“Robin Hood” Review
I’ve been a long time devoted fan of Ridley Scott, and after viewing one of his most recent films “American Gangster,” I thought that he was up among the likes of Martin Scorsese as being one of the best depicters of violence, its causes and consequences, in American cinema, maybe the best, as well as just being an all-around cinematic visionary. After viewing his latest, the adaptation of the old Robin Hood fantasy, it’s my humble opinion that he needs to reevaluate his craft.
Everyone knows the story of “Robin Hood,” even if the gist of many people’s knowledge comes from a fox in a green outfit or God forbid, Kevin Costner. A freedom fighter who resided in the woods with his merry men that steals from the richer classes of a brutal medieval king and redistributes among the poor. This telling of the famous character is actually more of a prequel, showing how the hero began his escapades. Sad to say, the backstory is just not as interesting as the tale, itself.
Russell Crowe plays the title character, obviously, and tries his absolute damnedest not make it appear that he’s playing General Maximus all over again, though has a tough time succeeding. I’ll tell you that if Crowe’s character in this had a fraction of the amount of depth or inner angst as that which he portrayed in “Gladiator” (and won an Oscar for), his performance might have blossomed more. The other roles, however, are filled quite well. Scott Grimes and William Hurt shine as Will Scarlet and Marshall Bell. Kevin Durand, who almost always finds himself in the part of a villain or proverbial asshole, plays the Little John sidekick role perfectly. I would have preferred someone more attractive to play Maid Marion, but Cate Blanchett still pulls her weight in the acting department. Eileen Atkins and Mark Strong are both fantastic. Yet, while Danny Huston is superb in the role of King Richard, someone with a bit more experience and clout could have been better cast as Prince John over Oscar Isaac.
The script isn’t a terrible thing. The story is a valiant effort with a decently concocted structure. The characters, however, are really quite shallow in their quality and value. They seem to exist merely for the sake of the role they play in the story, rather than thrive in their own right. Those backstories and motives that are actually touched on are done so briefly and vaguely. Little John, Friar Tuck and Eleanor of Aquitane are all stupendous character concepts, and yet in the film, their bones are bare of much substantial story meat. This is all very disappointing for a scribe like Brian Helgeland who has produced some of the most layered and complex characters in film history in previous efforts like “Mystic River” and the incomparable “L.A. Confidential.” The story also suffers from a climax that is utterly anticlimactic and unsatisfying.
Scott has most of his usual stylists on line for this production, including cinematographer John Mathieson and editor Pietro Scalia. Sadly, Oscar-winning costume designer Janty Yates, whose stunning work is evident in “Gladiator,” “Kingdom of Heaven” and “American Gangster,” is absent, and that absense is evident. Overall, much of the production value that I would expect of a Scott film is surprisingly not up to par. I miss the creative angles and gritty texture of the camerawork and the rapid fire cuts turned into rhythmically golden editing. I wanted a thunderstorm of a visual experience and got calm seas instead.
Not to be too much of a pragmatist, because this issue shouldn’t bare that much weight in the grand scheme, but the film is really lacking with a PG-13 rating. These are medieval times, when weapons were anatomically destructive enough to make a grown man cringe. When people would behead each other practically for sport. Ridley Scott simply does not perform as well when constrained, but rather superb when he is turned loose. The violent nature of Scott’s mind should be allowed to roam free and let the blood flow and thus would the story, the style and the viewer’s satisfaction.
Overall, Robin Hood is a disappointment. It’s not a bad movie by any means, but simply an average one. Scott, it appears, just didn’t take it seriously enough to really add his signature touch. It lacks the sense of grim tonality in both artistic texture and value of story. Instead, it feels like live action Disney adaptation, unwilling to delve into the more stark and foreboding aspects that could have been brought out of such a story. Hopefully Ridley will regain his touch for the upcoming “Alien” prequels or we may begin to miss his unique contributions to the world of cinema.
GRADES: C+ * * 1/2 / * * * * * 5.4 / 10.0