Middle Row, Centre: Big Budget and Big Names Cannot Save Robin Hood

I feel somewhat the victim of misrepresentation after recently watching Robin Hood.

Maybe if the film had been billed as Robin Hood: The Prequel, I’d feel better about the whole thing, or maybe in the final analysis, it really doesn’t matter. But anyone expecting to see a retelling of the traditional story of Friar Tuck, Will Scarlett and the rest of Robin’s Merry Band of Men cavorting through the woods and outwitting the venal Sheriff of Nottingham might have been disappointed at what they got instead.

What they got was Braveheart revisited, Robin Hood before he took to the woods.

Russell Crowe starred as Robin Locksley, a grizzled veteran of Richard the Lionhearted’s medieval crusades throughout Palestine, who has come home to England.

Kevin Durand was a dishevelled and grumpy Little John. Kate Blanchett played a tired and bitter-looking wife to to the returned warrior, threatening to stick him with her dagger if he tried to sleep with her. Hardly the bouncy, pretty Maid Marion we’ve come to expect throughout the years of watching countless versions of the legend.

They all look as if a retreat to the sylvan glades of Sherwood Forest would do them a world of good.

But that is not yet to be. First must come the requisite number of stormings of French castles, replete with the hot boiling oil thrown over the side of the ramparts. Then there’s the indecipherable court intrigues and medieval politics, the villainous French double-agent Godfrey, a knock-off for Voldemort in the form of Mark Strong, who seems destined to face a summer of playing villains, having only recently been seen as the vicious drug-lord Frank D’Amico in Kick-Ass and serial killer Lord Blackwood inSherlock Holmes before that.

King John, as played by Oscar Isaac, looks more like an effete playboy given to tantrums when he doesn’t get the proper amount of taxes due him, rather than the imperious tyrant of traditional telling.

Perhaps it’s unfair to accuse the film of playing fast and loose with history, when there isn’t a shred of evidence to suggest that the character Robin Hood even existed.

But we can hardly blame younger viewers coming out of the cinema, convinced that Robin Hood and the army he recruited repelled a French invasion force that landed on the shores of Southern England toward the end of the thirteenth century, or that he was the driving force behind presenting King John with the Magna Carta. Or that everything would have turned out alright, if it weren’t for the treacheries of that evil Godfrey what’s-his-name.

The dialogue is frequently muffled or clipped, the characters confusing, the endless battle scenes ponderous and serving as an excuse to keep us on the edge of our seats, marvelling at all of the carnage, accompanied by a blaring and suitably bellicose score.

The only thing is, none of it works. Director Ridley Scott, whose previous work includesGladiator, Blade Runner and Thelma And Louise, could surely provide more excitement than this almost two-and-a-half-hour-long dud does, but he doesn’t even get the chance here.

One look at the credits as they roll on, leaves me with an overwhelming sense of amazement at how many people it takes to make a film, and causes me to wonder why the assembled efforts of so many couldn’t come up with something more interesting.

But sure enough, a glance at the figures for Robin Hood‘s opening weekend, with box office receipts of $111 million, reveals that the film is well on its way to recouping its reputed $155-million budget.

Can’t we do better?

Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.

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