*** (3 1/2 stars)
Last night Word-of-the-day Jennie and myself attended an advanced screening of Ridley Scott's latest epic "Robin Hood". Be warned, possible spoilers are contained below (though I doubt they'll do much to dissuade you).
I couldn't have been more excited to win passes courtesy of Gordon & the Whale (a pretty neat movie site). I was even more excited when we actually got into the movie- a lot of people were turned away. The story of Robin Hood is one I love and remember fondly from childhood. The adventures of a rag tag group of misfits and thieves who steal from the rich to give to the poor fuel so many of my fantasies and dreams. Surely an origin story would be amazing as well.
[side note: The original title of this film was "Nottingham" and was supposed to show the story of Robin Hood from the perspective of the Sheriff. What I wouldn't give to see that script (much less that movie)!]
My problems with this movie are many and varied. First, it doesn't play like a Ridley Scott move, but more like an introspective Bruckheimer flick. That's not necessarily a bad thing mind you, we love violence and explosions, yet it is handled unevenly and jars the mind from story to action instead of enhancing it (or in the case of Bruckheimer- dominating it). The fight scenes could have been worse (remember "The Bourne Supremacy"? Who was fighting who?); the quick cuts from close, medium, and long shot are often distracting in film. However, I was able to determine the majority of what was going on, even when mud and sand made them all look the same.
Second, the film maker's are not afraid to tell us we're idiots. Case in point: title cards. I love a good title card. There's nothing worse than watching an historical drama and having no idea when in time you are. Or an espionage tale that takes us to Madrid, then Zurick, then Moscow. I do not, however, need to be constantly reminded of an unchanging location. Title card: Blah Blah France. Robin and his merry men are fighting for King Richard the Lionheart in France. Something happens and they must escape to the cost to catch a boat home. Title card: Some French forest. Robin and him men are in an ambush. They proceed towards the coast. Title card: Coast of France. Robin and his men ride into view. Seriously? I KNOW THEY'RE IN FRANCE. How dumb do you think I am? Wait, don't answer that.
Third, remember when story was king, especially when the story being told was based on books and legend? Me too. I wonder who shot, killed, and mounted Story. I miss it.
Forth, faux feminist agendas. Maid Marion (Blanchett), a far cry from the young naive girl implied in other versions of the story, is a tough as nails, take no prisoner, horseback riding (men's style!), woman left to tend the farm and the land. Sure, I'll buy it. Women left at home while the men are at war are forced into roles they would normally not find themselves. I'm not sure why that means she's lost all semblance of breeding and manners, but that's for another time. What bothers me greatly is this: Why is Marion dressed in armor (wow, they had her size!) and showing up to battle the French? Does plowing fields make you a worthy contributor to war? Is she an expert swordsman? We saw in the opening frames of the film she's somewhat proficient with a bow, but archers are rarely in hand to hand combat. It would have made more sense for her to station herself on a ridge and shot arrows all day. Of course, Robin is all for this- yea, sexy! And of course, Marion cannot hold her own wait and almost gets herself and Robin killed. Drama! Except it isn't. It's stupid and does nothing to move the story further (see above).
Fifth, yea casting! Boo casting! By the time Robin Hood would have been Russell Crowe's age, he would have been a well-established outlaw. Same holds true for Maid Marion. This doesn't particularly bother me too much as the ages of the other players was set according to its stars. They fit. Sometimes, it's exciting. look! It's Max von Sydow as Sir William (the real Robin of Loxley's father). I heart him so much. Hey! It's that guy from "er" with an interesting accent (Scott Grimes, you did alright. Be proud) and Friar Tuck was on "Still Standing". Good for them. Then, there are my problems. King John is played by Oscar Isaac (who as far as acting goes does a fine job), however his bright blue contact lenses were a distraction. Isaac is from Guatemala, a land not known for it's Saxon heritage. Were there no English actors who could play the part? I kept wondering, is King John adopted? There is no way he's related to Danny Huston nor the son of Eileen Atkins. Seriously? I also feel bad for Matthew MacFadyen who must have thought he was getting an amazing role as Sheriff of Nottingham, instead only to find his screen time greatly diminished and he was forced to wear the most unfortunate wig that no man who's played Mr Darcy should be forced to wear.
Final thoughts: Rent it.