Saturday, May 29, 2010

Robin Hood

Year: 2010
Director: Robin Hood
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Max von Sydow, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Mark Addy, Scott Grimes, Kevin Durand, Alan Doyle, Oscar Isaac

There have been many incarnations of Robin Hood, the man who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, in film, TV and even cartoons. Acclaimed director Ridley Scott and his favourite actor, Russell Crowe attempt to give us a different take on the folk legend.

This film takes place in the late 12th century. After the Third Crusade, King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston)is on his way home to England with his army. During a raid on a French castle, he is killed on the battlefield. Archer Robin Hood (Russell Crowe) decides to desert the army and find his way home. He brings along three men: Little John (Kevin Durand), Alan A'Dale (Alan Doyle) and Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes).

He stumbles upon men led by Godfrey (Mark Strong) attempting to steal the crown after learning of the King's death. Robin and his men thwart the attempt and bring the crown back home themselves. With the crown safe in England, Richard's brother Prince John (Oscar Isaac), a philandering and spoilt man, becomes the King.

Robin proceeds to Sir Robert Loxley's house, a man who died in his arms protecting the crown earlier. This is where Robin meets Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett), Robert's widow and Robert's father Sir Walter (Max von Sydow). He assumes the role left by Robert at Walter's request, and tries to fill the void left by the former. He and Marion eventually fall in love. But there are bigger things to worry about, as Godfrey, now entrusted by King John to collect taxes from the people, double crosses the King by helping the French invade. One of the good lords, William Marshal (William Hurt) turns to Robin for help.

So first let me tell you what's different. Robin Hood and Maid Marion are both older than the people that had played them before. There are more brutal fight scenes than you would normally associate with this story. But most importantly, this film isn't about Robin Hood and his merry men robbing from the rich and giving it to the poor, but an origin story. Which makes this exactly like Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur.

That being said, Robin Hood here is definitely more serious than before. There is some humour here, but it is mostly overshadowed by the stuff you'd see in a Ridley Scott film, like brutality, tragedy, drama and theatrics. Despite many people saying that this film is a lot like Gladiator (and quite frankly I can't blame them), it actually works.There are many battle scenes to behold (even though the final battle was rather disappointing) and enough character development to drive the story. Scott takes his time to show us a different take on how the legend of Robin Hood came to be, and he succeeds to that end.

Crowe does predictably well enough as the title character, but with a bit less theatrics compared to Maximus. He is perfectly supported by Blanchett, who gives Marion a strong counterpart to Robin and not merely a damsel in distress (but he still has to save her later). Durand, Doyle and Grimes acquit themselves well as Robin's 'merry men' and Mark Addy also shines as Friar Tuck. Oscar Isaac and Mark Strong round up the cast splendidly as the baddies King John and Godfrey respectively. Note: it hasn't been a year yet and I've already seen Mark Strong play a villain three times.

Can I fault this film for anything? Well, if you were expecting a typical Robin Hood story where the good triumphs in the end and all evil men get their just desserts, this isn't quite it. The story sort of ends on a cliffhanger, so expect a follow up to this film. This is after all, an origin story, like Batman Begins. But I'd recommend this for anyone who loved Gladiator or King Arthur.

Verdict: Lengthy story, but interesting take on a legend. (4/5)

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