Robin Hood
A barbershop quartet in ye olden times.

Theatrical Release Date: 05/14/2010
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Mark Addy, Kevin Durand, Scott Grimes, Alan Doyle, Matthew Macfadyen

Director Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe are back with their fifth collaboration, “Robin Hood”. This time around the idea is to restart the legend, giving the bow slinger (Crowe) an origin tale and arriving in more familiar character territory by the end of the film.

It begins during the Crusades, as Robin is fighting on behalf of King Richard (Danny Huston). Events lead our hero and some fellow soldiers – Little John (Kevin Durand), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes), Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle) – to flee their army commitments and seek a new life back in England. As the rule of King John begins (Oscar Isaac), Robin and pals end up in Nottingham (where the Sheriff (Matthew Macfadyen) is little more than plot afterthought) and our love story can begin once we meet Marion (Cate Blanchett).

There are plenty of story problems (like the orphans of Nottingham living in the forest as if it were Never Never Land) and in order to allow for battles on a grander scale, the French decide to invade England during its monarchial transition. Add on Robin’s repressed childhood memories that Marion’s stepfather (Max von Sydow) somehow unlocks like a sideshow hypnotist and you’ve got plenty of script issues that analytical minds will find puzzling enough to make the room spin.

However, the ability to enjoy this film relies on two key items: your expectations and your ability to shift that noggin of yours into neutral. While I found “Gladiator” to be grossly overrated (Best Picture at the Oscars? Really?), what made it fun to watch was seeing guys beat the hell out of each other as Joaquin Phoenix reveled in his own cunning viciousness. The same essentially applies here.

Although Crowe is far from the ideal type for Robin Hood based on his many previous incarnations (why would someone so built to be a bruiser become a marksman with the bow and arrow?), it’s very believable for audiences to see him getting angry and thrashing his opponents. Then there’s Oscar Isaac, whose portrayal of a brash and arrogant King John fits in nicely. He plays it as slimy as one might expect and helped to maintain some sense of this being a film set in England and not simply Scott’s version of “Braveheart” (though there are a few speeches that felt like screenwriter Brian Helgeland had that DVD on repeat).

The majority of the cast was chosen well. Blanchett can do anything so seeing her give Marion the Joan of Arc treatment wasn’t too much of a stretch on the mind (though again, I had mine shut off about two minutes into the film as the opening text sequences made me wonder how no one realized that setting the film circa 1199 A.D. is technically the end of the 12th century, NOT the beginning). Von Sydow is always fun and his presence elevates what was still a very stock character.

The best bits of casting though come with Robin’s Merry Men. Scott Grimes, Kevin Durand and Alan Doyle are the comic relief much of the time but also provide the bulk of the film’s entertainment; as Crowe is so busy being a reluctant hero and Blanchett is likewise trying not to give in to the obvious attraction (for multiple reasons that are promptly and swiftly ignored when the script calls for it). Add on Mark Addy’s delightful performance as Friar Tuck and it made me wish the story had been more about the ensemble than the central characters.

Still, I will admit that, with my medulla oblongata in a state of rest, I actually enjoyed the film overall. The legend of Robin Hood, even with these tweaks, has always been a favorite of mine and sometimes it’s nice to sit back and watch people fling arrows and cross swords.

Those who hold Errol Flynn’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood” as the cinematic bar will not be swayed towards accepting this much louder and brash attempt at once again reviving the legend. However, today’s mainstream audiences simply looking for “Gladiator 2: Forest Boogaloo” will be satiated and the box office results will likely go a long way to determining if a sequel is made (without spoiling anything, the film’s ending clearly begs for another two plus hours of celluloid to be cut together).

A 3 out of 5, “Robin Hood” is full of problems that the more critical audience member will need to turn a blind eye to in order to enjoy it but if one has a decent ability to suspend their disbelief, this might be an acceptable escape vehicle from the real world.