Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac
We all know Robin Hood. That bloke. Called Robin. From "the hood". We all know him. We all love him. So naturally the thing we want when we go to see a film called Robin Hood is that familiar story about the man we all know and love. Which is why Ridley Scott has gone the other way and given us a completely different movie. We don't know this Robin. And we don't really love him.
It all kicks off with a battle. There's of lot of them in this. Mostly involving men running around in muddy woods thinking Epic Thoughts with Big Swords or Big Arrows. So we see Robin (Crowe) before he becomes the legendary hero, as a soldier fighting for his country and for King Richard. He doesn't do much robbing from the rich or giving to the poor. He's too busy shouting.
Godefroy (Strong) likes shouting too. He's got no hair, so he's very angry. So angry that he betrays the crown and works with Phillip of France to bring down England. And so when King Richard gets an arrow in the face, Godefroy's on hand to steal the crown and whisk it away to old Frenchy. But Robin and his merry sidekicks get in the way, so John (Isaac) soon gets his grubby mitts on the throne instead.
With taxes rising and the country under threat, Robin Longstride (for that, apparently, is his name) finds himself in Nottingham, returning a dead man's sword to his blind father (von Sydow) and lonely wife, Marian (Blanchett). They're the last of the Loxley family, who are under pressure from the Sheriff of Nottingham (MacFayden). So when Robin rides up to their doorstep, it's only convenient for him to assume the role of man of the house. His first call of duty? Get drunk on the village mead.
Some barn-stomping comic relief later, and Robin is well on his way to leading a revolution - a champion of rights for all of common man. Naturally this involves a Massive Fight on the beach against Godefroy's French invasion. Because the French are the bad guys. Along with Godefroy. And King John. And the Sheriff of Nottingham - who gets all of five minutes screen time.
With all the villainous types running around Robin's woods, it's no wonder that Ridley Scott's reboot comes across as muddled; there's no big showdown to have because there are too many people to showdown against. Ridley wanted a back-to-basics story. And that's what we've got: this isn't Robin Hood, this is Gladiator in a forest.
It's all there: the epic sword swinging, the social uprising, the evil monarch (Oliver Isaac does a great Joaquin Phoenix impression). Relocating Robin in his historical origins, Brian Helgeland's script does away with history altogether; a Charter of the Forest, drawn up by King John and Robin's fellow commoners, isn't even explained, which just makes it look like the Magna Carta. As for Maid Marian being a widow, the only reason that works is because it's less ridiculous than her riding out in battle with a bunch of children.
Still, the action is shot well enough; there's no over-editing so it's easy to follow, and the locations all look pretty and convincing. This may be a preview for Robin Hood 2 (the film we all wanted them to make), but it gallops along at a tolerable pace. Maybe next time they can get the accents right. Is Sherwood Forest in Nottingham, or Ireland?
Large in scale and gritty in tone, Robin Hood is a generic re-imagining of a much-loved hero. Bloated, but watchable.