By Brian Lafferty
May 14, 2010 (San Diego) -- Robin Hood is the year’s first big disappointment, considering the people involved in making it. Directed by Ridley Scott, it stars Russell Crowe as the title character and fine actress Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian. As always, Scott demonstrates his ability as one of the most visual directors out there today, teeming with expertly crafted shots that nearly give the film an epic feel. Crowe and Blanchett do not disappoint in the acting department. It is not a bad movie by any means but rather aggressively unsatisfying; to paraphrase Sean Connery from the 1976 film Robin and Marian, (a better film than this incarnation) instead of getting red meat I wound up settling for only bread and cheese.
Watching Robin Hood was a very underwhelming experience. I found the action-packed opening mesmerizing, even though I could not help but compare it to the beginning of Gladiator, which begins in a similar fashion. I became excited, nonetheless, at the prospect of seeing Robin Hood portrayed as an action hero. It has been tried before; Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which starred Kevin Costner, made a valiant effort but fell short.
Alas, it was not to be. Two nearly spectacular battle sequences bookend Robin Hood, with a tough-to-take, yet undeniably affecting, raid on Nottingham placed in the middle. However, most of the film functions as a character study. I was expecting to see Robin Hood as an outlaw, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. I watched with nearly glazed eyes hoping to see Robin’s expert archery skills put on display. After all, isn’t that what he’s known for?
That was not the case with this movie and for a very good reason: it depicts the life of Nottingham’s iconic legend before he became an outlaw. This may have looked like a good idea on paper but in practice it makes for an unsatisfying cinematic experience. It tries something new but it only demonstrates that Robin Hood’s pre-outlaw life was boring.
After leaving the theater, I had a dawning realization. Last year there were numerous movies that contained criminally underplotted stories and heavy doses of special effects and mind-numbing action. Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation were the biggest offenders. Recently it seems like the scenarios are reversed: the stories are criminally overplotted while the special effects and action are solid but not seen enough.
Robin Hood tries to do too much. There are two bad guys in this picture: King John (usurping the throne after the death of Richard the Lionheart) and Sir Godfrey, his henchman. They clash which intrigues the French, who come to invade, believing a civil war is imminent. Subplots are juggled with mixed results, with scenes going on and on. Nearly all the characters speak the same way, their speech populated with generic dialogue of the time period.
This is not a bad movie. It is great to look at and the leading performers triumph over the overly unmemorable dialogue. Disappointing is the simplest and best word to describe it. Perhaps if it didn’t wait until the last shot to make Robin Hood an outlaw, it would have been better. The movie teases us with the possibility for a sequel. If there will be one, it is my hope that it will be a better vehicle for the talents of Scott, Crowe, and Blanchett. This movie wastes them.
A Universal Pictures release. Director: Ridley Scott. Screenplay: Brian Helgeland, Ethan Reiff, and Cyrus Voris. Original Music: Marc Streitenfeld. Cinematography: John Mathieson. Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Mark Addy, Matthew Macfadyen, Kevin Durand, Scott Grimes, Alan Doyle, Douglas Hodge, and Lea Seydoux. Running Time: 140 minutes. Rated PG-13.