Not too long ago, I wrote about the social significance of Robin Hood movies and how the attitude of the current decade can be reflected in the casting and the variations on the story.
This may be true of the new Ridley Scott Robin Hood for many reasons. The main one being that, this past decade, we’ve been settling for the same old crap being recycled and regurgitated by Hollywood in ways which are, ultimately, disappointing.
The differences are clear. Scott, trying to be a bit more historical with his interpretation of King Richard, offs the historic crusader within the opening salvo in a mostly accurate depiction of his death (some poetic license, of course). This is what sparks the departure of Robin Longstride (Russel Crowe) and his band of friends (Alan A’dale, Will Scarlett, and Little John) from the ranks of King Richard’s Army to book home for England as quickly as possible.
On their way to meet a channel ferry out of France, the troupe comes across a group of French mercenaries ambushing a convoy sent to deliver the Crown to a ship awaiting the King’s return. Robin and company interrupt the post-squabble looting, killing all of le evil French interlopers.
Robin, seeking fortune and glory for himself and his compatriots, resumes the looting where the bandits let off once they realize everyone is already dead. He comes up with the idea that they can disguise themselves as knights, deliver Richard’s crown, and have free and safe passage back to England. The obligatory hitch comes when a nearly-dead Sir Robert Loxsley, Richard’s right hand man, makes Robin swear an oath to deliver his father’s sword back to Nottingham.
After delivering the crown and witnessing the first dickheaded moments of King John’s reign, Robin sets off with his pack to Nottingham. Upon completing his quest and meeting a cordial, blind Lord Loxsley and the wife of Sir Robert, Marion (Cate Blanchette), it is decided by Lord Loxsley that Robin should impersonate his son in order to retain his home and lands, as without a successor, Loxsley’s lands would likely be lost to the Sheriff upon his death.
The story goes on to completely change everything about Robin Hood that anyone knows. No Sherwood Forest, no real banditry save for one sequence, no real influence or even anything more than a cameo by the Sheriff of Nottingham, and even King John doesn’t become anything more than a bratty dickhead until the very end of the movie.
It takes a different route entirely, focusing on France’s Philip II trying to take over England through his proxy and spy, Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong) who the writers claim is based on Guy of Gisbourne but doesn’t really seem to be. Godfrey hopes to make the country collapse by stirring up rebellion to unfair taxation in the northern territories while France invades from the south and takes a weakened London as its prize.
Of course, Robin and the heroes catch wind of this and are put in motion to put an end to it. Robin allies himself with King John, provided John signs a little piece of paper not truly named in the movie but known to the world as the Magna-freaking-Carta. John agrees in a sly, you-know-he’s-not-going-to-do-it way, a grand army is assembled, the French are routed, and the day is saved.
In spite of what Robin did, King John burns the Magna Carta and defies the lords to whom he promised their rights. He declares Robin an outlaw and here, I suppose, is where the actual story begins.
Should you brace for the sequel? Hell no.
While I can accept changes in the story, I cannot accept the loose plot points and true stretches of medieval technology.
There was a whole weird undeveloped sub-plot about a group of feral little children who wind up fighting in the final battle behind an uncharacteristically armor-clad Marion, whose character was strong and defiant, but really not shown as any sort of battle-ready warrior. No development whatsoever here.
The French had landing craft. Like, D-Day style, flat-bottomed, amphibious landing craft. In the 13th Century. We’re meant to think that they crossed the entire English Channel in these things and actually made it to Dover in one piece. Ok, Ridley, fine. It’s dramatic. But, you made the entire final battle look like Saving Private Ryan being reenacted at the Renn Faire complete with arrows slicing through the water like bullets and entire transports of troops being peppered full of holes before their feet even touched the sand.
The themes I’d thought would be there within the social commentary were not. They did switch things around in the characterization to make things more palatable for the modern audience by turning Robin from a lithe and light-hearted thief into a gruff con-man-of-action with a heart of gold. They also strongly emphasized the brattish and bumbling-asshole aspects of King John, leaving the real evil-doing to Sir Godfrey.
All in all, a disappointment. Sure, there was some awesome archer-tastic action, but still not a movie I’d recommend. Russel Crowe is Maximus in a different outfit, Cate Blanchette does what she does best and plays a strong woman, and Mark Strong mails in another sword-fighting bad guy performance. Lackluster at best.
Also, I wanted to mention that the more I thought about this movie, the more I allowed my opinion to develop, the less I thought of it. Leaving the theater last Tuesday and writing a review on it a week later was warranted. I had to let it fester before I could give a true opinion. I didn’t want to believe that a Robin Hood movie could be so… meh.
Bidula’s Last Word – 4.5/10
Ridley Scott, why have you forsaken me?