Running Time: 140 minutes
US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12A
Country: United Kingdom, United States
Over the years, the Robin Hood tale has had more makeovers than Jackie Stallone. There’s been a cartoon version, Errol Flynn’s black and white classic, a Mel Brooks spoof, Hollywood A-list treatment, various TV editions and now it’s a fully blown historical epic from the mind of the Kingdom of Heaven’s Ridley Scott.
This is a kind of prequel to the traditional Robin Hood fable. We join Robin Longstride (Crowe) as he fights his way back across Europe from the Crusades. When popular Richard the Lionheart (Huston) is killed in battle, Robin delivers the crown to Engand’s new King – big meanie Prince John (Isaac). Prince John is manipulated by Franglais spy Godfrey (Strong) who tries to incite the landowners of England against the new King in preparation for a French invasion. Meanwhile commoner Robin takes the place of a fallen Lord and takes over his ailing Nottingham estate before stirring things up amongst the Northern landowners.
Robin Hood is half decent in spite of Russell Crowe not because of him. His accent travels around the British Isles and Ireland and for the most part his character seems like an out-of-place confused foreigner. Now that I’ve written that I’m just waiting for him to come around and punch me. The grimly serious story is surprisingly punctuated with nice bits of comedy and banter primarily from Robin’s soldier buddies – Little John (Durand) and Will Scarlett (Grimes) – and the portly Friar Tuck (Addy). Inevitably, comparisons will be made with 1991 version and Mark Strong is no Alan Rickman as the camped up bad guy.
In the Ridley Scott tradition, the battles are impressively executed and are refreshingly real as Scott and company shy away from cheating with CGI. Of course, Robin Hood had to finish with a major set piece battle and in doing so descends a little into farce. A bit like Tim Burton’s Alice and Wonderland, the big finale has to include all the characters, no matter how ridiculous it seems and so Friar Tuck (Addy) and Marion (Blanchett) appear decked out in chain-mail duking it out with proper knights. Also, it would be nice for the Directors to get off their high horses and stop trying to supplant modern ideas onto historical subjects (a pet hate of mine). The ideas of equality and the abolition of Divine Right were certainly not bandied around in the twelfth century like they are in the film and landowners did not represent the interests of the commoner, only themselves.
It's Got: Sporadic humour, a good cast, impressive battle scenes.
It Needs: Russell Crowe to pin down his accent, green tights
Definitely more stand-alone historical epic than Robin Hood instalment this is original and exciting nonetheless. A success despite Russell Crowe’s Anglo-Irish Robin Hood.