‘Robin Hood’ Fails To Steal Any Hearts

“Robin Hood” ends with the words, “And so the legend begins.” What director Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”) presents to us is an origin film of the legendary figure. Unfortunately, it’s clearly not the film we’ve been waiting for.

It’s the year 1199 AD, and Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is an archer returning home from the Third Crusade. Following the death of King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston), he stumbles upon an ambush of the King’s guard by Godfrey (Mark Strong), a double agent for the French. Promising a dying Knight to return the crown to the Royal family and his sword to his father Walter Loxley (Max Von Sydow), Robin returns to England in the guise of the fallen knight Robert Loxley.

Upon his return, he witnesses the crowning of King John (Oscar Issac) and is convinced by Walter to continue impersonating his son and thus becomes the husband of Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett). It isn’t long before Robin finds himself thrust in an imminent civil war between John and the northern barons, as well as a French invasion of England.

The trouble with “Robin Hood” is that it’s not the film that it ought to be. Not only is the film missing the light-heartedness and wit from the folklore tales, but it serves more as a historical and political lesson about the origins of the Magna Carta than it does as an adventure film. Thus, Lady Marion, the Merry Men, the Sheriff of Nottingham – their story regrettably becomes a subplot.

Even then, this subplot is a disappointment in itself. You can forget about Robin going out and stealing money from the rich and giving it to the poor. Instead, what Scott gives us is Robin and his Merry Men planting grain in a field – all filmed in slow motion.

Moreover, the popular folk figure literally has no purpose in the film. The only thing that connects Robin to King John, the northern Barons, and the invading French is that his father happened to pen this pre-Magna Carta. If you take that away, then what’s the point of having Robin Hood in the film at all?

Those who expect hard, R-rated brutal action will certainly be disappointed. The film’s PG-13 rating results in very fast cuts, especially in the film’s battle scenes. Hence, blood spurting from wounds and swords stabbing and slicing through bodies are essentially nonexistent.

If you’re the kind of person who’s determined to see the film through in theaters, it’s going to be a painful sit once your bladder calls for relief. It’s highly advised that you go to the restroom before watching this film in its gargantuan 140-minute running time.

Depressed yet? Wait until you see Crowe’s portrayal of the titular character. The best word to describe his Robin is sullen; he hardly ever cracks a smile. The second best word is pudgy – when he takes his shirt off, you wish that he spend a few more hours at the gym. This sure as hell doesn’t sound the Robin we all adore.

The usually wonderful Blanchett doesn’t seem very comfortable in her role in this film. Is it because she and Crowe are too old to play their characters? Or is it because Marion is paired with such a gloomy character?

You may expect a great performance from Strong (who’s typecast yet again), but his character has no depth. Basically, all that Godfrey does is fight when Robin isn’t around, and when Robin does arrive, he flees the scene.

Issac nails the arrogance of King John, but there are times when he goes way over the top in his emotional scenes that it becomes unintentionally humorous. However, he executes his final scene well, though his delivery of the word “outlaw” will cause some to howl in laughter.

The only actor who makes an impression is von Sydow, who manages to make Walter a lively character despite his blindness. All the other characters are so severely underwritten that their performers don’t have an opportunity to stand out.

However, the film’s technical achievements are commendable. The production design successfully reflects the atmosphere in each scene. The editing is crisp, particularly in the battle sequences. The cinematography gives the film an epic look with its sweeping long shots.

The score, composed by Marc Streitenfeld, is perfect for an ideal film about Robin Hood – it’s certainly reminiscent of the music during that period.

“Robin Hood” pales in comparison to Scott’s “Gladiator.” What causes the film to be so dull is its treatment of the Robin Hood legend. If Scott wanted to make a film about Robin Hood, then he ought to have done so.