Robin Hood, the new retelling of the famous legend points its arrows at being a nitty-gritty throwback epic but misses its mark with too many characters and not enough story.
In this prequel version from the slam-your-fist-into-the-mud-team of director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe, Crowe stars as Robin Lonstride, a 12th century archer in King Richard’s army who by way of action and accidents is mistaken for the knight Robert of Luxley. This gives him the opportunity to steal from the rich and give to the poor people of Nottingham, while King Phillip of France and evil-knight Godfrey (played by Mark Strong in his usual sneering jackal performance) plan to invade the shores of England.
Director Scott, working from a script by Brian Helgelanger seems to be having shifts into what movie they want to portray, ending up with too many arrows and no sharp tips.
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They give us one story about the gruff and tough Crowe playing a solider of fortune and battling it out with Godfrey and his men, then Crowe plays it light and dashing with Maid Marian (played by Cate Blanchett as best as she can with the half-baked material), while both are getting too old to play screen heartrobes, and then Crowe’s Robin of the Hood is removed entirely and becomes a Tudorsesque battle royal about the new King John and his corruption of power.
All the stories are well acted by the large cast of characters, especially by Oscar Issacs as King John, but when the movie is title Robin Hood, it’s best to stick to one story about the title character and play it out from there.
One major act of treason against the filmmaking gods is committed by Cinematographer John Mathieson, who compensates for the trite action sequences by using the zoom lens far too often. At times the off-putting technique is applied for no dramatic purpose or direction, making you feel like you’re on the sidelines instead of in battle.
The real sparks of fun in Robin Hood come from his merry men played by Scott Grimes, Alan Doyle and Kevin Durand, who have quite a…merry time in Nottingham drinking honey mead and playing 12th century pop songs on their lutes. At this point though it’s the halfway mark of the film, and one would rather see their adventures in Nottingham then the creakiness that surrounds them.
The adventure of Robin Hood is nowhere to be seen in this movie and instead much of the action seems to be from the stock footage pile of recent war epics, which is director Scott’s signature, but we’ve seen him be much more creative and exciting before. His so-called road show version cut of Kingdom of Heaven shows how this can be done quite well and enthrallingly. Not forgetting to mention Gladiator and the fierce battles fought by Maximus, who, in comparison, makes Robin Hood look like a nervous, sausge-fingered archer at summer camp.
So the legend begins for Robin Hood at the end of the movie, and we’re left wondering why so much time was spent on trumped-up preamble that misses the mark.