Robin Hood opens May 14

Robin Hood the Prequel…

I questioned myself before viewing “Robin Hood” (directed by Ridley Scott) – do we really need another movie about Robin Hood?  It seems to me that there is a retelling of this fictional character every 20 years, and each director and actor has their own take on how the legendary character should be portrayed (Errol Flynn, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner, Daffy Duck, etc).  In the end I hope this isn’t just another ploy for studios to make a buck but hopefully to introduce the legend to a new generation.

The film begins with Marion Loxley’s (Cate Blanchett) village of Nottingham being over run by thieves in the night.  It was refreshing to see a strong woman role in this story that is set back in the 1200’s.  She doesn’t need to be saved by a strong male character; she is doing fine on her own.
The plot line is set up quite quickly and if you can adjust to the English and French accents in time you should be able to follow what is going on in England and France.  King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) is crusading his way back to England while his ‘runt of the litter’ brother Prince John (Oscar Isaac) is the interim king back home.  Prince John is an immature, boy king who is making horrible, selfish decisions for his country.

There is a lot of action in the first 30 minutes, in addition to the village being attacked; there is an attack on a castle and an ambush, which raises the death toll considerably.  Over 800 years ago the archers must have been incredibly accurate or the arrows must have been incredibly sharp.  The archers’ victims seemed to die immediately no matter where they were hit; unless, the victim was crucial to carry on the story line, then that person would live just long enough to deliver his lines and then die.

We are introduced to Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) during the initial battle sequence and even though he helps his immediate friends in the English army, he is a more or less a jerk. Crowe was perfect for this character. Longstride soon becomes an army deserter and through some convenient identity theft, he hitches a free ride back to England with his crew of miscreants. There he delivers on a promise where he ends up in Nottingham and Marion grudgingly takes him in. All along Longstride is the reluctant hero. He doesn’t really want to help, but hey, since he is there he might as well do something with his free time.
England is about to go to war with itself because Prince John has trusted the wrong man and it is up to Robin to unify the country before the evil French invade. Why Robin? Why aren’t any of the other thousands of Englishmen qualified to do the job?  I am still not clear on why Robin is giving motivational speeches.

There are a few scenes with undertones relevant to today and the United States’ involvement in the conflicts in the Middle East.  If this movie came out a few years ago while George W. was still in office, the commentary would have had a stronger impact.

The grand finale battle is on a beach where the action has been seen several times before in similar movies.  We have been overrun with these sword and shield movies (even Scott has contributed to this with “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Gladiator”) that when a good medieval story comes along we compare it to “Lord of the Rings” or “Braveheart” or “Gladiator.” Have you seen “Kingdom of Heaven”? Great movie, but it is easily forgettable.

So where does this lead the film industry when it wants to tell a story that takes place in the time frame of 1,000 A.D. – 1,600 A.D.? There has to be hundreds of stories that screenwriters can draw from in that era. The caveat is that they have to make it memorable.  “Robin Hood” isn’t giving us much new material.

After all is done, we are introduced to how Robin Longstride became Robin of the Hood.  And, when that happens, you might think to yourself “yes, now it’s pay back time, let’s go Robin, kick some ass.”  But, no. It ends. Ouch.

Should you see this movie? Sure, go ahead. The acting was brilliant; Blanchett can’t really deliver a bad performance. The action sequences were tolerable (the film has a PG-13 rating; it isn’t dripping with too much blood).  However, with our exposure to so many Middle Ages films out there, I feel that this is going to be one of those movies that you see once and forgot you saw it in three months.

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