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Robin Hood (2010)

Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe are back for a fifth go around, and Robin Hood marks the conclusion of what I have aptly entitled the Ridley Scott Epic Trilogy.  But unfortunately unlike the two prior installments (Gladiator & Kingdom of Heaven) Robin Hood fails to be much of an epic and more of a well fashioned tale.

Russell Crowe has been very vocal in saying this isn't you're typical Robin Hood film, and that's correct, but this isn't your typical Robin Hood because the characters are different (they really aren't) but because the focus is different.  The easiest way to describe Robin Hood is as a prequel, a prequel to every Robin Hood film come before it.  Where most films focus on Robin Hood as a vigilante, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, being hounded by the Sheriff of Nottingham and King John, none of that has yet occurred.  This is the story, which simply put, sets all that in proper context.

Our story begins with Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) and his band of "merry men" fighting for the English King Richard The Lionheart against the French.  Robin honestly provides his opinion on the decisions of Richard when asked by the King himself, this gets him and his "merry" friends locked up, but only for a short period as Richard quickly falls in battle at the hand of a common enemy archer.  The crown is therefore sent back to England in the possession of Robert Loxley, the King's right hand man, but Loxley and the knights accompanying him are ambushed by an English traitor named Godfrey (Mark Strong) who is working with the King of France in a plan to take over England.  The plan was for Godfrey to kill the King on his journey home, but he soon discovers the King is already dead.

Robin Longstride and his men, now free, happen to stumble upon Godfrey at the conclusion of the ambush, and Godrey manages to escape their surprise attack.  This leaves Robin and his men in a rather interesting predicament, and thus with the crown in their possession they disguise themselves as knights with the goal of returning the crown to England and beginning for themselves a new life.  Robin takes on the identity of Robert Loxley, whose dying wish was for him to return his sword to his father, it's a promise that will lead Robin to meet Loxley's wife, Marion (Cate Blanchett), and assist him in remembering some key events in his repressed childhood.

Meanwhile the incredibly immature and now King John is foolishly making changes that will soon backfire.  He fires one of the King's (Richard and his father's) advisers, William Marshall (William Hurt), and places Godfrey in the position.  Unaware that Godfrey had planned to kill his brother and is secretly loyal to the enemy.  John grants Godfrey the right to go into the surrounding towns and collect the unpaid taxes due to England, gathering payment through either gold or blood.  Godfrey takes with him a French army managing to turn most of the followers of the King against the crown.  With an attack on England eminent King John turns back to Marshall and the people to try and save his himself before not only the French attack him, but also his own people.  In the end, it's Robin Longstride who manages to bring them all together.

The long standing curse that will forever haunt Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe is ironically the success of Gladiator.  While it's nearly impossible to capture lightning in a bottle twice, they'll never escape the comparisons with any film that even remotely resembles it.  Kingdom of Heaven suffered the ill-fated barrage of comparison's and even before Robin Hood hit theaters it too was receiving the same treatment.  Neither film is even close to resembling Gladiator, and if you're of the mind to compare them then you've already made a decision to not give either film a fair shot.  As for Robin Hood, I've never been a big follower of the "legend" myself or seen very many film re-incarnations of the character, but I will say if your looking for a film about the hooded hero, you'll be sorely disappointed.

There are a few brief occasions where "the hood" is referred to and even one scene which is more of an homage to past Robin Hood film's, where Robin dawns the hood and steals grain back for the people of Nottingham, but that's about as far as the Robin Hood persona is taken.  Once again this is really pre-Robin Hood, and it's not until the conclusion of the film that the recognized Robin Hood story is given credence, and I find it doubtful that Ridley or Russell will venture into sequel territory to explore that.  As a film Robin Hood reminded me a lot of my feelings toward Master and Commander, solid but not groundbreaking, good but not great, a little too long but not to the point of boredom.  

The action sequences sometimes pale in comparison to those found in the "Epic Trilogy's" prior two installments.  Personally I blame that on the decision to go PG-13 with the film's violence, which I was most disappointed in.  I understand the need to appeal to a younger base since Robin Hood has always been somewhat of a children's story, but this is not your typical Robin Hood and the action sequences would have greatly benefited from a more gruesome touch.  It's part of what made Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven great films, had that been carried over to Robin Hood (especially with the addition with bow's and arrows) I think it would have given this film the extra edge it needed.  Very brief signs of this are shown in the closing battle between Robin Longstride and Godfrey, with one specific scene being about as gruesome as the film ventures to go.  It's probably the best scene in the film.

Aside from some of the rather mundane action sequences there not lot more negative things I can say about the film, but also nothing extremely praiseworthy I can say either.  The story is pretty deep, weaving in a lot of famous Robin Hood characters quite well, such as Friar Tuck, The Sheriff and Richard the Lionheart.  None of them are ever explored in much detail, but at an already lengthy run-time of two and a half hours there really isn't time.  I thought it was interesting how Ridley setup Lionheart as the introduction to the film, when he happened to use him in the closing of Kingdom of Heaven.  In fact those crusades that Richard was going on are even referred to in the opening of the film by Robin Longstride (who himself fought in them), which I thought was a nice way to connect the two films in time.  

The cast was very well assembled, I especially liked King John (Oscar Isaac) who reminded me so much of the Disney animated King John, a really immature, weaselly, greasy looking guy who'd you'd be stupid to believe a thing he said.  I half expected him to throw a tantrum and start sucking his thumb!  I also liked the casting of the Sheriff (Matthew Macfadyen), unfortunately he doesn't get much screen time because nothing in the story has anything to do with him, but by any chance there did happen to be a sequel (which again I highly doubt it) I would love to see that character explored with Matthew in the role.  

As for Russell and Cate I was pleased, but not overly impressed.  There's nothing I can physically pinpoint to give as a reason, but after the over twenty plus Russell Crowe films I've reviewed in the past couple months this didn't stand out as one of the best, but more so a little formulaic and not extremely relatable.  Part of that is probably due to the overwhelming amount of key characters in the film, making it impossible for Robin Longstride to get as much attention as he probably deserved.  As for Blanchett she is the Keira Knightley of King Arthur version of Maid Marion, very head strong and tom boyish.  Her performance is good, but the scene at the end of the film where she rides out to accompany Robin into battle with all the orphan children on ponies, who were shown throughout the film running through the forests like some kind of uncivilized tribe, was extremely campy.

Overall, Robin Hood is a good portrayal of the man before he became a legend, the cast is great, the story is good, the flow is okay, the action is average.  It's my solid belief in films such as these that action sequences can do major damage to a film if not done properly, and I think Ridley took a huge risk in toning down his usual demeanor to make Robin Hood more "family friendly".  Still Robin Hood is nowhere near as horrible as all the critics are making it out to be, it's certainly worth seeing and probably a film that with age will grow on a lot of people, including myself.

8/10

28 comments:

  1. Awesome. Thanks for a reasonable and honest review. I've read of a lot of the critical ones at this point, and I really feel like they walked in prepared not to like it. Headed to the theater tomorrow...

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  2. @Samantha - Enjoy it, it's really not a bad film at all, but also don't expect brilliance. I've learned to stray away from "professional" critics they seem never think about what us "normal" people are essentially looking for in a film and that's enjoyment. And they really have it out for Ridley Scott period epics, Kingdom of Heaven and this one really never stood a chance I think most of them go in looking for things to gripe about.

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  3. I saw the movie this afternoon. It has been something of a hobby of mine since I was a boy. I am now 62 and a retired professor. I dearly wanted to like this movie as I was so very disappointed with Costner's treatment of, well, Costner as Robin. Because of this desire, I consider myself a fairly strict critic. As such, I can say that I loved the movie. I would give it a 9 and perhaps later, something more.
    This movie shows us an entirely new Robin, one who could easily have lived, served his King and his country, and then been punished by a jealous and vindictive ruler such as John. The movie offers a very different approach to a legend that has changed many, many times over the 700 years or so since we know of its creation. The film retains the most central characters and gives them new life, free from their cliched prisons. Is Robin dour, heavy, very serious? Please. The kingdom has been robbed of its treasure in the name of fighting foreign wars (something not unknown in our time) and is left without a generation of men. Robin is an honest and courageous man at the word of none other than Richard himself. His integrity we later trace back to a rich source and it is validated by both Walter Loxley and William Marshall.
    We see this Robin do a bit of forest shenanigans over a shipment of seed, but most of the movie is spent showing him fit into his future place in the kingdom and of his pivotal role in fighting a traitor and helping to defeat an invasion and introduce a bill of rights that was to become known as the Magna Carta.
    The battle scenes are magnificent, the costumes on a scale with any other of the great medieval epics, the sets amazing, the plot credible (more than in most Robin Hood movies), and the central characters are rich, fully developed, and fully alive.
    This is a great entry to the pantheon of Robin Hood movies.

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  4. wow! your review is almost as long as the film! :)
    i loved this one. i saw it twice in back-to-back performances, and my attention never flagged or wandered (except when an annoying teenager across the aisle started playing a game on his cellphone - grrrrr...). william hurt was better than i've seen him in years; matthew macfadyen was delightfully unpleasant and (sadly) underused; king john needed a quick boot to the butt; lady marian is the kind of woman i hope i might have been if i had lived in that era; and robin was understated, powerful, believable and really really buff! i hope this does well enough to guarantee the sequel for which it opened wide the door.
    great good fun. i'm going back tomorrow (well, later today...).

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  5. @Charles - glad you enjoyed it. I've never been a big Robin Hood fan myself, but I will say this is probably the best Robin Hood film I've seen. Still I think the battle scenes could have been better, simply compared to Ridley's past work. As for past Robin Hood's, Costner is pretty much a joke as an actor in general not really much of a surprise he'd butcher Robin Hood. I guess Connery's done a Robin Hood, never seen that one but Connery is next on the actor marathon list so I'm sure I'll find out shortly. I could possibly see myself giving this a 9 upon future viewings, there's definitely room for it to grow on me.

    @becks - wow, you've seen it twice today already! That's commitment, or craziness! ;) Personally I probably liked the supporting cast more than the two main characters, but overall it was a great cast. I'm weary about a sequel, that doesn't seem to be Russell's style, and other than the Alien series it's not really Scott's style either. So I really wouldn't put too much stake in it happening. And yes this probably beats my prior longest review of The Dark Knight, but I simply could not stop myself from writing! Too much going on in this film to briefly sum it all up!

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  6. i hope you'll love 'robin and marian' when you see it. i saw it in the 70's when it first came out, and it was a lovely film. connery is always connery - not necessarily the best actor but usually entertaining; and ms. hepburn was a joy.
    both ridley and russell have said they intend to make a sequel if the box office on this one warrants, so it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility. i'm keeping my fingers crossed.
    (also of great interest is russell's comment that he'd like to revisit jack aubrey - possibly 'the reverse of the medal', if we're really lucky - pun intended!).
    tiny editorial comment - robin takes on the identity of 'robert loxley', not robin loxley...

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  7. @becks - ah ha, you're right, sounded like Robin to me in the film, must have been the thick accents. I shall fix that! I'd be all for a Robin Hood sequel since the next one would focus on more of the legend we're all familiar with, but with all the mixed reviews I've been seeing I can't guess how this will fair in the box office.

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  8. This review is awesome. I found another site also http://movies.desimartini.com here you can write interesting reviews for movies. Go and check it out.

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  9. re-reading your review this morning has gotten me all excited to see it again! i'd planned to go anyway, but i keep thinking of scenes that i really want to see and examine more closely. first viewing, i was too caught up in what was happening on screen and trying to get used to the accents; second time i was simply mesmerized by russell's performance and didn't see anything else. i think with a third (and 4th and 5th and 6th...) viewing, i'll be able to get the 'big picture'. i'll let you know!

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  10. Nice review CS. I'm a bit torn on whether or not I want to see this, being such a big fan of the original story as told. But it's not just that, nor is it fair to compare this to them (within reason), but I really think the studio wanted this to be a tentpole film. And unless it kills the box office, I don't think they'll revisit with a sequel either.

    It shall be interesting to see how it plays out though.

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  11. @Univarn - it's good enough as a standalone film, and again it doesn't change much of the original story, it's simply the events before the original story. The only thing it really changes is how the characters meet. Personally it would be interesting to see them advance this but if they don't it won't be horrible because we all know the main Robin Hood tale, and that's basically where this film ends.

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  12. confirmed - the number one film in the world for this weekend!
    applause and plaudits to ridley, russell, cate and the entire cast and crew for a job very well done. they beat iron man 2!

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  13. Yep, I loved it. I've got nothing much to complain about. WTF do people get off calling Crowe fat?? I thought he looked fantastic.

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  14. @becks - still remains to be seen if it can top Iron Man in the US. Iron Man beat it in Friday's numbers.

    @Samantha - yea I don't get those comments, the person I saw Robin Hood with said something similar after the film. I think it's becoming popular just to take pot shots at Russell. He was heavy in State of Play, but definitely got fit for this role.

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  15. he gained 40 pounds to play ed hoffman in 'body of lies' and had begun to lose the weight in preparation for 'robin hood' when he got asked to take over for brad pitt in 'state of play'. once he accepted, he didn't have time to lose the rest of the weight and played cal mcaffrey as a tubby man. not really his choice. once he was done with cal, he got back to business and trimmed down and toned his body to play robin.
    today's film stars aren't supposed to be overweight; they're supposed to be buffed and muscled, or if they're female, emaciated and anorexic. russell is comfortable being comfortable, and when he's not working on a role, he relaxes and lives like a normal person. he's put on a bit of weight since he finished filming 'the next three days' last september, which is why some people are complaining that he's 'old and fat', but when he begins his next project, he'll get himself into whatever shape he and his director decide is needed for the role.
    he's human, he's a gifted actor, he loves life, and i adore him - trim and muscled or podgy and cuddly, i don't care.

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  16. @becks - so how many times did you see Robin Hood today? ;)

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  17. only once. i have to save some money for tomorrow when i'm going with a couple of my students, and for wednesday when i'm going with my sister.
    and i probably should pay some bills...
    :)

    hey, wait - are you mocking me? harrumph.

    they're calling me 'that nut' at the theatre.

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  18. you know you're gonna miss me when you've finished this series of reviews!

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  19. @becks - LOL! Well you don't have to leave once we're through. What else do you like movie wise, I aim to please around here, as long as it's not anime or musicals.

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  20. hmmm. i've been watching a lot of ewan macgregor recently, but i don't really have any particular genre that i love. i'll have to look through what i've rented from netflix over the past couple of years to see if there's any kind of pattern (other than russell!).
    let's see - i love redford, newman, michelle pfeiffer, sandra bullock, brendan fraser, christian bale. i also love a lot of the old black and white romcoms - hepburn and grant or tracy were always great together. one of my all-time favorite films was 'it happened one night'.
    i might stick around for the sean connery series, but i was never a bond james bond fan. maybe i should watch them to see what all the excitement was about. i much prefer connery as a mature actor than as a slick young man.
    or i might try reading some of the books i've been meaning to get to...

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  21. @becks - well I've already reviewed all the James Bond films, except for Connery's Never Say Never Again, so the Connery films I'll be reviewing will be everything other than Bond.

    I like Sandra Bullock, I could squeeze some of her films in every-once in a while, or even eventually add her to theme week. You might like some of the Hammer films I'll be reviewing, I'm going to do some that aren't horror for the first couple of weeks, some thrillers and even a Robin Hood film, yes Hammer did one Robin Hood film, I'm looking forward to watching that, it's got Peter Cushing as the Sheriff! In fact it will probably be the first review of Hammer Friday.

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  22. @becks - I've added the trailer of the Hammer Robin Hood film I was talking about in the video section on the front page.

    And I must correct myself, Hammer made three Robin Hood films, the first one being Men of Sherwood, so I'll see if I can't find that one and review it the Friday after next.

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  23. #4 today. it gets better each time. seeing things i missed in prior viewings.

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  24. Wow I was surprised to see your final grade as I was expecting a 6 after reading your review. It's good to see you enjoyed it as much as I did (I gave it a B+, 8/10 as well). It doesn't attain greatness but not every movie can, and Robin Hood is certainly a very solid movie in all aspects. I also think the movie would have benefited from being R-rated but obviously, it would be very hard to recoup the $200 million production budget.

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  25. @Castor - Overall I enjoyed it, and can overlook some of the issues I stated. Personally I think an R-rating might not have hindered it that much, it might have garnered better reviews from the critics, and therefore have a better word of mouth. But I do understand why they went PG-13 in an attempt to make it a possible series, still it was a risk.

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  26. Ridley's Robin Hood is an excellent film and Russell is the yeoman,everyman Robin,a very good fit. The negative reviews of this film are inaccurate and the reviewers comments range from hyper picky,to politically deranged,to tabloid snarky.The political stuff is odd,because those reviewers say that Ridley Scott made a pro Sarah Palin/Teaparty political movie..WTF! One guy from the New York Times did a J'Accuse review of Ridley's work ,also someone from theVillage Voice did the Sarah Palin reference and others did as well. These idiot savants downgraded the film because of that!!Then there were the reviews who felt that a new RH was not necessary because 72 years ago Errol Flynn became the definitive RH,green tights and all. The new Robin wasn't ,"fun" ,yes that was it ..it wasn't a fun romp. I thought it was a good take on an old folktale. The critics were so harsh it was over the top. I think this 21st century version will endure,and be remembered fondly.Those geniuses didn't like ,It's A Wonderful Life',OR Blade Runner for instance.

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  27. @Judy - most of what I read said the film was not "historically accurate" which makes me laugh since Robin Hood is a literally character, not a historical character so I'm confused about what they think is not "accurate". Ridley, as always, does a great job of setting his films in historically accurate settings take Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, Robin Hood is no different. It's simply another blatant example of a good film that critics love to hate, for whatever reason, and most of the time they have no valid reason. I'm looking forward to checking out the Director's Cut of this, which comes out in September, hoping it will have a little more graphic action scenes like Ridley's other epics, if so I'll be more than happy.

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  28. It is an archetypal English folk tale from the medieval times, and is passed down by word-of-mouth and not really invented by a single person. He could have existed though.

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