Movie Review: Robin Hood


Film: Robin Hood

Director: Ridley Scott

Lead Cast: Russell Crowe, Kate Blanchett, Max Von Sydow, William Hurt

Rating: 6.5/10 – A visually good film with a confusing plot

One of the greatest and oldest (Ridley Scott is 73!) directors of Hollywood, with a penchant for making cinematic epics is back! Along with his favorite star. It’s amazing how the “deadly duo” of Scott and Russell Crowe can churn out excellent movies every time. Gladiator, A good Year (a relaxed, vintage comedy drama complete with French chateaus and vineyards), American Gangster, Body of Lies (Russell with his paunch!) and now Robin Hood. But this time the setting is not ancient Roman empire or the contemporary America. This time the setting is somewhere in between, twelfth century England to be precise. The time of the Third Crusade, the time of knights and barons, the time of Richard “The Lionheart.” Not that Scott is new to the world of knights and mediaeval English Kings. He has had a successful tryst with that earlier in Kingdom of Heaven.

So is Robin Hood is as good as the duo’s earlier ventures? Sadly, no. And the chief reason is the confusing and convoluted plot of this movie.

The legend of Robin Hood is as well known as a legend can be. Today, the name Robin Hood is synonymous with “a hero who takes from the rich and gives to the poor.” According to the popular legend, Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men (Little John and company) are outlawed by the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, and so they live in the Sherwood Forrest and fight for the poor people of Nottingham against the evil Sheriff. The source of this legend is the mediaeval English folklore, the ballads of the twelfth and thirteen centuries. But this movie is not about the legend. It’s about what happens before the legend. How Robin Longstride becomes Robin Hood, how he meets his friends, his wife and how he gets outlawed by the evil King John. It is, as the film promos say, the “untold story” of Robin Hood.

But the trouble with making a film on folklore hero is that it is near impossible to get a loophole free well constructed story. Because almost always there are far too many myths and legends surrounding the hero, many of them conflicting. It’s the same with Robin Hood. Till the time you stick to the legend it’s fine but the moment you try to dig deep to get  the backstory of the legend it becomes an upheaval task.

Ridley Scott seems to have sided with one of the less popular theories of the birth the Robin Hood. The film shows Robin as an archer in the army of Richard The Lionheart who is returning home after the misadventures of the Third Crusade. While in London, John, his younger brother, is eagerly awaiting the demise of his elder brother so that he can sit on the throne. John’s wish comes true and Richard is killed by the scheming French king who plans to take over the crown of England. Robin, through a series of events, happens to meet the dying knight, Sir, Robert Loxley, and promises him to take his sword back to his father in Nottingham. Once in Nottingham, Robin, under the instructions of Robert’s father, continues to live as Sir Robert and gets a ready made wife, Lady Marian (Kate). On the other hand John becomes the king of England and under the influences of the treacherous   Godfrey, kills his own countrymen creating a situation of civil war.

Till this point the story was fine. What happens after this dampens the show. Robin is suddenly transformed into a brave leader, who convinces the king and the barons to offer the people of England, Charter of Rights in return for their loyalty against the approaching French army. From an archer, Robin miraculously becomes a swords man and leads the English army alongside the King and the General to defeat the French. After the French defeat, King John turn on his word, and not only denies people the charter, as promised, but also outlaws Robin Hood and his friends. But the film never explains how Robin (being a commoner) overshadows other aristocrats, in a highly feudal society, to become one of the generals in the war. This whole part is a bit too far fetched (even for a mythical character) and seemed like Scott was too eager to force heroism on Robin Hood (read Russell Crowe) to replicate the magic of Gladiator (and possibly another Oscar?). But the result isn’t very satisfying and after the movie is over you will definitely feel something missing in the story.

Scott is a veteran and regardless of the story, has made Robin Hood, visually appealing. The fight scenes are awesome, as usual. Seeing the approaching French army on boats through the sea route, you will most certainly be reminded of Troy. The camera angles during the war scenes, specially when Robin uses his bow and arrow, is exhilarating.

All the leading actors have done justice to their roles. There isn’t much complaint from the direction of Scott as well. Russell Crowe is a top notch actor and uses his stature and rough voice to the maximum effect here also. This movie is dark and serious and is one of it’s plus point. Full credit to the film maker for not trivializing the character of Robin Hood and for the effort to give it a serious dramatic angle missing in the previous version of Robin Hood.

But on the flip side, Scott tried too hard to carve out an epic from the story of a folk hero, and created something that is little hard to digest.

Bottomline

Watch the movie for its historical interpretation, for the bow fights, for Russell Crowe. Watch it to get a glimpse into the mediaeval English life and times. Watch it to know how Robin Hood became Robin Hood. But whatever you do, do not expect a repeat of Gladiator here.

Having said that, perhaps the most exciting part of this movie is the promise of a new beginning. Having given us the history of Robin Hood, will Scott now venture into making a sequel, sticking to the popular legend and give us a classic rich-versus-poor story? I will be glad if he does. Russell Crow will make for an excellent Robin Hood wandering in the wilderness of Sherwood Forrest, with his band of outlawed Merry Men, giving justice to the meek and the poor. The premise is enticing.


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2 Comments to “Movie Review: Robin Hood”

  1. I liked this movie, too, though I agree there were some confusing parts. I was really thrilled when Robin was supposedly going to only lead the archers in the big battle (yay, realism!) but was only disappointed moments later when he left them (and his area of expertise), to flail around with the guys in the surf. I kept thinking in that scene that it was almost shot for shot like the taking of Omaha Beach scene Spielberg shot for Saving Private Ryan, complete with underwater shots and the landing boats…did they have drop front loading boats in that era? I’d love to see the research. All you have to do is substitute arrows for machine guns… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZgKo46X8CI

    Also, I haven’t seen Raavan yet, but this shot reminded me of the poster for Robin Hood…and it’s about reinventing a classic story…I may have to write a comparison piece! I’ll let you know when I’ve seen it.

    • I can see the similarity between Saving Private Ryan scene and Robin Hood climax. So, did ridley get “inspired” by Steven? Maybe, But the style of both the film makers are different. Spielberg explores the complexity of human psyche while Scott depicts brevado and heroism. Even in these two scenes, scott is portraying the heroism (forced) of Robin, while Steven is depicting the confusion and conflict of Tom’s character, even as he is heroically saving lives. Thumbs up to Spielberg’s realism!

      This reminds me that I must watch Saving Private Ryan. This is probably the only mega hit from Tom Hanks that I haven’t seen. And I also doubt if they had that kind of boats back then. In fact, ppl in IMBD have also complained about this. Haven’t researched myself though.

      And Jenny, let me warn you. Ravaan is not good as it looks. Full of loopholes, and bizarre twists, there is not much of a story in this movie. Though the film is shot artistically. Mani Ratnam tried to give a new twist to “Ramayana” and failed. But there are similarities between Robin hood and Beera (the ravaan in Ravan). In fact people were confused whether Beera was Ravan or Robin Hood 🙂

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