Sunday 16 May 2010


Robin Hood arrived in cinemas this weekend. More after the jump...
After Richard the Lionheart is killed in the battlefields of France, Robin Longstride, an Archer in the King's army, takes over the identity of Sir Robert Locksley in order to get safe passage for him and his band of merry men back to England. After returning the King's crown to the new King John, he heads north to honour the last wishes of Locksley, slowly becoming a leader for the hoarding masses, angry at the new King's taxations.

This film has apparently gone through a lot of changes on its way to the big screen. The first i heard it was going to be a modern day re-telling called 'Nottingham', with Russell Crowe taking on the dual roles of Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham in a gritty crime drama that aimed at updating the story for a modern audience. Well, it's obviously been passed by a lot of studio executives and through a lot of marketing think tanks because none of that original vision remains, except for the story tinkering. So here we have a historical 'epic' starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley Scott. It's going to get compared to Gladiator, there's no escaping it.

The problems start with the introduction of Robin Longstride (not Locksley or even Hood) as a lowly peasant archer, serving the noble but wrathful King Richard. Robin's reward for his frank honesty towards the King is a night in the stocks for him and his friends, Will Scarlett and Little John. Richard the Lionheart soon dies in battle (instead of returning from the crusades like every other Robin Hood story has told us), his men are murdered by the Prince's confident, and from there on it's clear that this is a historically revisionist tale, vastly different from the legend we all know.
Which is its major problem. It starts off with a story painted into a corner, and then spends the next 90 minutes trying to get closer to the legend we all know. It's the legend that audiences will want to see, something they seemed to have realised too late in the day.

There's no taking from the rich to give to the poor, and despite some interesting battle scenes, they're few and far between. There's barely a mention of the Sheriff of Nottingham, instead replaced as chief villain by Mark Strong's double crossing spy for France Godfrey. Cate Blanchett's Marian now becomes a ballsy spinster who (like all modern day rehashes of classic female roles) now has a splash of Boudica to her. Mark Strong and Cate Blanchett are perfectly fine in their roles, but suffer from reduced screen time and curious motivations. King John chews the scenery a bit, but the contempt he shows his subjects is interesting to watch. Robin's merry band of men are not very well fleshed out either, but if there's one thing they are, it's merry. This is assuredly a one man show and Russell Crowe hogs the screen time to the detriment of all other characters. However, despite the focus being on Crowe's Robin Longstride, even he suffers from a muddling backstory and confusing parentage.

Adding to all this is the unfortunate storm cloud called Gladiator hanging over the film, and the ever present thought that some cast members seem to have obvious Gladiator counterparts. Joaquin Phoenix as the preened ruler Commodus? Here we have Oscar Isaac's well groomed King. Richard Harris as the wise old Marcus Aurelius? Here we have Max Von Sydow's blind sage.

Crowe's romance with Blanchett is largely unconvincing, despite what i'd say is obvious chemistry. Not enough time is given to develop that story properly, and mild hatred seems to switch to undying love in the blink of an eye. Russell Crowe does what he's done before, but this is no Maximus. He could be a leader of men, but he seems apathetic to the idea. Much has been said this week about Russell Crowe's accent, and his decision to attempt a Northern tone. Well, it's not the worst i've heard, but Mark Lawson was right; i definitely heard a twang of Irishness, not forgetting some Scottish and Scouse. It wanders more than the crusades did.

Towards the climax the battle scenes take a turn towards the bizarre with a 12th century replay of the beginning of Saving Private Ryan, only this time with not a lot of people there. If England and France were to wage war, i'd expect more to show up. One thing that is definitely epic is the 140 minute running time, a good hour too long for the story it delivers.

I don't want to bash this film too much, it's far from being a complete catastrophe, but its failures are in its originality and willing disregard of a classic tale. The film leaves you wanting more, but not in a good way. It's an unfulfilling story that stops short of delivering you what it seems to agree by the end is the more interesting tale. Either way i wouldn't be surprised to hear a sequel announcement soon, something they always regretted they couldn't do with Gladiator. Well, maybe they've done that with this film anyway.



  1. So do we not have any British actors who could have done justice to this role? Do we really need Russell Crowe? This makes me mad. We should all be supporting British actors

  2. russell crowe is not as good as he thinks he is. it was a real disappointment. 2 stars is about right.

  3. I'm a little disappointed the sheriff didn't get more screen time, he's always the best villain in other Robin Hood movies...