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Review: Robin Hood by DrChocolate


Hollywood sure has a jonesing for origin stories these days. This isn’t your typical Robin Hood movie of merry thievery and peril at the hands of the Sheriff of Nottingham. You don’t even see Robin holed up in Nottingham Forest with his band of righteous robbers until right before the credits roll. No Errol Flynn here, Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” is a mix of origin story, political chicanery, and some deft battle sequences.

Scott and his screenwriters play fast and loose with British history, and by extension French history. However, if Tarantino and his fabulous “Inglourious Basterds” can be praised to the skies even as it completely redraws the facts to the most important years of the 20th then surely this can be forgiven as well (that is not to say that this is nearly as good as IB). Fairly convoluted plot made short: disenchanted with political leaders after a decade of foolish decisions in the Crusades, peasant archer in King Richards army Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) serendipitously finds his chance to leave the army and return home. That chance leads him and his core of merry men to become ensnared in medieval identity theft, political intrigue and evil-French machinations. Action and romance ensues.

Crowe is effective as Robin; and he and a characteristically superb Cate Blanchett have a believable, mature romantic chemistry. Crowe does dial back his typical imposing physicality a little and plays Robin with a bit more mirth than I was used too in a Crowe role. (Which doesn’t mean that he doesn’t exhibit his signature reluctant-hero-taking-up-the-noble-cause mannerisms.) However good these Oscar winners may be, the movie is completely stolen by an intellectually feral Mark Strong. As a devious member of King John’s court, Strong prowls the movie with a magnetic menace. Each time the movie deviated from him I wondered what his character was doing when we weren’t seeing him.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie far more that I thought I would. It does drag in parts (especially the overtly political gobblydegook about free states or some such preaching). But my main quibble comes with the climactic battle sequence, minor plot spoilers ahead, but if you’ve seen trailers I’m not blowing anything you haven’t seen already. The last battle takes place on a beach while the French invade by sea. For some reason Scott and company decided to stage a medieval D-Day. I was mildly uncomfortable with the fact that the invasion is filmed like the opening of “Saving Private Ryan.” It’s so similar it completely displaced me from the film. From underwater up shot of soldiers drowning in the water to the disembarking soldiers getting mowed down as they spill over the sides of their vessels. It just felt cheap and designed to illicit emotion the scene didn’t earn. Secondly, I’m sick of the incessant need to have the love interest show up in battle, disguised by a helmet, which she then removes, and SHOCKER it’s Marion! WHA-WHAT woman can fight too? Oh that Marion, she’s so empowered. Give it a rest already. I’m all for female empowerment, but the need to shoehorn an enlightened ’90’s woman into the 12th century is beginning to get tiring. Everyone should have hung this trick up after Pete Jackson mastered it in The Return of the King.

Anyway, pet peeves aside, it’s a fresher, rejiggered take on a familiar legend, the Ridley Scott powered battle scenes are exciting, there’s some fun stuff with the Merry Men (Keamy from Lost is Little John and, for once, is actually likable *sniff*Lost. I miss you already*sniff*), the leads are good, and the required Robin Hood arrow POV shots are pretty thrilling too. Recommended.