New “Robin Hood” Misses Mark

When it comes to Robin Hood give me Errol Flynn or Douglas Fairbanks any day. Director Ridley Scott’s new take on the story, “Robin Hood,” starring Russell Crowe, is certainly great to look at but story-wise is lacking. The film’s authentic looking sets, locations and cast of thousands must have pushed Scott’s CGI (computer graphics imaging) crew into double over time. “Robin Hood” is a darker, gloomier, muddier and also probably more authentic looking telling of the story than previous versions. Darker certainly seems to be the trend for films attempting to reboot a franchise such as the Batman movies (1989-2008), “The Shadow” (1994) and “Watchmen” (2009).

“Robin Hood” has an epic look that goes hand in hand with a valiant attempt to craft its own telling of the Robin Hood story. The film’s climax is a spectacular battle scene reminiscent of Spielberg’s Normandy invasion in “Saving Private Ryan” using arrows instead of bullets.

Part of my problem with the movie is that it takes nearly two and a half hours for Robin Hood to become, well, Robin Hood. Yes it is an “origins” story, but let’s get Robin Hood and his band of men up and running so that we can get to the good parts such as robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. For example the 1922 “Robin Hood,” starring Fairbanks, ran a little over two hours and spent maybe half of that time showing how Robin Hood achieved his claim to fame…and that was without sound. In 1938’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” starring Errol Flynn, Robin Hood and his men were already hiding out in Sherwood Forrest and wreaking havoc on the establishment by the film’s start. No “origins” story was needed.

The new “Robin Hood” is too long, difficult to follow, jumps around all over England and France, with Crowe mumbling most of his lines, and is just not particularly compelling. At one point Robin has to pretend to be Marion’s (Cate Blanchett) husband back from the Crusades. He does this because Marion’s real husband has been killed and Marion needs a husband in order to keep her property in the event that her blind, elderly father-in-law, Sir Walter Loxley, (Max von Sydow) should die. The sudden, cosmetic, marriage of convenience has more than a few shades of the French movie “The Return of Martin Guerre” (1982). Unlike the latter movie though none of the locals, who presumably knew the real husband, question if Robin Hood is Marion’s real husband. Instead the emphasis is on the romantic combativeness between Robin and Marion.

The cast is fine and more than up to the task. Blanchett is very good as a gutsy, no nonsense, proto-feminist Marion. Oscar Isaac plays an appropriately unlikable Prince John who takes over as king from his brother, Richard the Lion Hearted. John taxes the populace and burns the farms of those who cannot pay. Isaac was fine but did not display the devilish delight that Claude Raines did in his wonderful scenery-chewing performance as Prince John in the 1938 version. William Hurt appears in a good supporting role as a character named William Marshal who is fired by John and later sides with Robin Hood. It was nice to see Hurt not playing a slow talking, catatonic-like character as he has in recent films.

The new “Robin Hood” features a realistic look but ultimately proves to be an over wrought, drawn out downer. The film would have done better by establishing its hero sooner and spending more time on his deeds as the titular character.

“Robin Hood,” director Ridley Scott, 2010,
Universal Pictures, 140 minutes, Rated PG-13

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on May 18, 2010, in New. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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