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|Robin Hood |
Two-Disc Unrated Director's Cut
Actors: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett
Director: Ridley Scott
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama
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Lewis P. (Turfseer) from NEW YORK, NY
Reviewed on 11/6/2010...
Crowe musters no charm in history tinged prequel
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The new Russell Crowe 'Robin Hood' is actually a prequel. It tells the story of how the mythical outlaw became the great 'man of the people' BEFORE roaming around Sherwood Forest with his 'merry men'. Instead of being pitted against the Sheriff of Nottingham (who has a minor part here), Robin takes on Godfrey, a bald-headed bad guy and enforcer for King John who later betrays the homeland by allying himself with the French.
'Robin Hood' begins nicely with a finely costumed and gritty battle scene in France. Crowe plays Robin Longstride, an expert archer in King Richard the Lionheart's army. The King has just returned from the Third Crusade in the Holy Land when he is felled by an arrow during battle. It would have been nice if the film's scenarists had King Richard only speaking French since he never spoke English and spent most of his adult life in Europe, far from his native England. Longstride decides to return to England after he assumes the identity of a dying Knight, Robin Loxley, who has just been ambushed by Godfrey and his men. Longtsride promises the dying Loxley that he'll return the family sword to his father back in Nottingham.
Longstride returns Richard's crown to John and informs him of his death. John is promptly crowned the new King and is determined to tax the hell out of the Kingdom. In his view, Richard squandered the treasury by paying for all of intrigues on the Continent and his ill-considered campaign in the Holy Land. He reminds his mother during a bitter argument that at one point, England had to pay a ransom to save Richard after he had been kidnapped by the Duke of Austria in 1192.
With Longstride's appearance at the Court, I found it perplexing that none of the noblemen recognized that he was an imposer. After Longstride returns to Nottingham and accepts Sir Walter Loxley's proposal to impersonate his now deceased son, even more improbable is that no one in the town seems to be able to connect the dots and figure out that Longstride is not who he says he is.
The main problem with 'Robin Hood' is that Russell Crowe exudes little charm, playing the mischievous outlaw as a grim-faced action hero. As for his cohorts, Little John and Will Scarlett, they have little to do except get drunk and assist Robin and Friar Tuck as they steal grain, confiscated from the local population by Church authorities. This act wins Marion Loxley over to Robin after she initially is stunned when her father-in-law asks her to pretend that she's married to Longstride. Most of the forest scenes can be found in the Director's Cut which were wisely trimmed for the theatrical release. For those insist on watching the Director's Cut, you'll be treated to 1) Marion and a goat stuck in quicksand and both subsequently saved by Robin and 2) Marion saving Robin after he's kidnapped by local orphans dressed as forest-dwelling savages.
'Robin Hood' fares no better with its antagonists. The screenwriters come up with nothing to distinguish Godfrey from any of the typical bad guys found in any of today's films, whether they're based on real or fictional characters. And The Sheriff of Nottingham is even less likable than Godfrey with his constant lecherous advances towards the widow Marion. Only John is a little more nuanced as he vacillates in trying to appease the rebellious Northern Barons.
Finally, history takes a back seat to any kind of verisimilitude when the French invade England shortly after John's ascension to the throne. In reality, King Philip of France recaptured English-held territory in France and John promptly invaded that country. It was actually eighteen years later that France finally waged war in English territory. In addition, the signing of the Magna Carta and its disavowal by King John, also came years after as depicted here in this film.
Despite the convoluted chronologies, there is nothing wrong in attempting to depict Robin Hood in the context of his times. Except for blatantly anachronistic scenes such as when the French disembark from their warships in the style of a D-day invasion, I found the attention to period detail to be impressive. Nonetheless, without any charm emanating from the principal character, a lack of chemistry between the romantic leads, antagonists who show little complexity and glacial pacing in spots, the new 'Robin Hood' is at best, a lackluster affair.
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