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Robin Hood
Reviewed by Alan J. Porter, © 2010

Format: Movie
By:   Ridley Scott
Genre:   Action flick with arrows
Review Date:   May 14, 2010
RevSF Rating:   4/10 (What Is This?)

"Aaaaaaaargh! Yaaaaaaaa! Aaaarrgh!" -- big fight scene on beach

When you sit down to watch a movie with the words "Robin" and "Hood" in the title there are certain things you expect to see. You know, things like the lead character becoming an outlaw, taking to Sherwood Forest and then robbing the rich to give to the poor.

If that's the expectation you have for this Ridley Scott directed Russell Crowe action flick, don't hold your breath, because none of that happens until the closing minutes of the movie.

Whatever this movie is, the one thing it isn't is a Robin Hood movie. Why do modern film makers feel the need to take mythical subjects like this and then ignore everything that makes the myth so powerful?

There's a reason that the Robin Hood story has endured for nearly 800 years: It's a good story. So tell that story.

Instead Scott tries to tell "the story before the legend" and fails miserably. The basic plot of common archer who through circumstance impersonates a knight of the realm, gets involved in court political intrigue, and saves the nation from invasion is at best contrived, and at worst an incoherent mess.

The movie can't decide what it wants to be, is it a buddy movie, a romance, a political thriller, a war story, a redemption story, or a historical drama? The truth is it is parts of all of those, and on its way channels (and in some places obviously rips off) Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, Elizabeth, Joan of Arc and Excalibur.

In many ways it is Gladiator-lite, simply an excuse for Russell Crowe to ride horses, swing swords and strike the occasional heroic pose.

Not only is the plot a mess, so is the execution (and I uses that word deliberately) of the script. The dialog is clunky in places, and on occasion had me literally cringing in my seat. The history, geography and accents were literally all over the map.

I wouldn't say they messed with history. It was more like they took it around the back of the bike sheds and gave it a good going over. While some of the small period details were well researched and represented, others were grossly misappropriated, twisted, and simply ridiculous.

For example: This movie's idea of the creation and fate of the Magna Carta. Apparently this founding document that eventually lead to a parliamentary system of government was written by Robin Hood's father, an anonymous stone-mason!

And don't get me started on how the French army of the 1190s had 1940s era D-Day style landing craft with oars sticking out!

In this version of medieval England they also had incredibly fast horses as they seem to be able to cover the distance from Nottingham, to Oxfordshire and to the English coast, just under 300 miles, in a few minutes of non-stop riding. It also appeared that some characters had the ability to transport themselves instantaneously from one location to another.

If all this wasn't bad enough, the story's own internal logic is often ignored. Early in the movie Robin recognizes King Richard's horse with just a glance, yet after he appropriates the horse, no one else, including the members of the royal family, recognize it.

There is also a plot device about an inscription on a sword hilt that ties Robin the archer to the knight whose identity he assumes. Yet it is never explained how, or why, that inscription is on the sword.

It was not all bad. It had a few moments of redemption. There are a few moments of sparkling dialog exchanges, particularly those uttered by Cate Blanchett as Marion, and Mark Addy as Tuck, whose talents are otherwise wasted. The other standout for me was Eileen Atkins as Kings Richard and John's Machiavellian mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

As an Englishman born about 150 miles from Sherwood Forest, Ridley Scott should be ashamed for this travesty. If he wanted to make a movie about the political and family struggles of the Aquitaine dynasty then make it, but he should not slap the the name Robin Hood on it.

After this I would even be happy to watch Kevin Costner run around Sherwood Forest again.


Alan J. Porter insists you watch the Bryan Adams Robin Hood music video. You know you want to.

 
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