Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Universal Pictures
Now Showing

The trailer for Robin Hood made it look like Gladiator (in tights, as some wits dubbed it), and that didn’t bode well for me. I know I'm in the minority when I say I don’t much care for director Ridley Scott’s 2000 Oscar winner (Best Picture? Whatever!), his first pairing with Russell Crowe. A decade and four films later, they have teamed once more on this sword (sans sandals) epic, a revisionist reboot of the Robin Hood legend.

Essentially this version is a prequel, with events in the film leading up to, and ending, where most other Robin Hood films - from Errol Flynn through to Kevin ‘Prince of Thieves’ Costner - begin. Assuming audiences are overly familiar (and just plain over) that part of the story, Scott and screenwriter, Brian Helgeland, have opted for a genesis story, the beginnings of the legend.

Robert Longstride (Crowe) is a soldier in King Richard’s army, doing battle in the Middle East during the Crusades. But as soon as the King (Danny Huston) is killed, Longstride, and a couple of followers, hightail it out of there and make for the coast and passage back to England. On the way, they interrupt an ambush intended for the returning king which sees them in possession of the crown and Longstride promising a dying Robin of Locksley that he will return his family sword to his father.

Posing as a knight and returning the crown to Prince John (Oscar Isaac, so good in last year’s Balibo), Longstride then makes his way to Nottingham and the House of Locksley. It’s been 10 years since Robin left for war, and his wife, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett) has been running the estate as proxy to her blind father-in-law, Walter (ever reliable Max von Sydow).

Marion is wary of Longstride, even more so when he agrees to Walter’s plan to pose as his son so, in the event of the old man’s death, the land will not be taken from Marion (women being unable to inherit in the 13th century). We, of course, know that the two will eventually fall in love but they spend most of the film in a slow thawing process.

The other storyline sees a friend of Prince John, Godfrey (Mark Strong, once again typecast as the villain), planning a civil war. He is in alliance with the French and plans to destroy the British from within. It's interesting that the film chosen to open this year’s Cannes Film Festival should not only cast the French as the enemy but have them lose in the climactic battle.

With all of this, there is a mere cursrory introduction for Robin Hood regulars, such as Friar Tuck (Mark Addy) and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew McFadyen). And just what the lost boys of Sherwood Forest are doing here I don't know.

Robin Hood is watchable and, at 140 minutes, no slog; I was never bored but then I was never really enthralled or intrigued either. And those fans expecting another Gladiator will be disappointed: there is less action and what there is is less bloody. In fact, the film is less than the sum of its parts.

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