Robin Hood (2010) This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

May 18, 2010
Whatever happened to Ridley Scott? He started out making great films like Alien and Blade Runner, and then ended up making bloated and overhyped popcorn flicks like Gladiator and Body of Lies. Still, I had hoped that his latest film - a gritty Robin Hood origins story - might have been a sign of hope for Scott. After all, it's the beginning of a new decade, isn't it? Everybody can revitalize their careers at some point. Despite my hope for the movie, however, Robin Hood is - like those aforementioned films of Scott's later career - nothing more than a glorified popcorn action flick.

We follow Robin Longstride in the film, before he ever became the legend of Sherwood Forest, as he's just abandoned Richard The Lionheart's army. As luck would have it though, the king is shortly killed after Robin's departure, which brings about an air of suspicion towards the deserters. Therefore, with the greedy Prince John on the throne now, Robin must try to aid the poor people of England whilst also dodging the political turmoil set afoot by Sir Godfrey - an English adviser turned traitor.

Unless they're done well, I'm not a big fan of origin stories. They're either overly long or only serve to expand upon basic concepts that, in reality, need no further exploration. Sadly, Robin Hood is a combination of those two flaws, which makes the film feel completely pointless. We know that Robin Hood steals from the rich and gives to the poor, that he formed a group called the Merry Men, and that he's been declared an outlaw by the government. These are all simple concepts, which makes the expansion in this film feel rather needless. Not only that, but the film feels the need to be a dark and gritty version of Robin Hood - a style which has been quite popular since the gritty reboot of the Batman series. Instead of being a fun-loving and thrifty group of "merry men", the characters are changed into shallow, generic, and boring archetypes. The greatest change has to be in the character of Maid Marion, as she's become extremely cold in this version of Robin Hood. No longer is she the sweet and caring girl of the old tales, but now a cunning, decisive, and bitter middle-aged woman. I appreciate different takes on stories as much as the next guy, but this "new look" is completely turning its back on the legends' roots.

As talented as the cast is, the script to Robin Hood is completely boring. Bare with me for a moment, as I'm a huge fan of films like The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly and 2001: A Space Odyssey, both of which are very slow-moving films. The difference between films like those and Robin Hood is that the latter film gives nothing of interest to care about during its slow pace. The script doesn't give character development and the conversations between these people aren't meant for interaction. In frankness, the only purpose the dialogue serves is to move us from scene to scene without a hint of emotion or connection. As if the script wasn't dull enough, the film runs on for three hours. I'm not saying films this long need to be the best movies of all-time, but if they're going to take THAT much time then the film had better be pretty darn good.

Moving on, I wasn't thrilled by any of the film's performances. There are plenty of good actors here, but they're either playing the same character they've always played (Kate Winslet) or they're completely useless (the Merry Men). The Merry Men really disappointed, speaking of which, as they did absolutely nothing in this movie. If you'd taken them out of the entire film, there probably wouldn't be much of a difference. Poor Friar Tuck got really screwed over in this movie, as he's been demoted from comic relief to a "beekeeper". That's right - a beekeeper. He apparently "keeps the bees, and they keep [him]". ...What does that even MEAN? The bees keep him? I'm sorry, but does that make sense to anyone? Also, should those bees get away, Friar Tuck loses any means of protecting himself. He'll let some bees loose on some of John's men, and then he spends the rest of his time running and/or hiding. if this is supposed to be a grittier - aka more "realistic" - version of Robin Hood, then why would Robin put a putz like Tuck in his Merry Men? He serves no purpose whatsoever. As far as Russel Crowe goes, he's only good when he's given some good material. He's so dull and boring in this movie, though that's mostly the script's fault. However, in a film like 3:10 to Yuma, I thought Russel Crowe made a terrific and charismatic antagonist.

If there is a memorable performance in this film, it's Oscar Issac as Prince John. I may be slightly biased, as I actually played John once and can therefore relate with the actor's choices, but his performance came off as being delightfully wicked. He wasn't amazing, but he certainly brought some life to a film that was incredibly dull and bloated.

It's not completely bad, however. The visuals are a spectacle and show Ridley Scott's natural eye for the aesthetically pleasing. The overall production rates are great, and elements like mood, style, and controlled camerawork haven't been affected by the film's insanely dull script.

When it comes down to it, though, Robin Hood is a poor excuse for an epic film. The script's dull, the pacing and the narrative are bloated, the film tries too hard to be "gritty" and "realistic", etc. and so forth. The production rates may look great, but there are very few good things to say about this re-imagining of the old English tales.

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