By William Johnson
Director Ridley Scott re-invents the classic with his signature hack and slash cinematography.
Set in the late 12th century, Universal Pictures Robin Hood re-imagines the humble beginnings of the hero. Russell Crowe (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind) teams up with director Ridley Scott( Gladiator, American Gangster) for the fifth time in this remake of the classic ballad. Also along for the ride are Cate Blanchett (Lord of the Rings), Oscar Isaac (Body of Lies) and Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes).
Enter Robin Longstride, an infantry archer serving under Richard the Lionheart, on the way home from the Third Crusade. This film places Robin in the middle of a political storm that involves the ascension of Richard’s brother, Prince John to the throne after the former’s death and the impending invasion of the Spanish.
By now Scott is used to directing hack and slash battle scenes, making his brutish portrayal of the man in tights unsurprising. For those of you familiar with earlier incarnations of Robin of the Hood, this version may seem grossly different. There are no men in tights, nor hats with feathers in this tale.This movie excels in telling to story of a battle torn warrior, attempting to live peacefully after war, but ultimately fails in rendering the traditional tale of Robin Hood.Within the first ten minutes, the film bears a strong resemblance to Scott’s other epic tale, Gladiator. This may attract some, while distracting others.
While the battle scenes are intense and lively, any attempts at comedy fell flat in the audiences faces. With a botched delivery on nearly every attempt at humor made, all this film had left was the action.
Blanchett and Crowe feel awkward together for the first half of the flick, lacking any sort of connection until the second half, where they really hit their stride. These two academy award winners work almost effortlessly together, in a sharp contrast to the first half of the movie.
The supporting cast featured strong performances, as well. Kevin Durand (Legion) assumed the role of the unsuitably named Little John, the resident strong man.In keeping the tradition of the classic duel between Robin and John, the producers enabled the two actors to really highlight the fierce camaraderie between the two men. Mark Addy (Still Standing) performs a more traditional Friar Tuck, showing genuine delight in his characters love of ale and pleasant demeanor. Another strong performance is that of Oscar Isaac. His version of the power hungry and manipulative King John mixes malice and jealously with occasional comic relief in few moments.
This film isn’t the original Robin Hood, that’s understood. The director embraces this and moves forward with this original story. This movie may be different, but it does an excellent job at following through with it’s deviations from the classic legends. The children of the wood are explained, as well the formation of the merry men. This movie suffers only because it is unrecognizable to it’s audience. For those looking for a merry troupe of traveling archers, you’re out of luck. But in an industry where Tony Stark’s use of the iron man suit can be rewritten to fit the hostile political climate of the Middle East, Robin Hood is an acceptable retelling.
While the film leaves open the possibility of sequels to come, in similar fashion to Sherlock Holmes, I don’t think we’ll be revisiting Nottingham anytime soon.