is perfect movie going fare for both men and women young and old. I loved the grand feel of the film and wished it was actually longer so that it could have not felt rushed with the last act. I do recommend seeing this film on the big screen and think you will fall in love with the story of Robin Hood all over again.
In my “10 Movies I’m Excited to See” article on this website, I talked about how all I was hoping for out when watching Robin Hood were some epic battle sequences. Thankfully, not only did I get my wish, but I got a lot more; Robin Hood was on the whole a very engaging movie, with an interesting take on the legend.
Being as my only experience with the Robin Hood mythos comes from the Mel Brooks’ movie Robin Hood: Men in Tights, the story changes took a bit of getting used to. For example, Robin of Loxley is not really Robin of Loxley, he’s just an imposter who is thrust into the role at the behest of the real Loxley’s father. In the crusades, he was just one of the many in King Richard’s army; he had no ties to Nottingham except for a dying man’s wish. While this has sent some people in a tizzy (and understandable, I hate when my stories are messed with), I thought it was loads more interesting. This Robin is more brutish, more of a warrior, which is how I figured he should have always been considering he was supposed to be fighting in the Crusades and everything.
Marion is also not the helpless woman she was in the old story (at least the Mel Brooks story). No one is capturing her and she isn’t relying on Robin’s help to be saved. Marion, played by Cate Blanchett, is a strong female character who is willing to fight (and fight she does!). She is cold towards Robin in the beginning, which is understandable because he’s pretending to be her dead husband, but eventually she begins to warm up to him as Robin proves he is not a vagrant. Blanchett doesn’t get a whole lot to do, but she’s good with what she is given.
While the movie does follow Robin’s ascent into becoming the legend we all know and love, there’s a whole subplot entirely around betrayal and power structures in the English court that will either turn off viewers to keep them riveted. I was totally into this, and I absolutely loved Oscar Isaac, who played King John. While his brother Richard led by example, John wants to lead by fear and he is consumed by greed and power, letting that drive his every movie. Isaac plays him as a very slimy character, and he is intensely unlikeable…although I kind of liked him because he was an idiot. Mark Strong, who plays the traitorous Godfrey, is doing his usual bad guy schtick here, but that is never a bad thing and he adds another excellent villainous portrayal to his repertoire.
Other characters from the legend make their way into the movie. Friar Tuck, played by Mark Addy, is in it in a brief role but it’s the best work he’s done in a long time. The Sheriff of Nottingham shows up too, but he’s in a very “blink and you’ll miss him” role, which made me sad because I like that character. It made sense though, since he and Robin aren’t the enemies they are destined to become yet, so I wasn’t too mad. Robin’s merry men, Little John and company, provide most of the comic relief of Robin Hood and they do well with what little they are given. Kevin Durand, who plays Little John, does good work here and makes up for the horrible wreck that was Legion.
The cinematography was excellent, and the battle scenes I was hoping for delivered in every way. They are brutal and captivating, proving Scott is the best battle sequence director in Hollywood. The last battle, especially, is excellent and almost worth paying for the movie alone.
The only issue in Robin Hood is the running time. It runs for 2 hours and 20 minutes and especially in the middle, you can feel every minute. There are three “party” scenes in the film, which seemed excessive and unnecessary (except the last one), and could have easily been cut out. Also, while I enjoyed the whole “traitor against England/unqualified King takes the throne” storyline, it is a Robin Hood movie; it would have made more sense to concentrate on him fully rather than going off on these political subplots.
All in all, I loved Robin Hood. It’s a beautifully shot, well-acted, interesting movie that suffers a little bit from its bloated running time. Had it been a bit more condensed and more focused on Robin’s exploits, this movie would be held in higher regard. However, it is definitely worth a watch and, in my opinion, a lot better than Iron Man 2.
Fresh out of the theater I’m feeling enthralled and pleasantly astonished at seeing Ridley’s Scott’s “Robin Hood”. Not only was this film a diversion from our former adaptations, it was full of all the things movie goers ask for in a great epic action film. Brilliantly subtle and strong performances from all of the cast gave a much needed sense of legitimacy. Brian Helgeland’s wonderfully written and character driven script allowed Scott to do what he does best and bring all the good together with a palpable visual canopy throughout. It may punctuate slowly at first, but the film becomes undeniably captivating as it builds momentum throughout.
Trying not to delve too specifically into the plot, I think it actually faired better with me, not really knowing what take Helgeland and Scott would throw at me. If there’s any doubt that either men are talented, consult Helgeland’s “L.A. Confidential”, one of my favorite films ever, and Scott’s “Gladiator” another favorite of mine. They took the legend of “Robin Hood” and back much up from historical facts and fun with fiction. The first thirty minutes or so may have you a bit at odds, trying to grasp the films intention, the characters, where it’s going, and what will happen. Upon Mark Strongs first appearance, the film takes these introductions and moves forward solidly.
The detailed attention of the script and Scott’s collaboration of vision and appreciation for character development is equally met with the perfect cast. Each character, no matter how small their screen time is, becomes an important chess piece. Even the most inconsequential pawns are giving thought and attention, making you actually care what happens to each. When their roles come into play at an important time, it gives the scene far more depth and believability.
Russell Crowe may be Scott’s favorite actor of choice for his films, but it’s understandable why. His take on Robin Longstride was subtle when necessary and strong when needed. He didn’t steal each scene with Maximus’s charm and charisma, but let himself be balanced with his fellow actors, showing not only what a fine actor he is, but a sense of respect for those around him. With two handfuls of lovely performances, it was Cate Blanchett who stole my eyes to her in each scene. No melodrama necessary, she simply commanded the scenes with a quiet sense of strength and passion, and never tried to be the “I’m woman hear me roar” type. The best Marion ever portrayed in my thoughts. Mark Strong has had my attention for years now, and playing the most obvious villain of the story (there are many wolf’s in sheep’s clothing for you to digest), he does it without falling prey to stereotypical over the top behavior. His Godfrey is cold, calculating, and cunning. Dangerous by his sneaky nature, which plays out perfectly to the most melodramatic character: King John. Though Oscar Isaac was over the top at times, it was wonderfully flamboyant bratty child behavior that really gave the thrown some much needed color, and often humor. We can’t speak of Robin Hood without his merry men, and while very different indeed in this film, they are also classically similar to those of previous films. I’m familiar with Kevin Durand from Stargate and he was wonderfully cast as Little John, along with Robin’s other men. The chemistry between the four men was palpable.
The action wasn’t a non-stop array battles or mini-fights, and being as this is a story about Robin Hood and considering his main tactics were based on brains over brawn and guerrilla warfare, it was implemented into the story fairly. The reports of it being a Braveheart wannabe are exaggerated. There was nothing Braveheart about it, though it was a relief to seen Scott’s keen eye to important details. Robin wasn’t a master swordsman, and when going to battle he carried the hammer on horse, I was relieved he wasn’t wielding the broadsword until it was called upon. When the fights happened you got what you asked for: brutal violence, a rustic kind of battle, and pure gruesome results. In the back round was a beautiful scenery of a green and forest filled England that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen represented on film before.
Unfortunately you do feel the length of Robin Hood, and if that first thirty minutes may have been summed up a little bit more, it could have changed things. Once Robin arrived in England even the most simple moments were built with tension.
This far exceeds Iron Man 2 for me, and runs in as one of my favorite movies of 2010 so far. Ridley Scott proves time and again that just because a film is an “action” movie, doesn’t mean you can’t have great characters, a great story, and have it all well acted. All the pieces come nicely together, and while it’s nowhere near perfect it was a damn solid flick. Every bit worth seeing in the theater and one that will certainly find it’s way onto my DVD rack.
Mafia Average: 3.38/4 Stars