D: Ridley Scott. DP: John Mathesion. W: Brian Helgeland. Starring: Russell Crowe/Cate Blanchett/Mark Strong/William Hurt/Max van Sydow/Oscar Isaac/Danny Huston/Eileen Atkins/Mark Addy/Kevin Durand/Scott Grimes/Alan Doyle/Matthew Macfadyen.
Although not clearly billed as an origin story, Ridley Scott’s newest tackle of the legend of Robin Hood leaves many things to be desired. Including, a palpable sense of commitment to story.
Visually, with the aid of Mathesion, Scott’s film roots itself during the age of the Crusades. A vast time of English military progression into Europe to spread Christianity and declare dominion over cultures with other religious allegiances. This is where Robin of the hood will be born. An archer who takes the law in his own hand. Who steals from the rich to give to poor. Even if it takes an entire film to be given that one moment.
Instead, Scott’s film turns to the politics and English history that turned Robin Longstride into Robin of the hood. These two pillars are not very active in the hero Russell Crowe has crafted. Crowe’s Robin seems simpler than that, one who truly desires the basic freedoms in life. But, although this may seem to add some complexity to the narrative, somehow Crowe seems all too at home falling in love with the woman (in this case Blanchett’s Marion) and reclaiming freedom. Somehow Crowe’s leadership is lost amidst castles, horses, and two-timing political diplomats.
Even worse is that embedded into the narrative are a slew of characters never really developed. Blanchett’s Marion is strong yet decidedly one-dimensional. Crowe’s crew of fellow archers and friends appear just like tag-a-longs without any true presence. And Mark Strong (who, I must saying is getting TONS of work) looks out of place with a bald head roaming around Europe two-timing England with the French. Even the politicians Strong manipulates seem single-minded and an after thought to Crowe’s journey.
The most interesting aspect of this film is probably its casting. Just the minimal research on imdb.com will lead any film buff to discover that this Robin Hood went through many cycles of names attached and casting decisions. Obviously, although the norm, the final decision interests this critic even more. A pretty obvious choice for Crowe as he has proven to be able to carry a film and dominate the screen with his alpha male antics, for me he was not the vision of Robin Hood of lore. However, his strength and weight made the famous archer more a historic warrior with a crusades history rather than an elfin like avenger.
Yet somehow this revamp or reworking of an old story just falls flat. The demand for these types of films abound in film audiences. The interest to learn where our favorite characters come from or how modern filmmaking can re-tell the story, sometimes is even better is great. However, these films need only be made if there is something new to show or tell. Simply re-doing is not enough. What audiences can hope for is that if there is another Robin Hood film to be made, they might actually glimpse the man in Sherwood Forest who became an outlaw. But time and money will tell as the summer movie season develops.