Main cast: Russell Crowe (Robin Longstride), Cate Blanchett (Marion Loxley), Max von Sydow (Sir Walter Loxley), Mark Strong (Godfrey), Oscar Isaac (Prince John), Danny Huston (King Richard The Lionheart), Eileen Atkins (Eleanor of Aquitaine), Mark Addy (Friar Tuck), Matthew Macfadyen (Sheriff of Nottingham), Kevin Durand (Little John), Scott Grimes (Will Scarlet), Alan Doyle (Allan A’Dayle), Léa Seydoux (Isabella of Angoulême), and William Hurt (William Marshal)
Director: Ridley Scott
The people behind the casting of Robin Hood have an odd sense of humor. For a movie set in 12th century England, most of the actors playing English and the occasional Welsh characters sport all kinds of cosmopolitan accents. One of the few genuine Brits, Mark Strong, plays a half-French character. Prince John is played by a South American fellow. Of course, we all know who plays the title character in this movie and his English accent is all over the place.
Still, I have to confess a soft spot for this movie. It attempts to present a humanized hero rather than some kind of superhero with a bow, and this movie shows how Robin Longstride, an orphan with fuzzy memories of his childhood, becomes Robin Hood.
Robin Longstride isn’t what you can call a noble fellow at first. As a mere archer in King Richard’s troops, he had done some things he is not proud of, and when Richard is fell by a fluke shot made by a French chef during a siege on some castle, Robin gathers his comrades to make their way to the boats before the other soldiers beat them to the rush. As it happens, they come across an ambush led by the traitor Godfrey on the entourage of Sir Robert Loxley, the knight charged to return Richard’s crown to England. Godfrey managed to escape, but he is scarred by Robin’s arrow.
Meanwhile, Robin and his comrades – Little John, Will Scarlet, and Alan A’Dayle – decide to dress themselves as knights, take the crown, loot the bodies, and board the ship meant for Robert for London. Their opportunistic stunt takes an unexpected turn when Robin, deciding to return Robert’s sword to Sir Walter Loxley, ends up receiving a proposition from Walter. If Robin will remain and pose as Robert Loxley, he can keep the sword. This deception is necessary because Robert died without having an heir, and now Robert’s widow, Marion, will lose her land if word gets out that her husband is dead. Marion is initially unhappy with this suggestion, but she knows what she has to do for the sake of her people.
Meanwhile, King John annoys the local barons by burning and looting their holdings when they can’t pay their taxes, so much so that the barons declare war on John. King Philip of France rubs his hands gleefully and plans an invasion. It won’t be long before Robin and Marion find themselves neck deep in the whole mess.
Robin Hood is very down to earth compared to some of the previous TV and big screen adaptations of this mythical fellow’s life. There is no magic, no Enya-like vocals coming on during romantic scenes, and Robin is very obviously an ordinary person with perhaps better than average aim when it comes to his arrows. His romance with Marion is very muted, although I personally like this approach. Robin is very shy and awkward around Marion, which I feel is a nice touch as it gives Mr Crowe’s quiet but capable Robin an added hint of vulnerability. Indeed, when it comes to this movie, Robin Longstride comes off as a fellow who leads not because he wants to but because he’s the best man for the job.
This movie looks good. Since it costs about $200 million to make, it has better look good, heh. The fight scenes are very watchable and coherent, and I especially like the emphasis given on the important roles of archers in battles. The pacing is fine and there are enough adequate performances from the main cast to keep the momentum going.
However, because the script attempts to tackle way too many things, the movie doesn’t come together as well as it should. The characters are never given a chance to develop. Robin’s comrades are one-dimensional comic relief and muscle power characters, Marion is the politically correct kick-ass heroine, and the villains are one-dimensional bad guys while the good secondary characters are all tediously noble. I am quite taken by Oscar Isaac’s manic and campy portrayal of King John, however, and King John’s paramour Isabella of Angoulême could have been an interesting scheming hussy if she weren’t sidelined so much in this movie.
The movie is at its weakest when it attempts to inject modern-day democratic sensibilities, resulting in what seems like a 12th century England where everyone wants to be free and equal apart from that wicked King John who wants to boss over everybody. Is such an attitude even possible in that time? Also, the attempts to turn Marion into an independent lady of war become laughable late in the movie. It is one thing to have her shooting arrows now and then, but to have her start swinging a sword and even gate-crashing the real soldiers’ march to battle with the troops of France? Give me a break. It is rather strange how the movie fails to recognize that, by having Marion being the only person to keep her husband’s estate running through her sheer force of will and determination, they already have a perfect independent heroine. No, they have to ruin her by turning her into some kind of warrior princess in the end, and to add insult to the injury, she has to be rescued by the hero in the process.
Robin Hood is a middle-of-the-road movie by Ridley Scott if I have to compare it to his greatest and worst flicks. It lacks the emotional intensity and larger-than-life epic scale of some of his better previous historical drama flicks. Nonetheless, this one is still a pleasantly enjoyable movie that attempts to present a more human and flawed Robin Hood to the audience.