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Awesome: 2.7%
Worth A Look: 37.84%
Average: 8.11%
Pretty Bad45.95%
Total Crap: 5.41%

4 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Robin Hood (2010)
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by Erik Childress

"Did We Learn Nothing From Liberty Valance?"
2 stars

In 2004, the makers of King Arthur purported to tell the true-ish story behind all the myths and magic of the British leader. Six years after that film failed to inspire anybody to care along comes Ridley Scott's new take on Robin Hood basically promising the same prequel-ish groundwork for what led to countless stories and film adaptations of the outlaw who robbed from the rich to give to the poor. Revisionist history can be plotted about in many ways. You can have fun with it, connecting the dots of an audience's knowledge in a playful manner a la Shakespeare In Love. Or one can get under the skin of a polarizing figure and attempt to humanize them away from the soundbites as Oliver Stone has done with both Nixon and Dubya. These were men based around the familiarity of fact though. And in the case of King Arthur and Robin Hood, the folks behind these curious adaptations should be questioned less about the history books they have studied to find the truth and more about the one book they should have. Namely the short story by Dorothy M. Johnson that should have so reminded them that "when the legend becomes fact, print the legend." Not the other way around.

The year of our crusading Lord is 1199 and Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is an archer in the army of King Richard (Danny Huston). After a disagreement over the King's eventual place in Heaven in God's service, Robin and other soldiers including Little John (Kevin Durand) - now tall, not pudgy - and Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes) are punished amd kept out of battle. That leads to the vain Richard taking an arrow in his neck and his best soldiers escaping his service for good. The crown must go on however and it is actually intercepted by Robin and his merry men after an ambush gone wrong by Prince John's royal advisor, Godfrey (Mark Strong in the atypical Mark Strong role for those who know who Mark Strong is).

Robin returns the very crown Prince John (Oscar Isaac) tried to steal from the unbeknownest dead body of his predecessor and continues to return things under the guise of the deceased Robert Loxley who failed to successfully guard the King's hat. Robin/Robert brings te soldier's sword home to his wife, Marian (Cate Blanchett) and father, Sir Walter (Max Von Sydow), who conveniently knew Robin's father around the signing of the Magna Carta. He asks him to pose as his son like some medieval Martin Guerre to protect the family's land from those who demand the presence of a husband. The village will apparently buy the ruse as long as the old, BLIND man says it so. While Robin integrates into a normal life with the occasional forest stick up, Godfrey lays waste to every province in order to secure John's rule over the people. His only mistake was going after Robin's new home.

Considering all the crimes committed against the shifting monarchy during his time on screen, you might still be surprised that King John's declaration of Robin Hood as an "outlaw" does not come until the final scene. That is what we know about the man though going in and are still left with that image coming out of the theater. Everything else that comes before it is pretty much a blur. Although it begins with a nicely staged battle sequence and a dialogue scene or two that suggest screenwriter Brian Helgeland is going to add some Shakespearean intrigue to the backstory, much of the next two hours plays like a sleeping pill designed to make you forget you were watching anything associated with Robin Hood altogether. Sure there are recognizable names like Friar Tuck (Mark Addy) and a Sheriff from Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen), but they pop up with little purpose in-between scenes that will jog greater memories of Monty Python and A Beautiful Mind than Errol Flynn. Try to restrain a chuckle after Robin's "none shall pass" and, yes, there's a scene where Will Scarlet has apparently taken a cue from John Nash and his theory of not hitting on the prettiest girl in the room.)

It is not that taking the fun out of a Robin Hood story is a crime. The mood can certainly be shifted from cheeky swashbuckling to conflicted anti-hero. Only Ridley Scott's film is stuck hopelessly in a void that doesn't even split the difference. Nothing past the opening set piece parts from the same ol' skirmishes that Ridley (and countless others) have been serving up since Braveheart. After utilizing Spielberg's cut-a-frame editing technique from Saving Private Ryan for his own battles in Gladiator, Scott has brought it full circle in a concluding fight that resembles a theater troupe's adaptation of the Normandy landing only in revisionist knight armor. It might be a growing sign of the times to suit up the leading ladies of the era as some post-feminist, G.I. Jane-kinda equality. But was the fair Marian really a dagger-wielding, arrow-shooting spitfire ready to slay the Nazgul alongside the boys? Cause I don't seem to recall her bringing the fight to them in any of the other incarnations of the story. Maybe as the story goes here, once she gives it a shot and still has to be rescued by Robin she just gave it up for good.

As for what purpose this version of Robin Hood serves, that will be one for the historians to work out. The argument for it as a political allegory for our times won't hold up as well as some of the Teabaggers' spelling techniques. Their side will assume the fight against an oppressive government automatically spells O-B-A-M-A while conveniently forgetting Robin's redistribution of wealth to the poor. And if this were released during the Dubya era, the Left could see it as the story of an incompetent ruler led into a war by an deceitful right-hand man. Helgeland's screenplay does not earn either comparison and I doubt anyone walking into a Robin Hood story is seeking such analogies in the first place. It is said that suspense evolves from knowing more than the characters do. But what is it called when we know about our hero's story than he does? At one point when Robin is turned into a baggage of repressed memories we should not be surprised if he was once a child in a pre-school with a kindly gardener who lived in the basement and made finger knives. Robin Hood's past could be anything. It is based primarily on folklore and not anything taught in a history class, so what difference does an ultra-serious breakdown of the man behind the myth make especially when Ridley Scott's take never really gets under his skin? It might seem like repetition at this junction, but the point is never more clear than after Robin Hood. Fact has become legend, so print it. And if you can't do that, I'm sure you can find a movie about it somewhere.

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originally posted: 05/13/10 23:43:28
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Festival de Cannes For more in the 2010 Festival de Cannes series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell decent Crowe makes a good robin hood though 3 stars
12/16/10 mr.mike Crowe is more Man With No Name than Robin Hood. 3 stars
11/23/10 millersxing Ridley in vintage form; don't let non-traditional themes, jokes, and gender roles throw you 4 stars
9/23/10 Total Crap Very boring. Just one big set-up for a sequel that probably won't even be made. 2 stars
6/17/10 Dr.Lao If you know nothing about history and nothing about Robin Hood, you might like this film 1 stars
5/31/10 gc One of those movies that you wouldn't recommend but not neccessarily a bad movie either 3 stars
5/31/10 action movie fan disappointing, could have been much better-crowe was so wooden 2 stars
5/21/10 Bastounet Good movie, really entertaining with good actors and a great scenatio. I recommend it 4 stars
5/21/10 ron scott always delivers 5 stars
5/17/10 Tagla Telli Never seen a movie so aimed at a sequel, ever! 2 stars
5/16/10 Thedanz Could not wait for this movie to end. Too long, too boring. 2 stars
5/15/10 Darkstar What an awful goddamn bore of a film. Not the robin hood story you are expecting. Skip it. 1 stars
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  14-May-2010 (PG-13)
  DVD: 21-Sep-2010


  DVD: 21-Sep-2010

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