Ridley Scott’s new version of the Robin Hood story has a little bit of Gladiator, a little bit of Kingdom of Heaven, a little bit of Saving Private Ryan, a little bit of Elizabeth, a little bit from The Patriot and a little bit of King Arthur, but almost nothing related to Robin Hood. The film is certainly well made but this is not what I was expecting.
Whether it was from the Disney adaptation or Mel Brook’s Men in Tights or through any other adaptation, we’ve all grown with the classic tale: Robin of Loxley returns to England after years of fighting in the crusades; he finds his home ruled by Prince John the tyrant brother of the rightful king Richard the Lionhearted; in response he forms a little resistance along with the Merry Men in the woods; in the process he steals form the rich, gives to the poor, woos Lady Marion, annoys the Sheriff of Nottingham, gets drunk and merry at a bonfire, and most importantly; he wins several archery tournaments. Well Ridley Scott sort of left out all of that cheerful stuff and tried to give us a “realistic” interpretation of what precluded the classical tale. In this film King Richard dies in the crusades, Robin returns illegally to England posing as a knight, he meets Friar Tuck who makes illegal mead, forms an alliance with King (not Prince) John, and other Barons, to stop a French invasion. As I said, besides the mead, there is no Robin Hood in this Robin Hood.
Now, I say “realistic”, with “ ”, because there never was a real Robin Hood; the story as we know it was actually written quite recently. Also because the characters in the film speak with ideas way ahead of the times they are living them; the idea of having “freedom by law” will not exist for at least 500 years after the events depicted in the film. There is also an invasion of England by sea; I am not sure if Ridley Scott knows this, but no one has actually managed to pull that off. In Kingdom of Heaven, Scott had a similar approach of including several anachronisms (in this case it was the idea of “freedom of religion”) to give the film a deeper meaning. The difference is that the anachronisms in Kingdom of Heaven tuned into the zeitgeist of today. A film about a holy war between Christians and Muslims, Agnostics and Believers touches at least one soft spot in most people; more importantly, however, it sided with no one and presented all points. In contrast Robin Hood’s ideas have been repeated so many times and have such a black and white nature that only those who attend Palin’s tea parties will believe to find any true meaning in them.
So is the film any good? Honestly it is hard to say; it is definitely as well made as Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven. The acting falls somewhere between the two, Russell Crow's Robin is not as bad-ass as Maximus but he still can take Orlando Bloom any day of the week regardless of the role. Cate Blanchet is lofty and cold as a very un-merry Lady Marion but she reveals a warm spot that gives her bonus points. But my favorite characters were actually two minor roles; Léa Seydoux as King John’s French wife, Queen Isabella, who is stuck choosing between her husband and her home country and Mark Addy’s Friar Tuck who is the only merry one of this movie's merry men.
But as well as the film is made, it appeared to be somewhat tired. Maybe Ridley Scott is exhausted of directing historical epics; maybe it was Russell Crow who did not want to do the same role once again, whatever it was it caused this film to be awfully uninspired, a rehash of many previous (better) films, placing it well below the bar that Ridley Scott has set for himself in the past.