Crowe musters no charm in history tinged prequel
The new Russell Crowe 'Robin Hood' is actually a prequel. It tells the
story of how the mythical outlaw became the great 'man of the people'
BEFORE roaming around Sherwood Forest with his 'merry men'. Instead of
being pitted against the Sheriff of Nottingham (who has a minor part
here), Robin takes on Godfrey, a bald-headed bad guy and enforcer for
King John who later betrays the homeland by allying himself with the
'Robin Hood' begins nicely with a finely costumed and gritty battle
scene in France. Crowe plays Robin Longstride, an expert archer in King
Richard the Lionheart's army. The King has just returned from the Third
Crusade in the Holy Land when he is felled by an arrow during battle.
It would have been nice if the film's scenarists had King Richard only
speaking French since he never spoke English and spent most of his
adult life in Europe, far from his native England. Longstride decides
to return to England after he assumes the identity of a dying Knight,
Robin Loxley, who has just been ambushed by Godfrey and his men.
Longtsride promises Loxley that he'll return the family sword to his
father back in Nottingham.
Longstride returns Richard's crown to John and informs him of his
death. John is promptly crowned the new King and is determined to tax
the hell out of the Kingdom. In his view, Richard squandered the
treasury by paying for all of intrigues on the Continent and his
ill-considered campaign in the Holy Land. He reminds his mother during
a bitter argument that at one point, England had to pay a ransom to
save Richard after he had been kidnapped by the Duke of Austria in
With Longstride's appearance at the Court, I found it perplexing that
none of the noblemen recognized that he was an imposer. After
Longstride returns to Nottingham and accepts Sir Walter Loxley's
proposal to impersonate his now deceased son, even more improbable is
that no one in the town seems to be able to connect the dots and figure
out that Longstride is not who he says he is.
The main problem with 'Robin Hood' is that Russell Crowe exudes little
charm, playing the mischievous outlaw as a grim-faced action hero. As
for his cohorts, Little John and Will Scarlett, they have little to do
except get drunk and assist Robin and Friar Tuck as they steal grain,
confiscated from the local population by Church authorities. This act
wins Marion Loxley over to Robin after she initially is stunned when
her father-in-law asks her to pretend that she's married to Longstride.
Most of the forest scenes can be found in the Director's Cut which were
wisely trimmed for the theatrical release. For those insist on watching
the Director's Cut, you'll be treated to 1) Marion and a goat stuck in
quicksand and both subsequently saved by Robin and 2) Marion saving
Robin after he's kidnapped by local orphans dressed as forest-dwelling
'Robin Hood' fares no better with its antagonists. The screenwriters
come up with nothing to distinguish Godfrey from any of the typical bad
guys found in any of today's films, whether they're based on real or
fictional characters. And The Sheriff of Nottingham is even less
likable than Godfrey with his constant lecherous advances towards the
widow Marion. Only John is a little more nuanced as he vacillates in
trying to appease the rebellious Northern Barons.
Finally, history takes a back seat to any kind of verisimilitude when
the French invade England shortly after John's ascension to the throne.
In reality, King Philip of France recaptured English-held territory in
France and John promptly invaded that country. It was actually eighteen
years later that France finally waged war in English territory. In
addition, the signing of the Magna Carta and its disavowal by King
John, also came years after as depicted here in this film.
Despite the convoluted chronologies, there is nothing wrong in
attempting to depict Robin Hood in the context of his times. Except for
blatantly anachronistic scenes such as when the French disembark from
their warships in the style of a D-day invasion, I found the attention
to period detail to be impressive. Nonetheless, without any charm
emanating from the principal character, a lack of chemistry between the
romantic leads, antagonists who show little complexity and glacial
pacing in spots, the new 'Robin Hood' is at best, a lackluster affair.
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the movie is great......
Flawed but enjoyable
I put this film in with Errol Flynn's superior The Adventures of Robin
Hood (8/10) in mind. The film can't help but try and fail to echo the
spirit of Braveheart. The first quarter or so is weak, but it gets
better. There are some marvelous aerial shots. It is commendable to see
the legendary Max von Sydow still getting up and punching. I like Cate
Blanchett's character, who nearly drowns while engaging herself in a
battle, a well-taken departure from the norm. The script, though not
exactly dazzling the mind, is reasonably coherent. For me, the film
doesn't defeat itself as a prequel.
Beyond being enjoyable, Robin Hood further solidifies my conception of
Russell Crowe as a man of integrity in a business short on it. Even in
the case of a film I don't like (American Gangster, 5/10), it is nice
to have some assurance that he hasn't signed on merely to pile millions
on top of millions and/or to assuage a neurotic inability to look
himself in the mirror..