Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
CINEMATOGRAPHY: John Mathieson
WRITER: Brian Helgeland
MUSIC: Marc Streitenfeld
Arrows fly, swords slash, countless people die and it’s all boring as hell. That pretty much sums up everything there is to know about director Ridley Scott’s take on “Robin Hood”. Hollywood wanting to make yet another film based on this legendary character may seem a bit odd at first. This film, though, was not supposed to be a gloriously slow and traditional take on the old hero.
Originally, Universal Studios and Imagine Entertainment acquired a script called “Nottingham”. That version of the script was supposed to contain a more sympathetic Sheriff of Nottingham and a more dubious Robin Hood. This all changed the minute Scott signed on to direct.
He eventually got the script rewritten and began to look at this film as his own take on the subject. If he meant to give audiences a water downed, medieval and less entertaining version of “Gladiator”, then he succeeded.
It sucks to think about how interesting a film this could have been. There is a huge “been-there-done-that” feeling throughout the entire piece. Not even good acting from frequent Scott collaborator Russell Crowe or the few minor changes to the mythos could save this horribly flawed flick.
The film opens in the late 12th century. Robin Longstride (Crowe) is a common archer in King Richard’s (Danny Huston) army during the third Crusade. After Richard is slain, Robin comes across a wounded Knight named Robert Loxley. After Robin promises that he will return Robert’s sword to his father in Nottingham (Max von Sydow), Robin poses as Robert and returns King Richard’s crown to England.
In England, Prince John (Oscar Isaac) is crowned the new King and he immediately begins taxing the poor. Before long, Robin gets to Nottingham, meets Marion and the audience knows the rest. He has his Merry Men and his famous bow.
The problem is not that these elements exist, it is simply the fact that there is nothing new here. The only real change is that the Sheriff of Nottingham has a smaller part to play. In fact, he isn’t even the villain.
That distinction falls to Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong), a French enemy that is under the guise of an English soldier that King John trust completely. He met Robin before and the famous archer left him with a nasty scar that looks more like a cold sore. Strong has proven that he can be an intriguing villain when he wants to be in films such as “Sherlock Holmes”. Here, he is as bland as they come. Not once is he a threatening figure.
As far as the action is concerned, none of it is truly memorable. Scott did such a good job on the battle sequences contained in “Gladiator” that it was a surprise that not even one of the battles contained in this film were any good. Not even the final battle at the climax could muster up enough entertainment to keep anyone interested.
The one good thing that could be said about the film is that the performances are good. Crowe could have become one of the greatest actors to play the part had he not had such a terrible script to work with. The same could be said about Cate Blanchett as Maid Marion or the men who play Robin’s Merry Men.
But there is no real point to this version of an ageless hero. Scott brings nothing new and audiences are left wanting to watch better versions of the film when they get home. Hell, even Mel Brooks’ “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” is better than this movie.