Review: Robin Hood
Sandra: Peter and I saw Robin Hood on the opening weekend and both of us were pleasantly surprised by this movie. It was directed by Ridley Scott, of Alien, Blade Runner, Kingdom of Heaven, and Gladiator fame. The movie stars Russell Crowe as Robin Hood and Cate Blanchett as Maid Marion.
I enjoyed the direction Scott took with this film; it was not done in the typical Robin Hood fashion. It tells the background story of Robin Hood and how he came to be an outlaw.
The story starts with Robin fighting for King Richard in Chalus, France. It shows Robin and his comrades (“Merry Men”) in the army encampment and gives a bit of back story to their friendship. Richard is killed in battle at Chalus and Robin and his men run away in fear of being over run by fleeing Englishmen escaping the French. They come upon the remains an ambush where they find a dying knight who tells them that his party was to bring the King’s crown to London. The dying knight elicits a promise from Robin to return his sword to his father and let him know of his passing. Discarding their travelling clothes and donning the attire of knights, and adopting the knight’s identities, they board a boat and sail to deliver the crown to London. Once they deliver it and John is crowned king, Robin and his men head north to Nottingham to deliver the sword to the father of the fallen knight. There, they meet the knight’s widow……Marion.
The story unfolds in a series of interesting twists that do not appear in any previous telling of the Robin Hood tale with its usual over the top Sherwood Forest, Merry Men and evil Sheriff of Nottingham cheesiness. The Sheriff has more of a cameo and does not figure in this movie prominently at all. Scott’s take on this story is refreshing. I like the new twist to the back story of Robin Hood. There are some comedic moments but what this story is lacking (blessedly) is the “camp” factor that plagues most Robin Hood movies. There is a lot of action, graphic violence and many battle scenes – it’s more like Braveheart meets Gladiator and the scene from the Battle of the Pelennor fields in Peter Jackson’s, Return of the King. What the movie is not, is campy; not in the least. I was glad since it was what I expected. For once, I was happy to be disappointed!
The chemistry between Crowe and Blanchett as Robin and Marion is believable. King John’s ineptness provides many of the movies comedic moments, the battle scenes are exciting, and the movie is beautifully filmed. The movie is quite long (2.5 hours) but I enjoyed it so much that I really didn’t notice the time.
Was it historically accurate? Not really, in so much there are historical bits and pieces lumped together in a hodge podge to neatly tie history together for the movie’s purposes. It is about as historically accurate as a historical fiction novel; it’s based in a historical period, with characters from that time but the details of their interactions are liberally altered to suit the narrative of the film. That’s how I approach these movies – I realize they aren’t meant to be 100% accurate reflections of historical events but mere reflections of them. Does that lessen my enjoyment of the movie? Not at all; I’m not watching a documentary – it’s a Hollywood blockbuster. It was simply an enjoyable, fictional take on a period in history. It’s a great movie, fun, funny, action packed and entertaining. I highly recommend it!
Peter: Most, if not all other films about Robin Hood, tell the tale of a band of merry men who steal from the rich and give to the poor. This movie is not about that story, but how Robin Hood becomes Robin Hood. It is refreshing take on the tale, and the performances by Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett make this a very enjoyable film.
The film is really a tale of medieval intrigue and bloodshed, with a common archer named Robin Longstride getting caught up in the fortunes of kings and queens. The overriding story is that the King of France has plotted with a Sir Godfrey to betray the recently crowned King John and invade England.
For those who are wondering about the historical accuracy of this film – the answer is mostly no – while most of the main characters are real people, these events did not actually happen. But as Sandra says, this is not a documentary, so I am not going to worry too much about this. Meanwhile, the filmmakers have done a good job in making the characters and surroundings look medieval. And the battle scenes have a good grittiness to them which makes it look believable – no heads are being chopped off with a single stroke.
The two leads – Crowe and Blanchett – have great chemistry in this film and have both made strong characters. They get much of the screen time, which limits the impact of the many other performances given here. For example, Robin’s buddies – Little John, Will Scarlett, etc., are there, but are mostly used for a little comedy and to take part in the fight scenes.
One character that does stand out is King John, played by Oscar Isaac. The English king gets to be arrogant, cowardly, sly, dumb, erratic and Machiavellian all in the same movie. He was great!
After watching the film, I have to say in the end that I enjoyed it and found it intriguing enough to keep my attention throughout its two and a half hours. It is a good medieval action movie, with just enough romance and comedy thrown in.
See also: Robin Hood – Film Profile
Want more medieval? Take a look at our digital magazine – The Medievalverse – Click here to see our latest issues