Twitter Plot Summary: Returning from the Crusades, Robin Longstride takes on the identity of Robin Loxley to protect Nottingham and fight the crown.
Director: Ridley Scott
Key Cast: Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Mark Addy, Kevin Durand, Cate Blanchett, Max Von Sydow, William Hurt, Matthew Macfadyen, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins.
Five Point Summary:
1. So Robin Hood isn’t Robin Loxley? Fair enough, Ridley.
2. Russell, please pick an accent and stick with it.
3. Liberty or death… or being ruled by the French. They’re interchangeable.
4. Political wrangling. Not what I expected from a Robin Hood film…
5. So… it’s Robin Hood Begins then?
There have been many versions of the Robin Hood tale since the inception of cinema, from Errol Flynn to Kevin Costner to er, Cary Elwes. This time round it’s Russell Crowe’s turn as the titular hero, but the story takes a slightly different path than you may expect, showing Robin’s origins and setting up the basis for his further adventures, the reasons for him being an outlaw and establishing what will become the Robin Hood fable we all know. Coming back from the Crusades after the death of King Richard, Robin Longstride takes on the identity of Robin Loxley, killed in an ambush. Returning King Richard’s crown to England, Longstride then takes Loxley’s sword to Sir Walter Loxley in Nottingham, where more subterfuge is required. Meanwhile there are political issues to contend with – the French are planning to invade and Britain lies in disarray after an increase in taxes to pay off the debts incurred by the Crusades.
Historical accuracy is always a tricky proposition where fictional characters are concerned, but the representation of 12th/13th century life is probably as close as you’re going to get without living it yourself. Thankfully being a film you also avoid having to smell it – I’m sure it would have ponged something rotten.
The cast and performances are all solid, although Russell Crowe finds it difficult to pick an accent and then stick with it. If he’d just done his Maximus voice all over again and kept that then there wouldn’t have been a problem. Instead you’re taken out of the story by his incessant desire to deviate his style of speech, which will either annoy or amuse. Mark Strong is a solid presence as Godfrey, but I’ll get onto the problems with that character momentarily. Cate Blanchett as Marian is anachronistic in that she’s a headstrong modern 21st century woman trapped in the 13th century. Still, at least she has a bit to do and isn’t the typical damsel in distress.
Most of the Robin Hood fables place emphasis on the “steal from the rich, give to the poor” mantra, but in this case it acts more as a backdrop to the political and economic strife that afflicted the country. If you’re thinking this will have any of the derring do of the other Robin Hood films then you’ll mostly be mistaken. There’s plenty of dirt, a couple of scuffles and a bit of fire here and there, and that’s your lot. At least it stands out from the other Robin Hood movies, can you imagine Errol Flynn discussing foreign policy with King John before swinging down from a balcony and distracting his enemies with his fixed smile and suspect goatee? Thought not.
Ridley Scott has a very specific style as of late, which doesn’t help seeing Robin Hood as a 12th century England version of Gladiator, made all the more apparent by the presence of Russell Crowe in the lead role. What it also lacks, unlike the aforementioned Gladiator, is a compelling villain. The French king doesn’t do a whole lot other than eat mussels and chew on garlic (I may be lying about that last one), whilst Mark Strong looks the part but doesn’t get to do anything truly villainous other than bump people off here and there. Which, to be honest, everybody does throughout the film so it hardly makes him stand out. Likewise, Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham – usually vilified in other interpretations of the story – are supposed to be more rounded characters by not being entirely evil but instead have little to do and are nothing more than glorified extras. As mentioned at the beginning of the review, they are present to set up the fable we all know rather than to have a direct influence on this story, but even with that in mind it would be better if Mark Strong did… well, something. Anything. Be the antagonist, do something reproachable, we might feel something negative towards the character rather than the vague sense of ambivalence and/or “meh” that he generates. Still, it’s a well told story if nothing amazing.
Favourite scene: Longstride, three cups, and a pea. And Little John calling him a cheat.
Quote: “Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions.”
Silly Moment: Robin’s laser-guided arrow. Well, that’s what it seems like.