Robin Hood

England Blues

         
 

14 May 2010| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Why does the audience feel so blue? It must have looked intriguing on paper. By casting Russell Crowe, the filmmakers are in hopes that the public will prefer a rugged he-man as the titular Robin Hood. Crowe, still an obvious body-builder at the gym in the off-time, is brawny enough to marshal an army. He also has the deadly thousand-yard stare to let you know that he’s pissed off, and in this case, in the mood for a revolution. This is the realistic rendering of the Robin of Locksley tale, alas, pivoting on the times prior to him becoming a folklore outlaw.

Notably the film is directed by Ridley Scott, and the marketing and finished product angle is to make this the “Gladiator” version of “Robin Hood.” But let’s not forget that Scott directed “Kingdom of Heaven,” which put some people into a three hour coma. Scott mimics the visual strategy of his earlier success, taking the gritty old-world terrain and desaturating the colors even further, while also using flickering candlelight as a seeming natural source.

But Scott’s serious-mindedness, along with screenwriter Brian Helgeland (whom wrote two overlong pics “Man on Fire” and “The Postman”), suck the juicy adventure out of the classic tale in favor of boring smart talk that stinks of “Kingdom of Heaven” waste. Kings and clergy have many verbose conversations on the meanings of politics, the servitude of the common peoples, and so much said about honor, justice, valor, nation’s pride, etc. So obtusely strung together that minutes later you won’t remember who said what or care. There’s no time for Scott or Helgeland to include a scene of Robin stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Nor is there a swordfight.

Crowe is more brooding than merry. It’s far from his best performance on film, he’s inward and glum. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen) is almost an afterthought. Robin’s Merry Men – four of them – are valorous but only offer to make only a couple of amusing, ribbing remarks. Danny Huston does good work as the fallen King Richard the Lionheart, his majestic aplomb is bigger than anyone else’s and we admire his stature even if we don’t care for his methods of making examples out of lesser men.

Then there is Maid Marion, more here known as Marion Loxley, is played by Cate Blanchett (“Elizabeth,” “The Aviator”). Why studios, filmmakers and audiences have marveled in her over the years is a mystery to me. She lacks the very ability to express that quintessential quality called… emotion. When Robin enters her life at Nottingham, and is given hand to him by her father (Max von Sydow), she goes into cold, don’t-touch-me-or-I’ll-sever-your-manhood-mode.

The question remains as to whether you are the kind of moviegoer that can hang in there and wait for the exciting 20-minute finale, where cool bow-and-arrow stuff happens. The raiding and persecuting of the denizens of Nottingham has a cruel serpent suspense to it. The climax is filmed in hyperspeed, with army men unleashed from watercraft boats, in a way that recalls the Normandy invasion that you saw in “Saving Private Ryan” (“What the hell, why not?” the filmmakers must be saying). Ridiculous, but at least the sequence has momentum. Scott doesn’t skimp on the shots where you see a thousand arrows shot high in the air, only to plummet at lethal speeds at an army desperately raising their shields to protect their faces while the vertiginous camera bursts over the action.

This is a busy, scene-shifting historical drama that offers few familiar pleasures, but Scott, a master of the zooming lens, does make the forests into an emerald-colored visual feast. But the speechifying gnaws on your patience. One has to fear if Scott ever puts out a future DVD of “Robin Hood: Super Deluxe Extended Edition with More Endless Speeches.” If that ever happens, I’ll go as far as to take back every mean thing I ever said about Kevin Costner’s “Prince of Thieves” which is looking better with every undeserved buck that Scott’s film earns in receipts.

156 Minutes. Rated PG-13.

ACTION & ADVENTURE / TEENS / MONDAY NIGHT BLUES VIEWING

Film Cousins: “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938); “Robin & Marian” (1976); “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991); “Gladiator” (2000).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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