Reviewed Feb 01, 2012
Derek Deskins’s review:
Ridley Scott returns to familiar territory with Robin Hood. Obviously comfortable in the period setting of the film, Scott looks to reignite the flame of good old Mr. Hood. The story, more a reimagining than a retelling, is a weak point in a film that succeeds in taking the audience on an entertaining ride.
Robin Hood takes a cue from Batman Begins and Casino Royale, and looks to provide an origin story. Starting on the field of battle, Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is an archer in King Richard the Lionheart’s (Danny Huston) English army. Following a successful day of battle, Robin unwinds with his compatriots Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes), Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle) and Little John (Kevin Durand). After Robin reveals his true thoughts concerning the Crusade to the King himself, Robin, Will, Allan and John land in the stocks and are forced to sit out the next day’s battle. During the battle, the King catches an arrow in the throat and before dying entrusts the return of his crown to Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge). Robin and his men are freed from the stocks by a young boy and set out to return home. At the same time, the King of France plots to conquer England by enlisting the help of Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong). Godfrey, an Englishman with French allegiance, along with a horde of French soldiers ambush the Royal Guard. Robin and his men happen upon the ambush as it occurs and fight back, killing many while Godfrey escapes. Robin goes to Sir Robert Loxley whose last dying wish is for his sword to be returned to his father. The film then follows Robin as he returns to Loxley’s home of Nottingham with the impending French onslaught looming over England’s shoulder.
The story of Robin Hood can be complicated, and unnecessarily so. To rewrite such a classic story is a daunting task, one that should only be done with good reason, something the film fumbles in trying to present. The beginning of the film sets itself up to craft a different story, giving the audience hope, but becomes tired of the task and takes an easier and more predictable path. Characters are quickly introduced and rarely given depth. I imagined at one point that the writers had a Robin Hood checklist that they were going down during their process; Little John, check, Friar Tuck, check, Sheriff of Nottingham, check. In the way of story, the film brings nothing new to the table.
There are few who can do a period piece as well as Ridley Scott. Having already proven himself with Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, Scott continues to show his cinematic eye for this genre. With the help of cinematographer, and frequent Scott collaborator, John Mathieson, the film is shot to make you feel the landscape. Each shot has such an authenticity that the audience can nearly smell the earthiness of old England. Then Scott stages action scenes amongst this terrain. If I could ask one thing of the film, it would be for more action scenes. Almost balletic in their presentation, both swords and arrows grab you by the throat and refuse to let go until the battle is over. This may not be your favorite Robin Hood, but it is without a doubt the most exciting.
Although it suffers from a lackluster story and nearly non-existent character development, Robin Hood is no waste. Shot in such a way that suggests a true love of the period, the film will consistently keep your eyes interested. Scott shows artistry in his composure of action, if only there were more of it. Robin Hood has its faults but never fails to entertain.