Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Robin Hood (2010)

The re branding of a legend, Ridley Scott style.

Robin Hood : Russel Crowe | A Constantly Racing Mind
Two words that do not go together in the same sentence are Ridley Scott, and history. However, any viewer, who wishes to see "Robin Hood," starring Russell Crowe, as the legendary, man of the people, may not get what they traditionally expect. What you will get is Ridley Scott, making no apologies as he and Brian Helgeland weave a new tale is full of action, adventure, romance, and a just a touch of history. Sounds like any other Ridley Scott, historical perspective film, like Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, or "Kingdom of Heaven." Yes, you still see a Lady Marion, played by Cate Blanchet ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"), but not the damsel in distress Maid Marian, but a more warrior goddess Marion. Mark Addy (TVs "Still Standing"), who can't help but play Friar Tuck as the lovable, beer drinking man of the cloth that we have come to expect as part of the "Robin Hood" canon. Also, starring is Oscar Isaac ("Body of Lies") as the incompetent, sometimes funny, and vile King John, and finally, Mark Strong ("Kick Ass," "Sherlock Holmes," "Sunshine") as the pre-Nazi henchmen of King John. As prince and future king, Oscar Isaac is excellent as the whiny  self indulgent and corrupt John, the king who incites the barons to rise up against him and forcing him to sign the Magna Carta.

With all the promise of blood and gore that you expect from a Ridley Scott film, "Robin Hood" rates only a PG-13 rating. Get ready for some surprises.

For over 700 years, the "Robin Hood" canon has evolves with the times, and Scott’s version is no different. Unlike previous film version of "Robin Hood," Scott takes a serious approach to the Merry Men and works the story as if he is backing into the legends and ballads rather than telling it straight forward. In this retelling, Robin Longstride is an archer in Richard the Lionheart’s army. Richard (Danny Huston) is returning from the crusades, and while attacking a castle in France, he is killed. While returning the king's crown to England, Robert of Loxely, one of Richard’s knights, and his entourage fall prey to an ambush by Godfrey (Strong), the villain in this retelling. Coming upon the ambush, Robin and his fellow deserters, attack the ambushers, then Robin has this rather lengthy conversation with Loxely, the skewered knight. Robert’s request of Robin is to return his father’s sword, which he stole, when he left for the Crusades with Richard. Oh yes, by the way, can you take the crown back too. Robin, whom as Jason Bourne assumes the identity of Loxely, returns to England, and gives the crown to Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard and John’s mother. She places the crown on Prince John’s head, and low and behold, the brat is now King of England. At this point, historians would have their panties in a twist, as although Duke Leopold held Richard captive in Austria from 1192 until 1194 after leaving the Holy Lands, and he did not die before making peace with his younger brother John, heir to the throne of England. Already for the "Robin Hood" a fan, the story has taken one too many twist, but stay with us for a few more moments. Longstreet, in the Loxely identity, continues on to Nottingham, and meets up with Walter Loxely, (Max Von Sydow), and his daughter in-law, the Lady Marion. Walter, old and blind, still receives Longstreet, and invites him to stay, with one condition, and a promise; Robin must now continue in the dead knight's identity, for the father's sake so that his son's wife will not lose the property that is hers by marriage to Walter’s son. What connects Longstride to the legend of "Robin Hood" is not the taking the name of a dead man but is on the inscription on the sword that Robin returns to Walter, “Rise and Rise Again until Lambs become Lions.” Like King Arthur, Robin Longstride is more than a mere archer, but a man with a destiny. Are you confused yet? C'mon, it’s a legend, as Ridley Scott states in an interview, "were you there? I wasn't." Once again, with out apologies Ridley Scott, is making a cinematic epic for all to remember -- keep that in mind.

Moving to the forefront as our film's villain, Sir Godfrey, played by Mark Strong ("Sherlock Holmes"), in this story he is the embodiment of all the evil we traditionally expect of the Sheriff of Nottingham. The Sheriff of Nottingham, in this ballad, is relegated to a minor role. If there is to be a sequel, (does Russell Crowe do sequels?) the Sheriff is sure to take a more active part in chasing "Robin Hood" around. As for the Merry Men, with a few exceptions, we don’t get to know them very well. However, Kevin Durand ("Wild Hogs," and "Lost‘s" bad guy, Martin Keamy) gives and excellent performance as Little John, so much so, that I am even starting to like the guy. Maid Marion, Robert of Loxley's wife -- well actually in this new ballad of "Robin Hood" -- she is not referred to as a maid, but as the Lady Marion Loxley, Robert Loxley's widow. She is a self-reliant, warrior version of, Marion, going out to do battle along side her new fake-husband. This stronger role fits Blanchett’s personality better, and she brings a stunning reality to the screen. Russell Crowe reprises his Maximus role from "Gladiator" with just a slight touch of Jack Aubrey from "Master and Commander." Crowe seldom smiles in this latest tale, and the laughs are few and far between. "Robin Hood" centers on the forming of the Magna Carta, and the beginning of John’s 17-year reign, and could be the launching point for a new era for the character.

Ridley Scott has come a long way from "Gladiator," "Kingdom of Heaven," and "Blackhawk Down;" Scott understands what it takes to tell a story that captures the spirit and the essence of the period. Watching "Robin Hood," one must be thankful that the director cannot reproduce the smells of the period, as you can see the dirt and the sweat emanating from the characters on screen. Ridley Scott, relying on information overload, action overload, and character overload, just as he did with "Kingdom of Heaven," there are too many characters, too many places, and too much story to put into 2.5 hours without leaving a viewer overwhelmed. While the production team delivers in the action story department; however, one may feel a little empty when playing with our icons. Robin Hood’s cinematography is compelling; Marc Streitenfeld film score is perfect, yet unmemorable, setting the mood just right for each of the scenes. In the 10 years since the release of Gladiator, visual effects have come a long way by increasing the reality factor of movement, the reality of shadow placement, and reality of live character interaction, makes it hard to tell a special effect from reality, as it should be. Ridley Scott can do no wrong when it comes to production value.

Robin Hood : Merry Men | A Constantly Racing Mind

The Robin Hood of legend doesn't appear on the screen today in 2010. The robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, a theme, once the hallmark of Robin and his merry men, only appears rarely in this film. Like the dawn of the 13th century, comes the crusades in the Middle East, state governors looking to raise taxes to keep their state afloat, the Sheriff of Arizona, ready to hunt down any trespassers, and the rich taking a man’s home away.
All of these themes presented by Scott and Crowe in "Robin Hood" may hit too close to home for many moviegoers to be entertaining. See it in the theaters if you must, but I suggest waiting for the DVD and spend your money on the director’s cut for the bonus features that explain where Ridley Scott took creative licenses and deviated off the historical path. If you want to keep your doses of Fluoxetine to a minimum, I recommend the nostalgic "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," with the likable Kevin Costner and the lovely Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, for a happier film.

Movie Data

Genre: Action, Adventure, 
Year:  2010
Staring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong
Director:  Ridley Scott
Producer(s) Ridley Scott, Russel Crowe
Writer: Brian Helgeland
Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 140 minutes
Release Date: 5/14/2010

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