Thursday, October 06, 2011

Movie Review - Robin Hood (with Russell Crowe)

By Alex Popp

The untold story behind the legend.

Following King Richard's death in France, archer Robin Longstride (played by Russell Crowe), along with Will Scarlett, Alan-a-Dale and Little John, returns to England in "Robin Hood", directed by Ridley Scott.

They encounter the dying Robert of Locksley, whose party was ambushed by treacherous Godfrey, who hopes to facilitate a French invasion of England. Robin promises the dying knight he will return his sword to his father Walter in Nottingham. Here Walter encourages him to impersonate the dead man to prevent his land being confiscated by the crown, and he finds himself with Marian, a ready-made wife. Hoping to stir baronial opposition to weak King John and allow an easy French take-over, Godfrey worms his way into the king's service as Earl Marshal of England and brutally invades towns under the pretext of collecting Royal taxes.

This premise may sound intriguing, but I saw it with my dad, who is an expert on the Medieval ages, and we both noticed different flaws and errors. With this sort of semi-historical movie, you have to be willing to suspend reality in the distortions of history. For example, while "Braveheart" was a fantastic film in all respects, the liberties taken with historical accuracy are legion. This film takes liberties as well (it must since Robin Hood is considered fiction), but it lacks the quality and luster of its predecessors.

First, I have to say that Russell Crowe, who is a major draw in historical epics, is clearly too old for the lead character. As the premise suggests, the movie is supposed to be a prequel to the average Robin Hood story, meaning that in this story, Robin Hood would be 25 at eldest. Russell Crowe is going on 50 and no one could imagine him being a young man. Cate Blanchett is much the same as Marion, though not as bad.

As for the performances themselves, this was, by far, not Crowe's best. Blanchett is lovely and handles her strong character well, but as a women who is willing to wear armor and fight in battle, it is far too trite for Crowe to have to rescue her at the end. I groaned when she had to recite the line "Walter, this one's for you". I think the writers could have done far better. Von Sydow is a joy to watch as his performance is the best in the film. Friar Tuck is obviously intended to be comedy relief, but this falls flat. Robin's battle companions seem present only to give tie-ins to the common Robin Hood tales. They remain on the fringes of the film, are uninteresting, and it is difficult to care much about them. I wouldn't fault the actors in this film; they seemed to have done the best of what was given to them, but the problem was the screenplay.

The action sequences are typical Ridley Scott, but after so many of his films, the quick-action, close-up shots are growing tiresome. It has reached the point were the quick-cut photography now makes it too hard to determine exactly what is happening on the battlefield.

Another thing my dad noticed were the weapons which were clearly all leftovers from another Ridley Scott film: "Kingdom of Heaven", one of my dad's favorite movies. The shields are so poorly repainted that you can see large areas of chipping around the edges. And one of the things I noticed was that there were war scars on every warrior's face. Really?

By far, biggest disappointment with the movie was the appearance of the invading French soldiers in wooden "LSTs" (landing ship transports). In the year 1199 troop transports were seldom more than commandeered trade ships. No Navy in the history of the world ever built such a thing out of lumber. Do you know how when you go to a movie in the theater, you kind of forget that you're there and feel in the movie? When you notice this obvious anachronism, you're back in the theater, and you can no longer buy in to the story. What were the writers thinking??

Overall, it is apparent that this was something the moviemakers saw as something they could just slap together with Russell Crowe, and really weren't trying.

Rated PG-13 for intense war sequences and some sexual content.

Two stars (out of four) for "Robin Hood," one of the worst fims of 2010.

Written by Alex Popp for the Animation Empire blog.


From the Emperor...

Hmmm. I think this review shows details as negatives... details that you might not care about. Overall, it's a fun and interesting tale that I recommend, but "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" is more fun and interesting than this version. So if you're looking for a more gritty and less silly film than that classic, then this is it.

Of course, if you want to get even sillier than "Prince of Thieves," then there's always the classicer "Robin Hood: Men in Tights".

And you have to check out the classicest Disney animated version (you know, with the foxes and animals; which is also the only Disney animated film where the animals are anthropomorphized in a world without humans).

- The Emperor

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