How would you feel if you went to see a movie titled “Superman,” and the Man of Steel didn’t make an appearance in it? Or what about a film bearing the name “Captain Marvel” in which Billy Batson never uttered the word “Shazam”? Would you go to see a Batman film if you knew beforehand that nowhere in the movie would Bruce Wayne don the trademark cowl and cape? What fun would the “Iron Man” films have been if Tony Stark had never invented that great iron suit?
Well if you walk into “Robin Hood” expecting to see a story about the legendary thief who robbed wealthy villains and gave the spoils to the poor, forget it. Throughout the history of cinema and television this famous hero has had a great run as he has been featured in at least 30 movies and TV series. Such notable actors as Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, Sean Connery, and Kevin Costner have carried his bow and quiver into battle on the silver screen.
And for those of us old enough to remember back that far, “The Adventures of Robin Hood” was a great British TV series that ran on CBS from 1955 to 1959. The star was Richard Greene, and the theme song became indelibly imprinted upon our memories. “Robin Hood, Robin Hood riding through the glen/Robin Hood, Robin Hood with his band of men/Feared by the bad/Loved by the good/Robin Hood, Robin Hood. /He called the greatest archers to a tavern on the green. /They vowed to help the people of the king. /They handled all the trouble on the English country scene/And still had plenty of time to sing.”
Any resemblance to the Robin Hood we have known and loved for years is purely coincidental in the new film inaptly titled “Robin Hood,” starring Academy Award winners Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett and directed by Academy Award nominee Ridley Scott. Instead of a story about the legendary thief, what we get is a chronicle of Robin Longstride’s (Crowe) life up to the point where he becomes the character we associate with the name.
As this $200 million fraud opens, we find Longstride serving as an ace archer in the army of King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) and participating in attack on a French castle. Unfortunately Richard dies in the battle, and Longstride and his buddies grab the crown and take to England where they present it to Prince John (Oscar Isaac), who is Richard’s brother and who turns out to be a lousy king.
The war with the French escalates, and it is up to Longstride to assemble an army to meet the enemy on a beach in England for the climactic battle. During the time he is recruiting soldiers, we get very little character development of the hero other than watching him shoot arrows.
Although I understand that this movie is supposed to be a prequel, I object to its being misrepresented as the story about a character who never actually appears in it. Call it “Before He Was Robin Hood, He Was Longstride,” or “Lonstride En Route to a Legend,” or “Robin Before The Hood.” But damn it! Don’t call it “Robin Hood.” In the film’s production notes, Crowe explained why he did not want to make a film that rehashed the legend.
“I said I’d do Robin Hood, but only if it were a fresh take. It is one of the longest-surviving stories in the English language. That requires due respect. I took the attitude that if you’re going to revitalize Robin Hood, it has to be done on the basis that whatever you thought you knew about the legend was an understandable mistake. It has to be different from what has come before. Take Robin and Little John, for example, who don’t get on when they first meet. When we first meet them, they have a disagreement. But that doesn’t take place on a log over a creek with a staff fight, which has been done to death. What we’ve done is to redefine the times and shift the timeline.”
Although I understand Crowe’s , I think the filmmakers could have created a fresh approach without completely abandoning the nature of the character as we know him.
But I have more problems with this film in addition to the storyline. I detest and all other forms of despise films that are shot in such subdued lighting that the daylight scenes look as if they were shot at night. That’s the case with this movie. Also, after having sat through so many computer-generated battle scenes in the past 10 years, I found the action sequences in this film tediously repetitious and shamelessly uninspired.
As for the acting, it was passable, but all Crowe had to do was change out of his “Gladiator” costume, pick up a bow and arrow, and head into battle. I thought there was very little chemistry between Blanchett and him, but, of course, this version didn’t perpetuate the kind of relationship between Robin and Marion to which we have been accustomed. The most noteworthy performances in the film, however, belong to Max von Sydow, who is excellent as Sir Walter Loxley, and every single one of the magnificent horses that graced the screen.
At the “Robin Hood” (Give it a final score of 4) we get a tag that reads, “And so the legend begins.” That means we have sat through two hours and 20 minutes of cliché-filled battle scenes to get to the point where Robin Longstride actually becomes Robin Hood, but we don’t get to see him steal from one rich person. This is enough to make all those, rich or poor, who pay the full price of admission to see this film feel as if they have been robbed.