Aside from the fact that it has very little to do with the Robin Hood legend, Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood is a pretty good movie. It has a lot in common with Ridley Scott’s last two historical epics, Kingdom of Heaven and Gladiator, in that it has beautiful scenery and quickly edited sequences of men fighting with swords. Because this one is called Robin Hood, it also has quickly edited sequences of men shooting other men with bows and arrows.
But this doesn’t have anything to do with the Robin Hood story as told in the Errol Flynn or Disney movies. There’s no archery contest, Robin Hood doesn’t use guerrilla warfare to redistribute wealth, and the Sheriff of Nottingham hardly plays a role. Instead, Russell Crowe’s Robin shows himself to be a good man by bringing a dead lord’s sword to the lord’s father after returning to England from the Cruscades. The father tells Robin to pretend to be his son so as to present a show of hope for the people of Nottingham. This involves sharing a room with Cate Blanchette’s Marion, who is not a maid but the widow of the fellow who owned the sword. This Marion is a strong proto-feminist. She is not pleased.
How much you enjoy the story will depend on how much you are attached to seeing the same Robin Hood story played out. I found the new story to be refreshing.
And Ridley Scott did a good job presenting it. Here, as with his other movies, Ridley Scott lends a sense of realism to the world he creates. He cheats a little in terms of historical accuracy, but the 12th century England and France presented in Robin Hood feel lived in and accurate. Farmers use plows appropriate to the time period, and the siege in the opening battle sequence is more of a prolonged encampment than a quick storming of the gates. Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood lives in a fully realized world.
This Robin Hood also has a slower pace than more adventurous versions of this story. Robin spends a good amount of time flirting with Marion. Meanwhile, Mark Strong, playing a villain as always, causes unrest in the country by manipulating the naive but likeable King John. Mark Strong’s Sir Godfrey is setting the scene for a Frengh invasion of England, and the whole thing inevitably ends with a big battle scene that has special effects, quick editing, and Russell Crowe killing people while screaming.
Somehow, though, the battle scene seems less exciting than those in Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, or any number of recent movies that had large armies fighting. It’s well shot, paced and choreographed. But it doesn’t have a driving sound to it. The background noise of armies fighting are muted, and the score does nothing to drive the action.
Of the movie’s two flaws, the score is the worst. The the music does nothing to affect the movie’s mood, and the few discernible themes are cliche and lack force. Ridley Scott used to work with top composers like Hans Zimmer and Harry Gregson-Williams. But for his past four movies, he’s employed the untalented Marc Streitenfeld. In Robin Hood, his music is distractingly bad.
The other flaw is the epilogue. For most of the movie, Robin is a well respected man. Then, after Robin defends England in the climactic battle scene, King John, who had until then been a relatively likable character, outlaws him for no apparent reason. The movie seems to beg for a sequel. Now that Robin is outlawed he can go about his business being an outlaw.
Overall, though, the movie is good. It’s a fully realized story. The performances are all excellent, especially from the two lead. Some may say the movie is too slow, and some may say that it doesn’t follow the traditional Robin Hood story enough. I for one enjoyed that the film took its time making me care about its characters, and didn’t rehash a story I’ve already seem. This film is not without its flaws, but those are not among them.
Ridley Scott does well making movies like Robin Hood. His movies have an old fashioned quality to them. They seem to come from a time when movies had story, characters and the good sense not to need something to explode every five minutes.