Saturday, May 22, 2010

Robin Hood 2010

Continuing my Robin Hood musings from yesterday, here's my review of the new version of Robin Hood, a 2010 movie directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe.

It's a prequel--that is, it tells the story of how the expert archer Robin came to be "Robin Hood." Crowe plays Robin Longstride, a yeoman archer who's been following King Richard the Lionheart on crusade for ten years. Worn out, bitter and disillusioned, he sneaks away after King Richard is killed while besieging a castle in France. Along the way Longstride and his three soldier buddies happen on an ambush massacre. They repel the attackers and discover the victims are a group of Englishmen who were trying to return King Richard's crown to England. One of the dying victims, Sir Robert Loxley, begs Robin with his dying breath to return his sword to his father at Nottingham. Robin promises he will. He and his buddies return to England disguised as knights--Longstride calling himself Robert of Loxley and bearing the Loxley sword as well as the royal crown. Thereafter plot complications ensue. (For a full plot summary, including spoilers, see the Wikipedia site on the film.)

It has great production values, cinematography, costumes, and period detail. It has lots of action--battle scenes, swordfights, fistfights, chase scenes, executions, etc., as you would expect in a movie by Ridley Scott (whose work I greatly admire--Blade Runner is one my favorite movies).  It has Russell Crowe, a great actor, as well as a cast of other top-notch performers--e.g., Max von Sydow, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt.

But...I was disappointed.

Why? Because there was none of the joie de vivre I associate with the Robin Hood tales. All the movie/TV versions of Robin Hood I've seen have had strong explicit or implicit wit and good humor--an optimism, an underlying happy feel. The Scott/Crowe Robin Hood, however, is grim. Really grim. Everybody is grim. Everything is grim. Oh, unquestionably real medieval times were grim. And yes, the whole Robin Hood thing is just a legend. But we expect legends to fulfill our (often subconscious) mythic fantasies. Mine went unfulfilled by this version of Robin Hood. There's no real humor or happiness anywhere in the movie. Robin Longstride becomes a hero as the movie goes along--he helps save England from a French invasion, and directly saves the perfidious King John from being slain--and he's clearly a leader of men. But even at the end, when Robin, Lady Marian (or, as spelled in the movie cast list, Marion), and the merry men are living in Sherwood Forest as outlaws, purportedly one big happy family, the smiles and merriment seemed forced. And the romance between Robin and Marian (Marion)? Hah. I did not sense any chemistry between Crowe and Blanchett, good actors though they are. I didn't get the feel-good ending I hoped for.

Oh, and I have some quibbles with accuracy, if one can expect historical accuracy from a movie about a legend. The movie has King Philip of France invading England, himself along for the ride. It never happened. And the French troops are being landed in boats with drop-down fronts, just like the Higgins LSTs used during the D-Day invasion in WWII. I didn't tear out my hair at the movie theatre, but I did tug on a few strands from time to time.

If you want to read a review of the film by a real movie critic, the esteemed Roger Ebert, go here.

Does all that sound like I'm bashing it? Yet, I still recommend you see it if you love costume dramas, historical settings, medieval battles, and watching great actors in cinematic tropes. It's worth the price of admission, but it may not be what you expect out of a Robin Hood remake.


Charles Gramlich said...

you're right, most of the Robin Hood movies I've seen have had a sense of joy and humor in them. This looked a lot like gladiator to me, which was a very grim movie.

Lana Gramlich said...

I think I have to give this one a shot, regardless. I already know that these days we see the best parts of the movie in the commercials, but I love the way Ridley Scott does "atmosphere," & I want to see it what he's done here, too.

cs harris said...

I have problems with any movie or film of unrelenting gloom. Human beings like to laugh; the worse it gets the more we laugh (remember Katrina?). So unremitting gloom is in the end unrealistic--apart from being no fun. Sounds like they just called this character Robin Hood because it's a name people are familiar with, like Henry VIII and Hitler.

As for having Philip invade England, that is just lazy and silly.