By Dirk Sonniksen | May 14, 2010
Director: Ridley Scott
Writer(s): Brian Helgeland, Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris
Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Matthew Macfadyen, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Kevin Durand, Mark Addy, William Hurt, Danny Huston, Max von Sydow
An archer in the army of Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston), Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is a faithful warrior, but soon finds that any criticism of the king has its consequences. Imprisoned, he and a band of “Merry Men” escape after learning the king has been killed in battle. Beating a hasty retreat into the forest, Robin and his men ultimately arrive in Nottingham, where our story begins to take shape, with familiar faces such as Friar Tuck and Marion entering the scene. As bad guys descend on Nottingham, Robin becomes a most unlikely leader who will take on both an English fiend and a French army.
Ridley Scott’s incarnation of Robin Hood follows Robin Longstride in his days before he became a lovable, forest-dwelling bandit. Scott’s take on Robin Hood is a welcome deviation from a tale that has been played out time and again in books and movies for decades. Unfortunately, the story is where the originality ends, as Scott takes us on a journey that seems oddly familiar, not only with Scott’s directorial style, but with banal locations, somewhat tedious battle scenes, and characters that are simply worn out.
Robin Hood has been touted for months as being a dark, sinister version of this well-known classic, but with the exception of a much more talented cast, there is little that separates this film from its 1991 predecessor, Robin Hood: The Prince of Thieves. Indeed, it would have been a treat to see a adaptation of Robin Hood that was a more accurate representation of the time period, complete with gritty people, gritty surroundings, and a gritty plot, but what Scott gives us is a film that resembles a slightly roughshod medieval travel piece of the United Kingdom.
It’s not that Robin Hood is without merit. What manages to keep this film moving is a formidable cast that only a director of Scott’s caliber can assemble. Crowe’s stoic presence gives Robin Longstride the needed qualities to keep audiences engaged. Cate Blanchett gives her usual stellar performance as Marion, the unspoken beacon of hope within the confines of Nottingham. Honorable mentions go out to Mark Addy, Kevin Durand, and Scott Grimes as Robin’s merry band of hapless warriors. Max von Sydow rounds out the cast as Robin’s mock father, Sir Walter Loxley.
Robin Hood ultimately suffers from a story line that is repetitive and tends to plod along monotonously. Even with Scott’s new treatment, Robin Hood felt ordinary and predictable, complete with cliche 1930s opening credits and drunk guys playing tiny guitars while singing shanties by the fireside. Couple that with battle scenes that begin to drag, too many villains (a king, an evil bald guy, another king, and the French), a fair amount of hokey dialogue, and this film becomes a tough sell. While Errol Flynn’s 1938 classic, The Adventures of Robin Hood still holds up as the preeminent classic Robin Hood, this most current adaptation will likely not weather as well, neither as a prequel to the Robin Hood we are so accustomed to seeing, nor as the epic adventure that Ridley Scott intended.