Here ye, here ye. A new decade has arrived, bringing forth a new vision of a noble legend. A man so gracious that, after being labeled an outlaw, he selflessly steals from the rich to give to the poor. But that’s not what this new vision is about. It’s about the origin of the noble legend, what made him so charitable in the first place, and what made him an outlaw.
Russell Crowe stars as Robin Longstride, a noble warrior for King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston). When the King dies in battle, Robin and his merry men (played by Matthew Macfadyen, Scott Grimes and Kevin Durand) must take the crown to Nottingham. Due to his death, Prince John (Oscar Isaac) is appointed King, which troubles Robin. King Richard isn’t the only death that Robin has to address. Marion Loxley’s (Cate Blanchett) husband, Sir Robert (Douglas Hodge), died in battle as well. His father, Sir Walter (Max von Syndow), doesn’t want the news to break to the town, so he asks Robin to pretend to be his son, which he agrees to do. Marion isn’t pleased with the notion, once even threatening to cut Robin with a dagger. Eventually, she warms up to him and they grow a love interest, but it all forced to me.
Meanwhile, the French are ready to wage war against the English. Instead of preparing for that battle, Prince John is more worried about weeding out his fellow Englishmen, mainly those who owe royal taxes. The biggest thorn in his side is Robin Longstride, a man who goes against his beliefs. He hires Godfrey (Mark Strong) to take him out, along with obtaining the royal taxes. This leads to not only a few scuffles with Robin, but also taking the land of Nottingham under siege.
Robin Hood is a beautiful film to look at, but the direction leaves more to be desired. Ridley Scott tends to lose his direction, alternating between Robin and Marion’s relationship, Prince John’s tyrannical reign, Godfrey’s mission and even Robin’s merry men and their escapades. It’s easy to forget about one subplot since Scott doesn’t blend them together (like Jon Favreau did in Iron Man 2), instead spacing them out. It’s easy to get lost in Robin Hood, just as easy as it is to lose interest in it.
The acting does help sustain your interest. Russel Crowe, as always, is good in his role, playing it with ease and shy kindness. He doesn’t overdo the role, though Ridley Scott does direct him in the sense that he never seems vulnerable. This hurts his merry men’s reputation as sidekicks, since they come off as expendable. All three of them are played wonderfully (especially by Kevin Durand, who is a hoot as Little John), but if you took them out of the story, nothing would have changed. Cate Blanchett is good as Marion Loxley, but her character is more cruelhearted than the original fables make her out to be. Oscar Isaac and Mark Strong both play good villains, though Isaac has more to do than Strong, so he stands out more. The best performance comes from Max von Syndow, who is lovable in his role of Sir Walter Loxley. Every time he was on screen, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of him. He exudes such kindness and gentle behavior that you can’t help but love the guy.
This plays into the movie’s best scene, where Godfrey and his minions take Nottingham under siege. After apprehending the townsfolk and distracting Robin and Marion, he goads the blind Sir Walter Loxley into a fight. He does this by informing him that he was the one responsible for his son’s death, then mocks the situation. As Sir Walter tries his best to fight (even getting in a nice cut on Godfrey’s forehead), Godfrey and his minions laugh at him. You feel so sorry for him, making the scene work perfectly. I was hoping that this scene would be where Robin Hood finally picked up, and I was right. Sadly, it was an hour and forty-five minutes into the picture, with only another half hour to go. It was too little too late.
There’s no denying that Robin Hood looks good. The sets are lavish and the battles tend to be exciting (some do fall flat however, including the opening battle). There’s also no denying that the acting is good. The whole cast puts forth their best performances, and they’re all enjoyable to watch. What there is to deny, however, is the direction of the usually crisp Ridley Scott. He seems to be lost with the subplots, which in turn makes the good performances easy to miss since you’re zoning out. For a two hour and twenty minute movie, I enjoyed a full forty five minutes of it. The other ninety-five minutes leave a lot to be desired.