Film Review: Robin Hood

2010 – 140mn – 12A

Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, Max von Sydow, Matthew McFadyen, William Hurt.

THIS week brings us Ridley Scott’s take on the Robin Hood legend. The director of Gladiator, Blade Runner and Kingdom of Heaven imagines the famous tale as an origin story in the vein of modern comic-book movies like Batman Begins and Iron Man. Richard the Lionheart is dead. Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe), a common archer in his army, returns from the Crusades an embittered, hardened man, only to find his homeland overrun by the greed of the new King John (Oscar Isaacs) and threatened by the betrayal of Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong), who plots in service of the French. Taken in by Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett) and her ailing yet noble father-in-law Walter (Max von Sydow), Robin soon finds himself fighting to protect his people from over-taxation and injustice.

Scott’s film is suitably epic, beautifully crafted and gorgeously shot. At time it almost soars. But for the most part it’s uninventive and unoriginal, little more than Braveheart meets Gladiator without their fire and passion. Russell Crowe gives us Maximus Goes to England, and Cate Blanchett serves up Maid Marian by way of Katharine Hepburn. The action scenes are loud and fun, but the bits in between are lazily plotted, overlong, tedious and self-indulgent.

Most of all the film suffers from removing from Robin Hood everything that makes him recognizable. The iconic Robin is nimble and mischievous; this one is a growly, heavy-set, middle-aged man of few words. He doesn’t swash buckles – he pounds them. He doesn’t steal for the poor, but for the struggling landed gentry, and for himself. His Merry Men are more Angry Drunk Men. The Robin Hood of legend represents cheerful, confident nobility of character and an unwavering faith in justice and fairness, sacrificing his own interest in their name. That is what makes him worthwhile. This Robin Hood boringly fights for vengeance. The filmmakers remove everything that makes the character what he is, without bothering to fill the void with anything else, or even trying to subvert preconceptions. Instead what we get is the first act of a story dragged over two-and-a-half hours, padded out by unnecessary characters, stiff dialogue, and bits of business you’ve already seen in a dozen other movies. Somewhere in the past decade, Ridley Scott has forgotten intelligence, daring and subtlety; and without them, this Robin Hood is nothing but a wasted opportunity.

Star rating: 2 � out of 5 stars

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