Sunday, May 16, 2010

Robin Hood Review, Or How I Wish I Was Watching Braveheart for the 17th Time

     Spoiler Alert: this film ends with the statement "And so the Legend begins..." It's fairly easy to ascertain from that sentence that the 140- minute film before it contains nothing about the true legend of Robin Hood. There is no stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. His band of outlaws are not given much screen time, and one could hardly call them "Merry" (except when they are tying one on from Friar Tuck's Bee Mead). I just watched the film last night, and I doubt that I could pick the Sheriff of Nottingham out of a police lineup, due to how little we see him. No, this film is like a Mad Lib of plot points, stylistic medieval flashes of battle, and pick-and-choose ideas from the recent plethora of origin stories in films recently. For example: how many motherfucking times do we have to see thousands of arrows casting shadows over the ground and whizzing through the air as they are launched towards their prospective targets? Apparently, at least according to director Ridley Scott, these scenes are not tired and cliche anymore. I beg to differ: like the arrows that barely miss the throats of Robin's enemies, Robin Hood the film significantly misses the mark.
     Numerous versions of Robin Hood's lore have graced our television and theater screens since the invention of television and theater screens: the 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn, the 1973 animated Robin Hood created by Disney, 1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and 1993's Robin Hood: Men in Tights (both of which hold a place in my heart for introducing me to the story of Robin From the Hood).  Now we have this, 2010's Robin Hood, starring the always-game-for-medieval-warfare Russell Crowe and directed by the always-game-for-killing-horses-and-beating-their-dead-bodies-relentlessly Ridley Scott. Articles and advance reviews state that you wouldn't even know that this film was based on Robin Hood if it wasn't for the names and very loosely based on the legend plot. I cannot disagree: it's a PG-13 version of Gladiator with archery and more talking and less action; it's a PG-13 version of Braveheart with less heart and less blood. Above all, it's just not that fun, something that should have been the first box that was checked off when discussions of a 2010 version of Robin Hood began.
In the past decade, something has changed in film studio's and film maker's minds: they have gotten a large boner when thinking about taking a cherished, established character and telling the story of their origin, or how they became the legend that we know and love today. It's the modern day full-runtime film version of a flashback scene. Batman Begins and Casino Royale did this experiment with much success, rejuvenating old franchises with new talent on the sets and in the director chairs. Hannibal Rising and X-Men Origins: Wolverine appeared with less success, and a question was asked (at least in my mind): Is. This. Necessary? In the case of this version of Robin Hood, that answer is a definitive "No". I don't care what Robin Hood did to become Robin Hood if the actions of what he did to become the legend are not as entertaining as the legend itself. This is the paradox when examining origin stories: if we enjoy the man (or woman) as we know and love today, shouldn't we care about what that man (or woman) did to become the character that we know and love? Particularly since the actions of this character in the past directly shape the actions that the character performs in the present day. It's really just one big crapshoot when it comes to this type of film making. I cared when it came to Christian Bale's portrayal of Batman, just as I cared when it came to Daniel Craig's portrayal of 007. I didn't care when it came to Russell Crowe's portrayal of Robin Hood. There's nothing new here. Nothing exciting. Robin Hood 2010 is a gritty, tough slog through the bullet points of Robin's time before becoming the legend. The real film for this story begins just as the credits end.     (C-)

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