Robin Hood – 2010

Robin_hoodYou watched Gladiator and thought wow, Russell killed it, what an epic performance! Since then you’ve been waiting for his next feature that does it one up. Could this be it? Robin Hood is a big big big character for anyone to play. Many of us were hooked on the TV series from childhood and grew up on this stuff. To make a legit movie that brings his character to life is a tall order for anyone. Ridley Scott knew this before taking on the challenge; and many will agree if anyone can get it right, their resume would look very much like his.

I have a personal connection with the story of Robin and couldn’t wait to see it on the big screen. With Russell playing the lead, I expected a movie that would reignite my affection for the hooded man and make me feel like a boy again. In reminiscence, I was a bit of a loner as a kid. It’s not that hanging out with other kids wasn’t fun, I just preferred exploring alone. I found riding my bike to distant places thrilling. Naturally, Mom disliked me disappearing for hours, so she paid attention to what I liked on TV and would remind me when Robin Hood was coming on. Her strategy did keep me indoors, not to mention African stations are notorious for reruns, I must have seen the entire series many times over.

The version I saw as a kid is Robin of Sherwood starring Michael Praed, and here’s how they tell the story. A young boy loses his family at the hands of the Kings’ soldiers. His entire village is annihilated. He flees to a nearby village where he grows into a man. After clashing with the law, he becomes a rebel set out to fight injustice. He meets other likeminded rebels and they grow into a gang. With swords, bows and arrows, they take from the corrupt and give to the overly taxed common people. Robin quickly becomes a local legend, a symbol of hope causing serious problems for those governing the province. In fear of a rebellion or civil uprising, the authorities place a bounty on the gang and relentlessly look for ways to end their crusade. Trap after trap is laid but they always manage an escape. Every episode in the series plots around this. The forest spirit guiding Robin, his standing up for justice, his relationship with the gang and villagers, his romance with the beautiful and witty Lady Marion.

In comparison, the new one with Russell had me a bit puzzled after seeing it, though not in a bad way. IMHO, this movie is Pre-Robin Hood. It’s a lead up to how the character came into existence, which makes me think there will be a sequel. It expands on Robin’s life before declared an outlaw and enemy to the King, which is why parts of the story felt foreign to me.

Robin Hood is an Adventure Drama, on Netflix you’ll find it under Action and Adventure. True to its categorization, we get our first battle just minutes into the movie. King Richard is trying to take a French Castle. Their walls of defense keep the King’s army outside for days, each one registering a bloody battle. To motivate his men, the King would charge across the frontline, belting out encouragements to the soldiers. A reckless behavior that eventually gets him an arrow in the neck.

Recognizing a dead king cannot pay wages, Robin (Russell Crowe) and friends abandon camp to earn their livelihoods elsewhere. While journeying through the forest, they come across an ambush. A group of knights riding to England with news of the Kings’ death have been attacked. They help to fight off the attackers but it’s too late. The knights are all dead except for one Sir Robert Loxley of Nottingham. Unfortunately, his injuries are fatal and his faith, sealed. Before drawing his final breath he pleads with Robin to honor one dying wish. This sets the stage for how Robin Longstride, a commoner and soldier in the Kings’ army goes on to become a knight.

They retrieve the King’s crown from Sir Robert’s horse and continue to England posing as the dead Knights. At the Royal Court; Robin delivers the crown to the kings’ mother and testifies to his demise in battle. Prince John (Oscar Isaac), younger brother and next in line to the throne is immediately made king. In fear of being discovered, Robin hastily leaves Court to carry out Robert’s dying wish.

Reaching Nottingham, Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow) presents Robin with a bold proposition. He decides to offer him a place in his house as his son. The death of Robert, his only male heir means Walter’s position will be forfeited when he dies. Robert rode off to war shortly after they were stationed in Nottingham. His subjects hardly know him and therefore won’t recognize him. Plus members of the Royal Court already think Robin is Robert, a deception that further works to their advantage. Robin accepts the offer and to complete the disguise, he also has to play husband to Robert’s wife, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett).

Back at Court, someone is leaking military information to the French. The traitor is none other than Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong). He’s so good at being the bad guy and plays a similar role in another one of my favor ite films, Tristan and Isolde. With the absolute confidence of King John within his palms, he manipulates military command and weakens the English army. He also helps the French secure secret passage into England to prepare a surprise attack.

The King eventually discovers Godfrey’s deceit and summons all the clans. To put down this French invasion, they will need strength in numbers and will have to fight as one nation. The clan leaders gather to discuss the current state of affairs, each airing his disapproval of how the country is being governed. Robin is there to speak for Nottingham. The King promises to sign a treaty that will resolve their concerns if they join him to send the French packing. With the element of surprise no longer on their side, the French face off with the English army for a deciding battle. It’s big, it’s bloody, and one hell of an adrenaline rush.

Robin Hood has sprinkles of everything I want in these types of films, something’s always happening in the script. It delivers solid entertainment with minimal lapses of inaction. Russell and Cate work well as a couple, their romance is believable and not overdone. I think this is important considering their circumstances. Exaggerating the romance deprives other parts of the story time to develop.

The cast is solid and performs as such. Unexpectedly, I really like Oscar Isaac playing King John. Come to think of it, these guys have worked together before and feed off each other on set. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least one movie with many of the cast – Body of Lies. On the production side of things, it’s what you would expect from a Ridley film, full-bodied and mature. Amazing sets, beautiful landscapes for backdrops, believable battles, clothing that properly represent the time, realistic sound and visual effects, an overall top class production.

So is Robin Hood up one on Gladiator? Hmmmm….not quite. After Gladiator, I remember leaving the theatre with my heart still racing. But with Robin Hood, I left felling unsure whether I was impressed or upset. Honest appreciation for the movie came much later after I got it on Blu-ray and watched it again. I’ve seen it many times and still don’t feel overly consumed by it. Perhaps I should quit comparing the two because they both are exceptional movies in their own rights. Even when you repeat a recipe, there are always unknowns, things that just happen for whatever reason. Call it the universe reacting, call it chemistry, call it whatever you like, it does influence the result. Robin hood is a completely different storyline from Gladiator, and therefore a different experience. I’ll leave it at that.

Is this 140mins of my life I wish I could get back? No.
Will I see it again? Yes.
Is it worth owning? Yes. I purchased it on Blu-ray.
What about the soundtrack? Good.
Should there be sequel? Yes, I would love to see the story further developed.
Who will like this movie? People like me who enjoy anything medieval, swordfights, battles, adventure.