Greetings again from the darkness. Hard to argue with the box office success when director Ridley Scott teams up with Russell Crowe (Gladiator, American Gangster). Can’t really challenge the resume of writer Bryan Helgeland (Mystic River, L.A. Confidential) or the acting chops of Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow or William Hurt. And only the most cynical would deny the appeal of the Robin Hood legend … stealing from the rich to give to the poor. So why is it that I feel so cheated and let down by this version?
First of all, it is presented as a prequel to the legend. This is the story of how Robin and his band of merry men (and Maid Marion) came to be united. If it is a prequel, why then is Robin (Russell Crowe) so darn old? There is even a line in the film noting the advanced age of King Richard the Lionheart being 40 or even more! For the times, this was considered old, yet somehow Robin is ready for a career change.
The best parts of the film are the amazing sets and pieces – both the villages and the boats. And we all know that Mr. Scott can film a massive battle scene! There is a touch of Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan and Braveheart in many scenes. All fine, but what I really missed was the flirtatious banter between Robin and Marion. Maybe I am biased, but a Lorena Bobbitt threat doesn’t strike me as light-hearted bed chamber conversation.
My biggest complaint is with the script. It just felt clunky and messy. A couple of scenes were apparently included just so Mark Strong could scowl … and he has a great scowl! Other scenes and lines were seemingly included just to give the film a complex feel. Probably too complex for what it really is.
Oscar Isaac as Prince John was the funniest and most interesting character in the film. The preview made him look like a buffoon, but the film gave him more depth … and a couple of great lines. Danny Huston as Lionheart, Mark Addy as Friar Tuck and Matthew Macfadyen as the Sheriff of Nottingham all add to the luster, but remember this is prior to Robin’s ongoing battles with the Sheriff.
Be cautious with younger kids as it is a strong PG-13. The battle scenes are entertaining, but this is one legend that did not need its roots exposed.