When I heard that Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe were teaming up again to bring another ancient hero story to life, I surprisingly asked ‘why?’. They made Gladiator which, while overblown and a rip off of Braveheart, was considered a success. So I was puzzled why team up again to tell a story that has been told many times before? I will speculate at the end of the review but first, on to the film.
Robin Hood is basically an origins story. Robin Longstride is a faithful and brave archer in the King’s army. Having enough of the military life, he and his merry men decide to go on the road for a simpler life. Along the way they hitch a ride back to England, Longstride get’s mistaken for Robin of Locksley, falls in love with Lady Marion, and ends up leading the English army into battle against the sneaky French. wrongfully accused by the end of the film, he dones the title of ‘Robin Hood’ and takes his place among the forest, beginning a life of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Sounds OK right?
This new version of Robin Hood is diametrically opposed to the Kevin Cosner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in every way. This new version is authentic, well acted, beautifully shot, and grounded in realism. The problem; it’s also boring, lifeless, humorless, and as romantic as a game of chess. While the 1991 Robin Hood was a complete mess, at least it was fun and exciting in a corny kind of way. While the world Ridley Scott knits together is well crafted, I found myself enjoying the scenery more than the actors that inhabited it. It also is crippled by a storyline that is difficult to track and action scenes that are forgettable.
While I generally like Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, I just found them too old for this origins story. Crowe does a good job portraying the noble, quiet fighter but is given very little else to develop. There is a desperate attempt at storyline about his father but it’s unsatisfying and pointless. Marion is hardly a maid and is way too heavy-handed as a strong independent woman. A younger and more vulnerable actress would have been better suited as a counter to the already strong and independent Robin Hood. It’s not till the last twenty seconds of the film that you kinda get excited about the adventures of Robin Hood and his merry men. Unfortunately, it’s too late to care. This is a wasted effort for such a talented cast.
So back to my original question of why this movie now? Inspired by great origins stories like Batman Begins, I believe Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe are in search for the new epic franchise. I think that is the ‘holy grail’ for these directors with reputations to protect. Robin Hood felt like an attempt to ensnare the audience in wanting more and telling an epic story that spans multiple movies. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Scott. Blade Runner and Alien were some of the best movies of their generation- so long ago. Now I am starting to question his vision to create unique and compelling stories. This movie didn’t help that case either. So if you want to good laugh, rent the 1991 Robin Hood. If you want a good nap, watch this version.