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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Robin Hood: The Ten Point Review

  1. Boy, Ridley Scott really does know how to make violence beautiful and visually engaging. Even when it is in the service of re-filming Saving Private Ryan’s, D-Day beach landing reframed for medieval England.
  2. And that’s not the only mash of story and movie references that manages to fall into the mix. When Robin speaks about the need for equality, social justice, and freedom, I couldn’t get Gibson’s The Patriot (and Braveheart, for that matter). It didn’t seem so much a new movie as a cobbling together of many stories (none of which was Robin Hood) into something that didn’t much fit the title or the period portrayed.
  3. And that’s coming from a guy who didn’t think it was such a bad thing that they were taking the Robin Hood legend in a new direction.
  4. The boys wandering in the forest reminded me of a grubbier version of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys. Not bad in concept, I suppose, but it didn’t really matter in the overall story of the movie. If they hadn’t been there, nothing would have changed.
  5. I’m betting that a lot of story ended up on the cutting room floor--the story jerked about from moment to moment without much flow and with some characters making oddly disconnected decisions within a few scenes with no explanation of why they changed their paths. At well over two hours, it’s hard to suggest that the movie should have been longer, but, if longer, the story might have been better.
  6. Let me backtrack for a moment, though: everything from armor and clothing to siege engines and fortifications were just gorgeous.
  7. I’ve heard some folks complain that Robin Hood should have been younger than Crowe. Firstly, I like the kind of gravitas and presence that Crowe can bring to a role. Secondly, he’s playing a man who had been off to war for a decade; he shouldn’t have been some sprightly youngster with no emotional scars. Crowe was a good casting decision.
  8. That’s some serious rabble-rousing anti-government and tax movie, there, isn’t it? Not a conservative movie and, even with its anti-government sentiment, not much a libertarian one, either. Listen to Marrian’s voice-over at the end of the movie and you’ll hear explicitly where the political inspiration was drawn. Still, I imagine that the rebellious currents in the movie are playing well right now with an America that is feeling distrustful and angry with its government right now.
  9. The historical references are so mangled that I decided by the end of the movie that one of the writers was actually waging an open war on history. I’m not sure why one would do that, but it seems like the only possible explanation for some of the oddities.
  10. That was one hellaciously long prologue for the inevitable sequels that will likely feel much more like the Robin Hood that we’re all more familiar with.
  11. Bonus point: I was thorougly disappointed in the music. The music for Gladiator and Master and Commander were both significantly better. Especially the Yo Yo Ma pieces in the latter.

Three stars, then, mostly for the battle scenes, the amazing costumes and sets, the wonderful rapport and chemistry between the lead characters, and the fact that I’m a big fan of knights, swords, archers, and anti-tax sentiment in popular culture. A decent movie, then, but only just. I’m a fan of Ridley Scott, but this is one of his lesser efforts.

If you do find the Robin Hood myths, then Stephen R. Lawhead’s King Raven Trilogy is worth your time. It isn’t your standard view of Robin Hood, and purists will be disappointed, but the story-telling and period details are wonderful. Similarly, his take on the Arthur myths are remarkable (give a skip, though, to Avalon, a singularly unsatisfying book and a wholly unnecessary add-on to the end of the series).

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"Crowe was a good casting decision.”
If you can say that about every single movie in someone’s entire career (and I think you can say that about Crowe), that’s about the best definition of “great actor” that I can think of.

on May 23 2010 @ 02:33 AM

I can’t think of any Russell Crowe movies I haven’t enjoyed—even going all the way back to 1995. Yes, I even liked that movie—one of the earliest attempts on film to examine the most extreme possibilities of nanotech.

on May 23 2010 @ 07:14 AM

"I’m not sure why one would do that, but it seems like the only possible explanation for some of the oddities.”

I don’t understand the impulse either, but ... Braveheart?  The Patriot? (Somebody mentioned them somewhere.)

Still, it’s Hollywood—don’t ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.

on May 23 2010 @ 09:15 AM

Okay, McG, I’ll have to part ways with you on Virtuosity--although it has nothing to do with the acting and everything to do with not liking the story much. But, yeah, I’m pretty much with you and Nathan on this one. He may be a jerk, but he’s a mighty good actor.

Doug, I don’t much mind historical inaccuracy, at least, not when it should be obvious to viewers that it’s just a movie--from Saving Private Ryan to Master and Commander, as long as the story is good enough, I can forgive a lot. My opinion is wildly different on something like JFK, which was meant to be a serious examination of America’s favorite conspiracy theory.

Anyway, Robin Hood just seemed worse than the norm. Maybe it’s just that I wasn’t enjoying the movie enough to remember to forget what I know.

on May 23 2010 @ 01:10 PM

I personally prefer his TV work.

on May 23 2010 @ 02:36 PM

I’ll have to part ways with you on Virtuosity--although it has nothing to do with the acting and everything to do with not liking the story much.

Well, the concept (not so much the story) and Crowe’s acting are pretty much the things I liked about it, so I’m not sure how far apart we really are.

on May 26 2010 @ 10:49 AM

You’re right: it sounds like we’re pretty close on this one.

It’s also the position I take on Tombstone. Great idea that doesn’t quite work with the exception of a few good (and one exceptional) performance.

on May 26 2010 @ 11:12 AM
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