Monday, May 17, 2010


Director: Ridley Scott

Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow

Before sitting down to watch Ridley Scott's new film, I hadn't the faintest desire to see a story about the man behind the legend of Robin Hood. I can safely say that when the credits began to role and the lights went up, I still do not have that desire.

Robin Hood '10 is a long, uninteresting, and tedious film that comes from talent that should know better. What had started out as an interesting project - the script began its journey as a flipped take on the tale that would posit the Sheriff of Nottingham as the hero and Robin as the villain - has been turned into another armor and sword epic that hits every cliche and brings nothing new to the screen. This is the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull of Robin Hood films - both have a director going through the motions, a script touched by too many hands half baking ideas, and a cast that seems to neither care nor take interest in the material.

The film begins as Robin Longstride (a grumbly and pudgy Crowe) fights as an archer alongside Little John (Kevin Durand), Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes), and a war-worn King Richard (Danny Huston) in Muslim territory in the Third Crusade. When the King dies mid battle and his Knight, Robert Loxsley (Douglas Hodge) is slain by robbers while returning the crown to England, Robin and his men seize a chance to get back to their home land, steal the Knights' identities, and board a ship bound for London as noblemen. Robin makes a promise to Loxley that he will return Robert's sword to his father Sir Walter in Nottingham. Once there, Walter asks Robin to take the identity of his son, which means acting the part of husband to one Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett). Meanwhile, spoiled and bratty Prince John (Oscar Isaac) takes the place of his brother, and bombards his land with oppressive taxes. The muscle to enforce these taxes comes in the form of the villainous Godfrey (Mark Strong, acting all villainy but not as villainy as his Kick-Ass villain), whose men rape and pillage town after town, collecting revenue for the King.

Oh yeah - there's also a sub-plot involving the King of France and his assassination attempts on King Richard, and an impending invasion of England by France. I gloss over these aspects of the story because, well, they just don't matter.

In fact, nothing in this movie actually matters. Neither Scott nor the screenwriters (the screenplay is credited to Brian Helgeland, with a story credit to Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, but I've read a few other names rumored to be involved in the final draft) seem particularly interested in any one of these elements (except for the battle scenes, which Scott could stage in a coma), and each scene passes by with a casualness that's borderline audience insulting. It's one thing to have a cliched "man rising up against oppressive forces" storyline, but to have people involved that are simply going through the motions is sad.

Scott has never been a director adept or even interested in finding and exploiting the emotional core of a story, instead focusing on extreme technical precision and cold detailing. But when he does make the effort to find the right amount of heart to inject into his films, he's a master at it (see the underrated Matchstick Men for an example). Robin Hood is Scott's coldest and most distant film yet. Very rarely do I find myself so disconnected with the images on screen. At one point the movie became nothing more than distilled to its literal form: individual frames being passed in front of a lens at 24 frames per second. I couldn't connect with what was in front of me on any level. I might as well have been staring at a spinning zoetrope, watching a man riding a horse for eternity.

Perhaps some day I'll come back to Robin Hood and find something to enjoy about it (the one glimmer of hope I saw in it was Max von Sydow, who is literally never bad. In anything). For now, however, I consider one of the lowest works Ridley Scott has ever been involved with. It's a disappointing slog of a film, and a grave misstep for a talented filmmaker.

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