Action-Packed Robin Hood Runs Long
- Friday, May 14, 2010
DVD Release Date: September 21, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: May 14, 2010
Rating: PG-13 (for violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content)
Run Time: 140 min.
Director: Ridley Scott
Actors: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Eileen Atkins, Danny Huston, Mark Addy, Matthew Macfadyen
While it won't set the world afire, the new telling of Robin Hood—actually more of a "pre-story" of the events leading up to Robin embracing his "hood" identity—has some life in it. The movie's not particularly unique or special—it feels interchangeable with the likes of Gladiator, the previous collaboration between star Russell Crowe and director Ridley Scott, and other big action spectacles. But it's hard to look away from the well-composed images of the film, and from the compelling actors trying to make something interesting of characters that should have been better fleshed out.
It's endurable despite its length, but the ending title card, "And so the legend begins," comes across as a little irritating. If the legend didn't start 2 hours and 20 minutes earlier, what did we just watch?
The "origins" story set in 1199 shows what made our hero into the familiar and beloved character. This Robin Hood delves into his incarnation as the outlaw who gives money to the poor.
Robin Longstride is moody, he glowers, he has issues with authority. He's spent years serving King Richard of England in the Crusades. "I don't owe God or another man here one more moment of service," Longstride declares, and sets off on a mission to honor a fallen friend.
The friend has given him a sword to be returned to the man's father, Sir Walter Loxley of Nottingham (Max von Sydow). Longstride first encounters the dead friend's wife, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett), and learns that her married life consisted of just a few days before her husband was sent off to war. Marion has learned to fend for herself in most matters. (In other words, she's fiercely independent, very much a model for 21st century women. Just wait till you see her surprise appearance late in the film!)
A relationship between Longstride and Marion grows over the course of the film, and the charisma of Crowe and Blanchett convinces us not to ask too many questions about the union. We know where it's going, the lead performers are attractive, and the film sorely needs something to interest viewers who want to see more than a series of action set-piece sequences.
The film is rife with such sequences, and as far as those go, they're effective. Longstride shows off his expertise with the bow and arrow. King Richard (Danny Huston) and Prince John (Oscar Isaac) lead the British forces against the French in large-scale battles. Smaller groups of men are ambushed while riding through the forest.
These scenes aren't groundbreaking, but they're well-staged and effective. Director Ridley Scott knows how to stage big action sequences, and cinematographer John Mathieson (who has worked with Scott numerous times, including on Kingdom of Heaven, Matchstick Men, Hannibal and Gladiator) fills the widescreen frame with arresting imagery.
The political-intrigue angle of the film isn't as well developed as it might have been. King Richard's lust for battle takes a toll on his country, while Prince John fails to command respect. An Englishman (Mark Strong, whose best work was in Scott's Body of Lies, in which he also co-starred with Crowe) also works to further weaken the country.
A 140-minute film should be able to equally handle these story strands, but Robin Hood is uneven. The scenes in Nottingham, which should give the film a human dimension, begin to drag down the film, leaving us wanting more of the action sequences that, while well assembled, don't amount to much in terms of the story. The sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen) doesn't get much screen time, and never seems like much of a romantic rival for Marion's hand.
As far as big summer blockbusters-to-be go, Robin Hood is about on par with Iron Man 2. It delivers some of what audiences want to see, but could have been better. Iron Man 2 has the advantage of having much more humor—something that the morose Robin Hood sorely lacks. But this is an era when action blockbusters have taken on darker and darker hues. Want the fun James Bond of years ago? Tough, you get Daniel Craig's neck-snapping, bone-breaking Bond. Want a witty Batman? That's so 1988. And now Robin Hood—never a superhero, but a bit of a lovable lawless character—has taken on a post-Dark Knight glower.
There's no one better at glowering than Russell Crowe, but the heavy tone of Robin Hood makes it, at times, joyless. Is that really what we want from Robin Hood? Is that what we want from our summer blockbusters?
In the words of the tagline for The Dark Knight's poster: Why so serious?
Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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