Robin Hood (2010)

Robin Hood (2010)
  • Time: 140 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Drama
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, Matthew Macfadyen


Birth of a legend. Following King Richard’s death in France, archer Robin Longstride, along with Will Scarlett, Alan-a-Dale and Little John, returns to England. 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. Can Robin navigate the politics of barons, royals, traitors, and the French?

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  • Ridley Scott has done it before. The swords-and-sandals sub-genre in which he single-handedly reestablished a decade ago with Gladiator (2000) influenced many filmmakers to take up the reins of epic-scale action pictures set in medieval times. Scott revisited this again with the less successful Kingdom of Heaven (2004).
    In Robin Hood, the famed director of Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Black Hawk Down (2001), and American Gangster (2007) comes closest to recreating the gritty, animalistic battles and strong human drama so brilliantly captured in his Best Picture winner. However, this time it is less impressive.
    The first hour of Robin Hood is a letdown. It takes a long time for the narrative to pick up its momentum and for us to be acquainted with the film’s major characters. The skirmishes are shot in trademark balls-to-the-wall style by Scott, but there is no sense of direction or visual coherence. We are plunged into chaos, not knowing who’s who in the setup, and what the bloody hell is going on.
    Russell Crowe who plays Robin Longstride allows some form of viewer-character identification. He struggles through the mayhem just like us. But at least he knows what is happening. The meeting of Robin and Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett) at the start of the second hour turns things around. What a relief to say the least. The romantic (and awkwardish) chemistry between Crowe and Blanchett provides us with something worth investing in for the remainder of the film.
    The climactic battle is the film’s showpiece sequence and Scott is a master of building anticipation. Wide aerial shots of armies approaching the battle ground (the French on boats, and the English on horses) are quite spectacular, though the battle per se does not live up to its “anticipatory” billing.
    While Scott’s direction of action now makes more sense than at the start, he copies relentlessly scenes from Mel Gibson’s Braveheart (1995) and Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998), thus providing little, if any, fresh take on the art of filming war scenes. To his credit, Scott still manages to make them thrilling.
    Scott’s take on the popular legendary figure is interesting. But it is far from the definitive one. This is not the Robin Hood who steals from the rich to give to the poor. This is not the Robin Hood who hides away in Sherwood Forest and be merry with his friends. Instead, this is a Robin Hood “Gladiatorized” for the mass market.
    The film ends with the sentence, “And so the legend begins.”, thus confirming our suspicion – that this is a “prequel”. Not surprisingly, there are talks of a sequel. Let’s hope this time there will be more humor, less Maximus-inspired speechmaking, more swashbuckling action, and less grit. Scott takes the fun out of watching a Robin Hood picture. But frankly, I will settle for this anytime over that Kevin Costner drab show.
    GRADE: B-

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