If the end is the beginning, the adventures of Robin Hood going forward certainly pale in comparison to everything accomplished before he became an outlaw.
Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is merely one of many archers in the army of King Richard (Danny Huston) on his latest crusade. On the way back, Longstride and a handful of other archers come across an ambush meant for the Lionhearted, but only the crown is being sent back to London. With his dying breath, the lone survivor, Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge), asks for Robin to take his sword back to his father. After posing as Loxley to secure passage and surrendering the crown to Prince John (Oscar Isaac) in London, Robin rides to Nottingham to deliver the sword to its rightful owner (Max von Sydow), but the opportunity to continue a clever ruse gives the elder Loxley an idea, one to preserve his estate and provide for his daughter-in-law, Marion (Cate Blanchett.)
Director Ridley Scott knows how to make a movie that’s beautiful to look at and sweeping in scope. With castle assaults by invading armies and beach head invasions by neighboring countries, the story of Robin Hood has never before looked so, well, completely out of place and time. If this is “true” story of how a band of merry men wound up outlaws using hit-and-run tactics to rob the local tax collector and give it back to the people it was taken from, thwarting the Sheriff of Nottingham will bore in comparison and is certainly beneath these war-hardened veterans of battle. Never mind the fact that these characters should be in their mid to late twenties by the end of the film, not the forty to forty-five year olds just starting to resist the likes of Prince John and his sheriff.
The original idea behind this unnecessary retelling was that Robin of the Hood was actually also the Sheriff of Nottingham, an interesting idea that would have had to severely departed from canon to tell an original story. But with the casting of Russel Crowe as Robin (who would have been better suited to play the role prior to Gladiator), the story seems to skew toward Robin and Marion rather than “Robin Hood Begins.” And then there are the odd bits of revisionist history that feel completely out of place: King Philip of France “secretly” invading England, Marion suiting up in armor when she could hardly lift a mail shirt (in addition to leading a band of orphaned children into a battle charge, no less), and that Robin’s father inexplicably having drafted the original Magna Carta (complete with signatures) when Robin was still a boy, presumably about the year 1170. Seriously?
Putting aside the blatant clerical error that “the turn of twelfth century” wasn’t 1199, isn’t all this just nitpicking? Why not have Merlin the Magician draft the Magna Carta and leave a copy at Stonehenge for Robin to find? To say this another way, much of the plot seems to be contrived to produce spectacle to serve a major motion picture rather than provide any actual insight into the character or legend of Robin Hood. Unlike Batman Begins or Elizabeth, this film’s point dares to suggest that “the best” for Robin seems to be behind him, but it simply doesn’t wash for a legendary hero to be without greater adventures to look forward to.
(a two skull recommendation out of four)