Sunday, May 16, 2010
Robin Hood *1/2
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett
Mark Strong, William Hurt, Matthew Macfadyen, Oscar Isaac
Danny Huston, Mark Addy, Kevin Durand, Scott Grimes
Eileen Atkins, Max von Sydow
What do you get when you combine Batman Begins, Gladiator and Lord of the Rings but take away anything that was good about them? The answer is Robin Hood.
Ridley Scott's retelling of the English folk tale is a conflicted attempt at updating the basic story for modern audiences and keeping faithful to its roots.
It's the 12th century and rebellious soldier Robin Longstride (Crowe) decides he's had enough of the Crusades. He's been fighting along Richard the Lionheart (Huston) for a decade and his patience just runs out one day.
After learning the king has died (which he obviously hasn't as anyone with the slightest inkling of world history would know) Robin and his, not so, Merry Men (Addy, Grimes and Durand) run into an ambush planned by the wicked sir Godfrey (Strong).
Godfrey plans to steal the crown, create civil war in England and help the French invade the country but Robin botches his plan and inadvertently ends setting the way for a farce which has him travel to England and pretend to be the deceased sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge) who before dying made him promise he'd deliver his sword to his estranged father sir Walter (von Sydow).
Before Robin even leaves France we have ourselves the possibility to make at least four different movies but Scott and screenwriter Brian Helgeland seem to think that more is more and keep on stuffing the plot.
Back in British territory, the spoiled Prince John (Isaac) is wreaking havoc, bedding French women and making his mom (Atkins) quite pissed. Like a villain out of Shrek the young man simply succumbs to his whims and jeopardizes his kingdom and the movie's attempt at being coherent.
He's convinced by Godfrey to tax the hell out of his people, while he's secretly plotting to create a distraction for the French to take over the country, and paves the way for Robin to earn his hood.
Robin meanwhile is on his way to Nottingham where the evil Sheriff (MacFadyen) is executing the crown's orders with mean delight. There he meets sir Walter and Marion Loxley (Blanchett), no longer a maiden but a widow. Walter immediately takes a liking to Robin and requests that he pretend to be his son officially and stay living with them.
He obliges and soon is robbing grain from the Church, traveling at the speed of light to be in war councils, plowing the fields, saving England from the French invasion, creating the Magna Carta, solving daddy issues and courting the reluctant Marion.
There is so much going on in Robin Hood that it makes total sense how it's only when the film ends that we learn that "so the legend begins". Precisely, how would this man have time to become the Robin we know about, when Scott forces him to be so many things?
The hero's lack of identity determines the disunity that characterizes the entire film which amounts to little more than a wasted opportunity.
With that cast, which is rather impressive, one would at least expect the movie to deliver moments that evoked The Lion in Winter, instead the performances range from the hammy (Strong) to the confusing (Hurt).
Crowe, varies his accent from scene to scene and really shows no commitment to the role he's playing. This is obviously not his fault, entirely, given how the screenplay shows no regard whatsoever for any dramatic background.
In a way it's strange that Robin Hood in a way repeats the Gladiator formula yet fails so miserably.
As in the previous film, Crowe plays a troubles soldier adopted by a great actor, who changes the course of history. But while Gladiator had an almost Shakesparean aspect to it, Robin Hood is more unintentional Monty Python.
The film's major issue is probably the lack of clarity about what it wants to be exactly. Scott is known for his gritty realism and wondrously crafted action sequences but he also can do stupendous fantasy.
Here though he tries to do both at the same time without any cohesion, therefore we have Robin being all "Robin" and seducing the tough Marion (who honestly never seems to be into him) and a few minutes later he's behaving like an actual historical figure delivering grandiose speeches.
The story sometimes moves by inertia (it's never explained why the Merry Men actually follow Robin and the sudden "I love you" he says to Marion is ludicrous), then stalls, then throws in a random action sequence.
We never know for sure if we're meant to take anything about the movie seriously, is it trying to demythify the character? Is it trying to mythify history? What about the political undertones? Is it actually saying something about socialism and human rights?
It's ironic to say so but this is one Robin with no aim.