Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac
Watch Robin Hood online in the UK: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video
We all know Robin Hood. That bloke. Called Robin. From the hood. We all know him. We all love him. So, naturally, that’s what we want when we see a film called Robin Hood. Which, presumably, is why Ridley Scott has gone the other way and given us a completely different movie. We don’t know this Robin. And we don’t really love him.
It all kicks off with a battle. There’s of lot of them. Mostly involving men running around in muddy woods thinking Epic Thoughts with Big Swords or Big Arrows. We see Robin (Crowe) before he becomes the legendary hero, as a soldier fighting for his country and for King Richard. He doesn’t do much robbing from the rich or giving to the poor. He’s too busy shouting.
Godefroy (Strong) likes shouting too. He’s got no hair, so he’s very angry. So angry that he betrays the crown and works with Phillip of France to bring down England. When King Richard gets an arrow in the face, then, Godefroy’s on hand to steal the crown and whisk it away to old Frenchy. But Robin and his merry sidekicks get in the way, so John (Isaac) gets his grubby mitts on the throne instead.
With taxes rising and the country under threat, Robin Longstride (for that, apparently, is his name) finds himself in Nottingham, returning a dead man’s sword to his blind father (von Sydow) and lonely wife, Marian (Blanchett). They’re the last of the Loxley family, who are under pressure from the Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen). So when Robin rides up to their doorstep, it’s only convenient for him to assume the role of the man of the house. His first call of duty? Get drunk on the village mead.
Some barn-stomping comic relief later, and Robin is well on his way to leading a revolution – a champion of rights for common man. Of course, this involves a Massive Fight with Big Swords and Big Arrows on the beach against Godefroy’s French invasion. Because the French are the bad guys. As well as Godefroy. And King John. And the Sheriff of Nottingham – who gets all of five minutes’ screen time.
With all the villainous types running around Robin’s woods, it’s no wonder that Ridley Scott’s reboot comes across as muddled; there’s no big showdown to have because there are too many people to showdown against. Ridley wanted a back-to-basics story. And that’s what we’ve got: not Robin Hood, but Gladiator in a forest.
It’s all there: the epic sword swinging, the social uprising, the evil monarch (Oscar Isaac does a great Joaquin Phoenix impression). Relocating Robin in his historical origins, Brian Helgeland’s script is like no myth you’ve ever heard of: a “Charter of the Forest”, drawn up by King John and Robin’s fellow commoners, isn’t properly explained, which just makes it look like the Magna Carta. As for Maid Marian being a widow, the only reason it works is because it’s less ridiculous than her riding out in battle with a bunch of children.
Still, the action is shot well; there’s no over-editing so it’s easy to follow, and the locations all look pretty and convincing. It’s a shame the same can’t be said about Russell Crowe’s accent. The result is a bizarre, and sadly generic, origins tale that gallops along at a tolerable pace but turns a much-loved legend into a generic bloke with a bow. It may well have been intended as a prologue to Robin Hood 2 (the film we all wanted them to make), but until Ridley and Russell return to Sherwood Forest, they first need to work out where it is: Nottingham, or Ireland?
Robin Hood is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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