REVIEW: Robin Hood

29 05 2010

I almost gave up hope on “Robin Hood,” but I’m glad I didn’t allow myself to become entirely disengaged. I’ll get right to the point: the first 45 minutes are absolutely brutal. They are boring and they seem completely pointless. They don’t do much to develop a story, yet as we see later, they are more like a prologue, providing crucial information to prop up the rest of the film.

But out of nowhere, the movie reverses the slump and becomes genuinely entertaining. Everything suddenly clicks: the story begins to make sense; the pace picks up; and Russell Crowe begins acting. It takes him a while to kick his performance in gear, like he’s finally fought off the hangover that plagued him at the beginning. He’s pretty good when he decides to act. When Crowe doesn’t, he lifelessly walks through the motions and mumbles every line, rendering them incoherent.

But maybe it’s not all his fault. The character in this movie is tough because it’s Robin Hood before he was Robin Hood. Have no doubt about it: this is not the Robin Hood we have come to know, and it’s not the one I anticipated. I wasn’t expecting the jolly fox in the green suit, but I was expecting a little more of the “steal from the rich and give to the needy” spirit that we most often associate with the character.

I assume we will see this aspect played up if a sequel is made, yet at the moment, the character is awkwardly undefined. In this movie, Crowe’s purpose is to establish the roots of the legendary defender of the weak. He doesn’t explore where this commitment is derived from so much as he gives us a Maximus rehash with a little more discretion. He’s chomping at the bit to be the legend that we see very little of the man.

Where Crowe has issues, co-star Cate Blanchett has none. Strangely, the movie only seems to reach its full vitality when Blanchett is on screen. She picks up on whatever tiny nuances the script has, and her acting always hits precisely the right tone. Blanchett has graced the screen with many of the preeminent male actors of our generation (DiCaprio, Pitt, Damon), so her history alone makes it impossible to say that her chemistry with Crowe ranks among her best. However, the two do make a great pair, and their scenes are easily the movie’s most memorable that don’t involve the impaling of bodies by arrows.

Ridley Scott’s revamped “Robin Hood” is an origins story akin to Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins,” yet it works to a much lesser extent because little time is spent developing the character through the plot.  By the end of Nolan’s film, you understood how the story had shaped Bruce Wayne and Batman.  Scott, on the other hand, closes the movie by proclaiming Robin Longfellow to be the Robin Hood we all know but presents little proof to back it up.  While it proves mildly entertaining to watch quarrel over the throne and very amusing to watch Robin and Lady Marian romancing, little of it seems to tie into developing the character.

At the same time, it’s clear Ridley Scott wanted “Robin Hood” to be a small-scale epic, and this vision only gains footing at the very end of the movie.  The sweeping feel absolutely overwhelms in the final act where the dazzling cinematography captures some gorgeous landscape.  His “Gladiator” expertise makes the battle sequences, particularly the final one, incredibly captivating and aesthetically pleasing.  If there’s any justice in the world, the sound mixers and editors will get recognition if for nothing but creating the noise of thousands of arrows launching and landing.

Some say that all’s well that ends well, but such is not the case for “Robin Hood.”  There’s a lot to be said for finishing strong, which this movie absolutely does.  It’s energizing to watch a movie pick up form and finesse as time passes (which a lot does in the 140 minute runtime); however, it doesn’t atone for the agony of the beginning.  All in all, it’s got a brain, and that’s more than we can say for most summer movies.  It just lacks the strong presence of the character that it advertises.  B /



4 responses

29 05 2010

I totally agree, it is a little more clever than the average summer movie, but it still doesn’t live up to expectations. I thought it dragged along for the most part and it was far too long.

29 05 2010

Good review. It seems to be getting mixed reviews and from you’ve written I can see why. I suppose the first 45mins set-up is a bit like Ridley Scott’s Alien – it’s all quiet and suspensful for the first hours before it goes into fifth gear for the last half hour. Ridley Scott isn’t a director who will provide simply enterainment that panders to convention – by the sounds of things he’s produced a Robin Hood movie that will grow on audiences.

30 05 2010

As you know, I did not mind the first 45 minutes at all. It provides the rest of the movie (and potential franchise) with all the background information that is needed to fully comprehend the character and his circumstances. Most people are not all that familiar with European History so it’s nice to get a bit of a refresher even though he may feel more authentic than accurate. Good review Marshall 🙂

30 05 2010

I understood its purpose, but there’s a way to present that stuff without being boring. And as for historical accuracy, there’s definitely a place for that; Ridley Scott just felt that place was not in “Robin Hood.”

But whatever, it’s the movies. You have to suspend reality some…

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