Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Russel Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, William Hurt
This happens just about every time an Academy Award winning team gets together to update a classic story into a big commercial success. It was the same sort of thing that happened with Alice in Wonderland earlier this year and the same sort of thing that will continue to happen when our favorite directors and actors take on a familiar unoriginal project. Disappointment.
Not saying necessarily that the movie was garbage, because it wasn’t. Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood was technically perfect. The cinematography and intricate battle sequences were nothing but professionally and masterfully made, which makes sense given the experience of the team and $200 million budget. The production design team recreated the era as vividly as it has ever been, the dialogue wasn’t stale (which happens all too often in period pieces), and the overall product was quite entertaining.
But there happens to be a whole lot more wrong with the film than there is right with the film. First, Robin Hood is a prequel, which is fine and even an exciting reboot opportunity, but it leaves out all the things people love about Robin Hood, the heists, tights and the scampering through the forests practicing chivalry. Scott’s film only touches those things. Instead his story is grim realism, without humor, without sexual desire, without character motivation, which actually ends up making it pretty unrealistic as far as story goes.
It begins by placing the Robin Hood character right into real 12th century English history. Though this Robin Hood (Crowe) has little charm or spunk that the character should have. Instead it’s a replica of something we saw in Gladiator and in a million films before when the hard working everyman is suddenly noble and brave. Snore. Crowe gives the role something tough and gruff, but doesn’t flex his full potential. Maybe that’s the fault of the writing. I’m not going to spoil the rest of the plot for you, because that is about all there is in the film to look forward to.
The film is a shame because Scott takes an extremely interesting part of history and serves it straight out the history book, with little fiction, fun, and excitement to spice it up. Sure there are some big action scenes and cool shots, but it’s tarnished with amateur, careless mistakes like random close ups of extra characters and overly obvious rip-offs from Lord of the Rings, Troy, King Arthur and even Gladiator, which all deploy the tactics much more wisely.
A lot of the film has been done before; the slimly heir to the throne, the one note Mark Strong character, the obvious plot devices that barely work to keep the story moving along. Like Robin Hood has any reason to go to Nottingham on the whim of being a good samaritan, let alone stay there and agree to marry Marion (Blanchett) after a few hours after meeting her.
At least Blanchett breaks away from the pack of one note actors, using her usual talent for sinking into a role yet still charming the audience with her uncharming characters. Her role is underwritten and never given a real full chance to develop her relationship with Robin Hood into something more romantic and believable. Both her and Crowe would have benefited from more screen time, which could have been given to them by taking out any of the numbing and unnecessary plot building scenes on the villains side.
In fact, the whole movie seems a little unnecessary at times, though it might be a great production. That is how it compares to Alice in Wonderland. It’s an update on a story we have already seen, but trying to tell it in a new way. In a new, less interesting way that is. To do so it rips off too much old work to give our favorite collaborators a pass, even if it is technically sound.