Article by Cameron Spink
“Rise, and rise again. Until lambs become lions.”
Ridley Scott's cinematic version of the exploits of Robin Hood has arrived and it is the most deeply unsatisfying movie this year. While past Robin Hood movies are based on the book by Howard Pyle this movie throws the iconic book and myth out the window completely and forges its own way. This is fine, in principle, but the onus is then on the production crew to provide the viewer with a satisfying alternative. Unfortunately this movie does not deliver.
Instead it gets bogged down in the back-story of Robin Longstride, the rather selfish and absent-faced protagonist. For an A-class actor Russell Crowe suffers from being on a short leash and his portrayal of Robin Hood seems to suit one of his melancholy drama roles than the lead in a major action movie. He seems both non-committed and tired in the role of medieval protector. Cate Blanchett as love-interest Marian Loxley also lacks polish and their relationship has very little chemistry. It also must be noted that she sounds very similar to her role as Lady Galadrial from the Lord of the Rings series. Perhaps the most defining role is Mark Strong (Stardust, Sherlock Holmes) as antagonist Sir Godfrey (very loosely based upon Guy of Gisborne from the book). Mark Strong's rise as an actor (usually as an antagonist) sees him with more screen time than he has been privy to in the past. Sir Godfrey is a French spy working in an attempt to kill Richard the Lionheart and usurp the English crown from Richard's younger brother King John.
Robin inadvertently intercepts the Royal Crown and sees an opportunity to rid himself of Richard's crusades and so he and his very merry band of ruffians make the voyage back to England. This is where the Robin Hood plot starts to unravel. Robin is merely a simple archer in Richard's army and so he takes on the pretense of Robert Loxley (Marian's husband) to save her lands from being stripped from her. Robin's intentions are unknown to the audience and his confusion as to his future has a direct link to his past (of which many flashbacks occur – merely confusing the viewer more in regards to Robin's character). One must also be bewildered as to how there is almost two hours of screen time between Robin wielding his famous bow to defeat a foe (isn't this movie about the greatest archer of all time?).
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this movie is the large chasm of action between the first battle in the crusades and the last battle with the French. As such this movie can hardly be defined as an “action” and instead seems to straddle the line of drama. The effect of this is a dullness that is almost intolerable and one can't seem to wait for the climax which, if not for the lull before it, would be deemed a very pathetic attempt at an epic finale.
There are further criticisms of the film. Perhaps it is an attempt at being historically and culturally accurate but there would be litres of spit in screen time on this movie. It's as if, to make a point, a character must spit on the person they are talking to. There is also the portrayal of royalty in this movie. King Richard is a drunk who rides recklessly around the battlefield with no regard to his safety and is eventually killed by a lucky shot by an enemy cook. The King of France is a terrible tactician and relies heavily of Sir Godfrey to allow him a chance to invade England. Perhaps the most comical character (excluding Friar Tuck) is King John. While he shares strong resemblances to Gladiator antagonist Emperor Commodus he does not possess any of the qualities that make you hate him as you should. Instead you pity him. As King a lot seems to happen in his kingdom that he is completely oblivious to and even in battle he does not know rudimentary tactics. King John is the only thing that is more dull than the plot and at one stage he starts to battle his own men because he has not comprehended that the enemy have been defeated. He is a leering, witless monarch set up to be the antagonist in the inevitable sequel.
One of the key themes of the movie is equality for all people in the form of a signed Charter. Ridley Scott's political push for his particular hobby horse is not masked very well and is woven so firmly into Robin's past that one cringes when Scott tries to force feed the audience another mouthful of “equality of the masses” line. In the end this ideal is scrapped by a self-involved King who believes he has been ordained from God. Equality is seen as the ultimate good and this is a very humanistic notion but not particularly biblical. God and His Kingdom are the ultimate good. Glory is not found in putting all men on equal footing but by putting God as the centre of creation.
In summary there is little that should entice people to this movie. The movie gets bogged down in plots and romances that do not develop the Robin Hood legend. The only endearing feature of this movie is the breathtaking visuals and one sometimes feels as if the scenery has been heavily borrowed from The Two Towers set. However, this is weighed down by so many disappointing aspects and sees Robin Hood miss the mark.