- 'ROBIN HOOD': Too much, too boring.
There's something about selfless heroism and standing up for the little guy that floats my boat, so I was stoked to hear that Hollywood was revisiting Sherwood Forest's most famous resident. Director Ridley Scott — the brains behind “Gladiator” — was on board, as was Russell Crowe, so I came to the film with high hopes.
Given that all-star pairing had worked before in the Selfless Hero genre — well enough to win Crowe an Oscar, anyway — it's
still kind of a mystery to me why the new “Robin Hood” misses the bull's-eye by a mile. Maybe it's because it goes too radically against expectations, following Robin Hood from lowly soldier to leader of armies to outlaw instead of picking up with him as a forest-savvy archer and thief of myth. Whatever the case, this retelling manages to dull-ify one of the least-dull stories in all of literature and legend, which is a tall order.
Going with the Origin Story idea that worked for “Batman Begins,” Scott and Crowe start off with Robert Longstride (later Robin Hood), returning with the armies of King Richard (Danny Huston) from a decade-long crusade in the Holy Land. In their last battle before heading home, however, lowly bowman Longstride lands in hot water when he tells the king that his Holy Crusade wasn't so holy, besmirched as it was by the massacre of women and children. Punished by the king along with his loyal troupe of merry men, Longstride decides to hightail it home right after learning that Richard has died in battle. On the way there, however, Longstride and Co. come upon an in-progress ambush of the knights assigned to return the fallen king's crown to England. After quickly dispatching the dastardly French ambushers, they speak briefly to the mortally-wounded Sir Robin of Loxley, who asks Longstride to take his sword to his estranged father in Nottingham. Longstride and his men disguise themselves in the knights' armor and head back to England bearing Richard's crown. Waiting for them is Richard's weasel brother, John (Oscar Isaac), who sets about taxing the citizenry into the ground. Little does he know, the Dastardly French are watching carefully. They've placed a wolf among the flock, in the guise of suitably greasy villain Godfrey (Mark Strong) and hope his machinations within King John's kingdom will be enough to spark a civil war, which can then be used as cover to launch an invasion. At the same time, Longstride has been asked by Loxley's father (Max von Sydow) to assume his son's identity so that Loxley's widow, Marian (Cate Blanchett), can keep her fortune.
Whew! If all that sounds convoluted, it is. Way too much time is spent in “Robin Hood” on political maneuvering and way too little on the fun stuff like Friar Tuck beating people's asses with his staff and watching Robin shoot evildoers in the face from a mile away with a bow and arrow. That's the whole problem of the film. While there are characters like Batman who kind of beg for a retelling of the forces that made them, there are some that just need to be allowed to remain the enigma. We don't need to know why Robin Hood fights for the poor and downtrodden, just that he does. That's the whole point of a hero like him: that any of us can be Robin Hood if we stand, and stand true.
As is, while Blanchett is radiant, funny and wholly genuine as Marian, Scott and Crowe seem to be taking things waaaay too seriously, with lots of close up slo-mo shots of Crowe's screaming, beet-red face and him swinging a sword and/or riding full-tilt at the head of massed cavalry. In the end, it's too much, something on the order of being served a 5-pound banana split when all you ordered was the cherry on top.