Sunday, 16 May 2010

Movie Review - Robin Hood (2010)

It would be easy to think that Robin Hood's story is one that really doesn't need yet another retelling, but Ridley Scott's movie is nothing like any Robin Hood movie you've seen before.  Though most of the characters you'd expect are here - Little John (Kevin Durand), Allan A'Dayle (Alan Doyle), Marian (Cate Blanchett), Prince John (Oscaar Isaac), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes), King Richard (Danny Huston)  etc - they are very different from the characters you thought you knew.

This movie's story starts off in France, with Robin Longstride being an archer in King Richard's army.  He finds out to his peril that, although Richard realises just how far he has fallen during his efforts to be "holy", the king is not a big enough man to accept the criticism that he asks for.  Robin and a few others defect from the army, but along the way they encounter part of a plot to destroy the English throne and claim it for France - though they have no idea at the time what they've really stumbled on.  Robin is charged with keeping a promise for a certain Robert Loxley - as those with a smattering of knowledge about the Robin Hood legend may guess from that, Robin ends up assuming his identity - though not for the reason you might have thought.

Ridley Scott may have felt that casting two Australians in the lead role for such a quintessentially English story would invite criticism, but unlike certain others, at least Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett make a real effort to sound like they're from somewhere in the region of Nottinghamshire.  While Crowe's accent isn't 100% convincing, he sounds authentic enough to be believable and Blanchett's accent, while not exactly regional, sounds English enough.  Both of them give strong performances; Crowe's Robin Hood is a man of integrity though not without flaws, and Blanchett's portrayal of Marian as a feisty, compassionate and frustrated woman fighting against the odds makes her both believable and sympathetic.

King John's character in this version is interesting - you never quite know if he's turned a corner from being an evil despot, though you always suspect he's up to something devious whenever he appears to be being nice.  Oscar Isaac plays this role well.  Walter Loxley, father of Robert,  is played by Max von Sydow who gives a great performance as an old man, now blind, stricken with grief but never willing to give up.  The slogan "Rise and Rise Again Until Lambs Become Lions", attributed to Robin Longstride's father and embossed onto the sword of Robert Loxley, finds its ultimate embodiment in Walter Loxley, who will fight for what's right against absolutely any odds.

There are plenty of other interesting characters in Robin Hood - interesting for how they're different from our established perception of them, and just interesting in themselves.  It's this and the constant changing of pace and mood from traumatic battle sequences with frenetic camerawork to personal introspection to romance to scenes of feudal injustice that make Robin Hood such a fascinating movie from start to finish.  With good period detail, great cinematography and plenty of intrigue as well as well-filmed battle sequences, what could have been a stale retelling of a legend becomes a fresh, vibrant, original re-envisaging.

The main villain of the piece, Godfrey, is played superbly by Mark Strong.  Strong is one of the most menacing Hollywood villains around, and after his slightly disappointing performance in Sherlock Holmes, he's back to his best here.  Matthew Macfadyen's Sherriff of Nottingham is reduced to a bit part in this particular version of Robin Hood, while Mark Addy steals every scene he's in as Friar Tuck.  William Hurt's performance as Marshal, one of Prince John's advisors, also stands out.

To me the movie has only one major failing, and that's in the development of Robin Hood himself.  His transition from a foot archer to horse-riding, sword-wielding general just didn't seem quite right.  Perhaps army recruits were by default trained in horsemanship and swordsmanship even if they ended up being in the infantry or archery;  maybe being leader of a small band of archers prepared him for greater things, or his impersonating a knight and the respect people gave him contributed to him becoming a great leader of men.  However neither idea really came through clearly and watching him charge along the battle lines on horseback, sword in hand, just never really seemed right - it was almost as if he'd accidentally wandered off the filming of Gladiator onto this one.  The claims of some that this movie is merely Gladiator in another guise are, in my opinion, way off the mark though.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this 2010 version of Robin Hood; it gives a whole new spin on the popular legend, and to be honest comes across as more likely as probably nearer the truth than the laughing cavalier type character we've seen before.  Of course, it helps that he actually sounds English (never mind that he's not, at least he sounds right!).

Robin Hood (2010) is rated 12A (UK)/ PG-13 (USA)for violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content.

Runtime:  140 min


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CaptainD - Movie Reviews Blog


2D said...

So you mainly liked how it was a different perception of Robin Hood than previous films?

More flippant?

The Mad Hatter said...

I dug this movie too, although I'm still quite perplexed at the fact that darned near all of the action from the film's marketing is jammed into the final twenty minutes of the film (ditto the arrow shot to pin up the notice, and King John's cry of "I declare him an outl-a-a-a-a-a-a-w!").

Great review! Posted mine yesterday if you care to give it a glance.

CaptainD said...

2d - well, less flippant really. I loved the old Errol Flynn version but it hardly had believability on its side! I liked the fact that it was different, yes, but I also liked the fact that it was a well-made film with good characters, a lot of intrigue, some good action and the odd smattering of humour (which I forget to mention in my review - shall have to go back and edit!).

MadHatter - will check out your review in a minute! :-D

maniaq_boy said...

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Anonymous said...

This looks like it would be a good movie and now that you've told me so much about it, I think I might watch it :)

CaptainD said...

I'm pretty sure you won't regret it!

chamaltatis said...

Yeah, it's really a nice movie and I enjoyed watching it. I love the Gladiator movie before and this one is nice too!

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