Tag Archive | Cate Blanchett

Bidula’s Last Word: Robin Hood

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?

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Hood Life

It having been a while since we last went to the theater (between early January’s Dr. Parnassus and last night’s Alice in Wonderland, about two whole months), I’ve been trying to keep up with the latest trailers for the upcoming summer season via teh interwebz. Trailers are easily one of my favorite parts of the movie experience and I feel almost undressed if someone tells me there’s one out there which I haven’t seen.

I had already seen the teaser trailer for the latest iteration of the Robin Hood franchise when my wife called me to her laptop to check out the first full-length one. Upon simply seeing the title card, I figured this would be an attempt by another studio to squeeze a bit more juice out of a story about revolution, more than likely readjusting the themes and flavor to mirror current governmental displeasures. I also realized that, during this damn near Antarctic-brand of harsh economic environment, it’s the best time to bring back a tale of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. That way, the poor will shell out their scant loot by the boatload to see the movie so that they might be able to derive some hope with a side of action/adventure from the flick.

I am a huge fan of the Robin Hood story. I have been since I first saw the Disney animated version (you know, the one with the fox) and Daffy Duck’s “ha ha, ho ho, guard, parry, thrust, spin” Looney Tunes version (one of the all-time classics).
I’ve seen Kevin Costner do the part in an American accent while Alan Rickman stole the entire movie. I’ve seen Mel Brooks tear it down as he introduced us to Dave Chapelle. My wife and I were devout followers of the modernized BBC version which only recently concluded last summer after three seasons. We didn’t want it to end, but there’s really only so much to the legend.

So, upon seeing that a new Robin Hood was being released, and my finding out that it was to be helmed by Ridley Scott, I was mildly excited, though as described above, I thought I knew what to expect.

The characters of the Robin Hood legend, more than any other re-hashed and repackaged story, always seem to be a poignant reflection of modern ideals. Directors always use the same story and the same names, but the characterization is always slanted toward what people want, both in pop-culture in the real world. It’s an interesting paradigm.
Every decade has had at least one Robin Hood movie or TV show since a silent film in 1908 titled “Robin Hood and His Merry Men”. Every incarnation is slightly different than the last. Of any story ever told, Robin Hood and Marian are consistently used as a barometer for the times.

Seeing as this is the first theatrically-released Robin Hood since 1993’s Men in Tights and the first serious take since 1991’s Prince of Thieves, the film will deserve analysis. I figured I’d start mine early.

I found out quickly that Russell Crowe stars. Ok, I thought, maybe this won’t be a tragedy. He’ll add some age and grit to a typically young role. Teaser clips showed him commanding an army and making loud, gruff-voiced, inspiring battle speeches to cheering masses of warriors, which is always pretty awesome. He can kick ass in a period action flick.
He’s not the clean-cut Errol Flynn type. He’s not even the sarcastic pretty-boy Kevin Costner type. He appears in the trailers as a stubble-faced, down-and-dirty freedom fighter; an inspiring leader who rallies not just a group of bandits, but the entire populous, to rise against Prince John and the corruption of the government. Probably doesn’t hurt in this environment to see people being pissed off about the government taking all of their money, either.
Someone looking as the salt of the earth leading average citizens to a victory over a twisted monarchy is what’s going to hit it big right now. That’s what the people want to see in the eyes of the studio and the director. Not entirely an incorrect assumption and, with the right marketing, Crowe’s portrayal could send this movie far over the top.

I also discovered, through the full-length trailer, that Cate Blanchett is playing Lady Marian. I’ve had to turn it over in my mind a few times. I was expecting someone younger to play a role traditionally associated with the title of “Maid”, as in, young maiden. It’s a bold choice for the role to be sure. Blanchett’s characters typically dominate the movies that she’s in. If she’s not the star, she’s a definite show stealer. You don’t get to be a multi-award winning, multi-Oscar nominee by being forever the wilting flower.
It seems that in most recent depictions of Robin Hood, Marian’s role has continued to grow. Over the years, she’s gone from being a helpless damsel in distress to an ass-kicking addition to the Sherwood Bandits, most notably the character’s turn as the Night Watchman in the latter 00’s BBC series.
If they’ve got Cate Blanchett playing the role, then Marian is going to be a very strong character. She may not physically kick ass when this movie drops, but she’s going to be a larger-than-life presence. Certainly no damsel in distress.
I hate the buzzword they’ve been using in the media to describe a race or gender being the first to do something, by the way. I fully support the idea behind it, I just hate the words used to describe it. I refuse to put those two words together out of irritation. If I did use that term, I would say that this character will be poised to inspire more women to *ahem* pressure the area at the top of a room which is made of transparent material until it is sufficiently destroyed.
My vow will not be broken.

The movie has mass explosive potential on both ends. Either it will blow up, or it’ll bomb. Either way, I’ll probably still end up seeing it, and not for the sociological reasons listed here. My wife and I love Robin Hood. We’re bound by pop-culture law to see it. Even if the thing does suck, it’ll still be worth it to see how Ridley Scott defines the characters for this decade. Good or bad, you can expect my honest opinion upon viewing.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—