Ridley Scott, where are you? The credits for “Robin Hood” say your name, but not a single one of your directorial trademarks are at all present. “Robin Hood” is not a movie, it’s a mess. It makes “The Room” look coherent.
The story of Robin Hood is folklore that’s been passed down for generations. It’s the famous “steal from the rich, give to the needy story.” Even Scott can’t seem to get that straight.
What can be deciphered from the muddled plot is that “Robin Hood” is the story of Robin Longstride, a.k.a. Robin Hood (Russell Crowe). Robin Hood is a skilled archer in the army of King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) during the political instability of 13th century England. After King Richard dies, Robin Hood travels to a small English village where he encounters corruption, a crippled taxation system, and a lonely yet strong widow (Cate Blanchett).
Besides encountering love, Robin Hood makes time to return a sword to his rightful owner, and battle the pesky French, all while managing to be one of the least engaging Medieval warriors I’ve ever seen.
Robin Hood is a mythical person, but he is one that has been emphasized over the years with so much detail that some might think he was real. You wouldn’t know it from this version, though. The free-spirited, anarchic outlaw that this film wants to portray is not visible once. In fact, the title character at times seems to disappear in the background. At times, he’s rendered totally insignificant. If a film wants to portray its hero as such an important figure of its made up world, than it should actually try to do just that.
I look back at “Robin Hood” and I realize, there wasn’t one redeeming feature to somehow lift this movie up. I always try to find that one redeeming feature of every poorly done film to prove that no matter what, nothing is perfect. Yet, I still can’t find it here. Maybe the one redeeming feature is the potential. “Robin Hood” holds a talented cast, and a talented director, yet nothing holds up.
The weakest point of “Robin Hood” is definitely its screenplay. No plot points seem to connect, no characters are related to each other in important ways, and not a single line of dialogue is the least bit memorable. The film ultimately amounts to two hours and twenty minutes of British people arguing about tax code in the dullest way imaginable.
“Robin Hood” is a summer blockbuster. I know that, and the film knows that. It looks like a summer blockbuster, but it just isn’t one. There is barely a battle sequence to be found here. Then, whatever action that is to be found here is impossible to even follow. Not to mention, every kill seems meaningless because Scott seems to prefer going into battle without much context. Why are the British battling the French? Why are the British now battling each other? Taxes, I guess.
There is a difference between a good summer blockbuster, and a great one. A good one contains the kind of action that is entertaining and satisfying. A great one contains action that is enthralling and sometimes mesmerizing. “Robin Hood” falls into neither category. This is bizarre, as this comes from the mind of a truly great action director.
There is not a single moment in which “Robin Hood” feels like a Ridley Scott film. It lacks the graceful action that won “Gladiator” Best Picture. It also lacks the amazingly realized universe of “Blade Runner” and the truly brave and three dimensional hero of “Alien.”
Instead, “Robin Hood” tries way too hard to capitalize off of the success of “Lord of the Rings.” Rather than coming off like “Lord of the Rings,” or even “Braveheart,” it feels more like “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” meets an intense LARPing match. Yet, the characters in a LARPing match are more well defined.
The one thing that continues to bother me about “Robin Hood” is the wasted potential. Besides the great director, it contains a sprawling cast (which contains the legendary Max von Sydow, who’s been around long enough to work with both Martin Scorsese and Ingmar Bergman). Even Crowe and Blanchett are reduced to merely mumbling. There is even a scene where Blanchett gives an unimaginably unrealistic response to the death of a family member. Crowe is forced to do the cliche “NOOO!” scream. Is that how two Academy Award winners are supposed to be treated?
I will try my best now, to give the film some sort of praise. It might be a little backhanded, but its something. The barrage of arrows at the end was pretty well done, even if it was a blatant ripoff of a stupid scene from “300.” Meanwhile, Kevin Durand (Keamy from “Lost”) does a fine job in his role as the oddly named Little John. He is the only one who seems to be enjoying his role, and the only one who seems to be in the right movie.
Besides that, the rest of the movie is basically the Knights Who Say Ni. I’d have given the film some sort of pass for effort but for a director who’s known to be an intense perfectionist, its shocking that so little effort has been put into this version of “Robin Hood.” Whether this is the fault of an intrusive studio, or a lazy director and writer is up to interpretation, but one thing about the legend of Robin Hood can be said: the version with the fox is better.