Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett
Directed by: Ridley Scott
The world didn’t need another Robin Hood movie but that’s what we have thanks to Ridley Scott. Thankfully, it’s pretty good but it could have been better. There were some pacing issues and it’s obvious that they were writing this movie with a sequel in mind. Still, it’s a very interesting take on the lore of Robin Hood that may feel a bit unconventional but is still quite enjoyable.
This story of Robin Hood starts off with the English army returning from the Crusades. They’re in the midst of ransacking a French castle when the King of England is killed in the midst of the battle. A solider by the name of Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) who was sent to the stockade for a brawl the day before, decides its time to flee with his cohorts and escape through the French countryside to find their way back to England. The party sent to return the King’s crown to England is ambushed by the French and all of the members of the Royal party are killed. However, before the French can get their hands on the crown, Longstride and his men attack the French soldiers who are forced to retreat. Before leaving, they hear the one of the dying English soldiers calling for them. His name is Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge) and he was essentially the King’s right-hand man. He tasks Longstride to return the crown to England.
Longstride decides to be the bearer of bad news but he decides to assume Loxley’s identity for his return to England. What he doesn’t know is that the new King of England, John (Oscar Issac), is working with the French to have them work as his own private army and make England nobles and peasants hand over all their valuables to him. Longstride continues his charade as Loxley, even though Loxley’s wife, Maid Marian (Cate Blanchett), realizes immediately that he’s not who he says he is. She feels for the good of the morale of their village that they must keep the farce going. However, Longstride must assume the role of the leader of the village in a more serious manner to defend everyone from the impending assault by the King’s forces. With all the chaos going on, England is on the verge of Civil War.
Some could complain that Russell Crowe was just redoing his performance from Gladiator (and there may be something to that) but he still pulls off an impressive display as a darker, brooding Robin Hood. His body language helped tell the story and perfectly complemented the character. The other actors did a good job to support the tale especially Robin’s father-in-law (Max von Sydow) and Friar Tuck (Mark Addy). The only disappointment from the cast comes from Cate Blanchett who comes across as incredibly wooden in the role of Maid Marian. True, her character has been through a lot and is probably a little bit dead inside but there are time where they could have had a tree act as Blanchett’s stand-in and nobody would have noticed.
The story was well told although it felt at times that pace of the film was moving too quickly. It made it feel like everything was happening over the course of a couple of days (which would have been impossible in 12-century England). One great thing about this movie though is that it does a good job detailing the backstory of all the major characters without it feeling too heavy. Too often movies tend to feed the audience an extensive amount of detail about a character’s motivation but tend to neglect the story. Conversely, many movies try to ignore the backstory and move forward as if the audience is expected to know everything about the characters before the opening credits roll. Robin Hood perfectly melds the backstory with the ongoing narrative that feels seamless and natural. This element of the script is very well crafted.
However, the script is not perfect. It really feels as if this movie is only a stepping stone for a sequel. Parts of the story are left unresolved and the ending leaves everything wide open for a Robin Hood 2. This results in the movie feeling unfinished and a bit empty. It’s perfectly fine for a movie to be made and plant seeds for a sequel but when it’s blatantly obvious that the filmmakers are holding off on the resolution of the story for a second movie, it takes away from the impact the film is trying to hit viewers with.
That’s where Robin Hood falls apart. The writers created an ending that basically erased much of what the film’s story had told and basically created a commercial for a second movie. Compare that against Star Wars: The Empire Strike Back; the movie doesn’t end with a solid ending (in fact, the good guys are retreating) but it still resolved the major storyline arcs created by that movie. You can argue that the film’s major revelation at the end teased the audience into paying for another movie but that plot twist towards the end and it’s consequences had nothing to do with most of the story told in Empire Strikes Back. Contrast that with Robin Hood where the major twist at the end that’s used to set up a sequel completely undermines most of the story. It makes most of what had been presented on screen for the almost two-and-a-half-hour duration completely irrelevant.
The action scenes are quite well done. The battles feel very intense and epic. At times, some of the scenes feel like there is too much going on and it can get confusing but considering the scope of the battles it would be difficult to simplify everything so that it makes it easier to understand. In fact, had they presented everything in a paint-by-numbers fashion, it would have taken away from the epic nature of these powerful scenes. Action fans will be satisfied with what this movie has to offer. Even if you’re not a fan of the action genre, the physical scenes not only enhance the storytelling but are an essential part of the movie.
Ridley Scott did a good job with Robin Hood but the ending makes the entire experience feel like a waste of time. It’s a great film that was torpedoed by someone’s need to push the audience into wanting a sequel. It’s still plenty watchable and worth it if you have the chance but expect to be disappointed by the film’s final moments.