Robin Hood (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Robin Hood (2010)

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Andrew INDIFFERENTI get the sense that some movies are made on a dare.  Either the premise is so ridiculous or the execution is so bad that it seems as though the filmmakers did not have their collective wits about them when accepting the task of making the movie.  This can make for some interestingly bad movies but most released this year have lacked an anarchic "go for broke" spirit.  Coldly and mechanically, they've been assembled to keep butts in seats and do little more than that.  To that end, Ridley Scott's Robin Hood is one of the most inconsequential films released this year.

Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe unite, yet again, to bring us another version of the classic Robin Hood story.  The twist this time is that Ridley Scott tries to put a historically contextualizing twist on the story.  We see Robin's political standing pre and post outlaw days, as well as the French subterfuge and inadequate leadership that would make him and his Merry Men necessary.

The end result is strangely disaffecting.  It doesn't have the same remarkable insights on history as Ridley Scott's incredible Kingdom of Heaven, but ends up more as kind of an "alternate history" like the dull Gladiator.  This Robin Hood's forests are not green with vegetation and life.  Rather, the skies are perpetually stormy and everyone walks around with a scowl on their faces.  Personally, I'd like to see a movie taking a historical approach to a classic tale that doesn't pile on the depression and gray coloring.

Russell Crowe can still scowl like no other.

What's particularly strange is how convoluted Ridley Scott and screenwriter Brian Helgeland make Robin Hood's origin.  He begins the film as Robin Longstride (Crowe) and while returning back from the Crusades is ambushed by French military.  One of the knights that is dying after the assault gives Robin the task of carrying word back to the homeland of King Richard's death.  So Robin ends up assuming his identity, taking word back to home, takes control of the dying man's lands in Nottingham and is asked to continue the charade so that the dying man's still living father (Max von Sydow) will not lose his lands.

It's in the lands of Nottingham where Robin begins his outlawing career, meets Maid Marion (Cate Blanchett), and becomes a thorn in the side of the newly crowned King John (Oscar Isaac).  Too bad it takes the film almost an hour and a half to get to this point.  In the meantime we're treated to countless scenes of period era dancing and singing, ominous shots of political figures doing dastardly deeds, and the perpetual scowl of Russel Crowe as he sleepwalks his way through the role of Robin.

The entire film feels mechanically assembled.  There's not a stand out moment in the bunch where I got the sense that Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe wanted to be working on the project.  Sure, there's plenty of big scale battles with herds of men running toward each other.  But there's no sense of tension or loss as the people fall, and very little reason to care if one side wins or the other (especially early on).

Moral ambiguity is not in play for any of the characters in this version of Robin Hood.

That being said, the set design and costuming really do capture a lot of the period flavor of England during this tumultuous time.  There were a couple of shots over the bustling little hamlet of Nottingham and King John's castle that really captured a spirit of everyday life.  It's those moments where I actually got a sense of what Ridley Scott wanted to do with the material, instead of what the final result.

Everyone does what they can with the roles as written and, it must be said, a sleepwalking Russell Crowe is still a damn fine actor.  Cate Blanchett ends up sounding like she's dialing down as much enthusiasm as she can to play Marion in accordance with her surroundings, but still sneaks in a fun moment or two.  Then there's the matter of Max von Sydow, who you'll be reading a lot in these coming weeks with my Bergman marathon.  The man is one of the few living actors that can lay claim to being the greatest, and each of his scenes carries a sense of authority and authenticity that the rest of the film lacks.

Few things are sadder on this planet than a talented artist with nowhere to direct their energy and this film is full of that special kind of sadness.  Robin Hood was not a project that needed anyone's time or attention.  The great director Francois Truffaut once said that all film should reflect the ecstasy of making it or the agony of making it, there is no in-between.  In Robin Hood we have a film firmly wedged in the middle of that divide, and could have sorely used some ecstasy.

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Robin Hood (2010)

Directed by Ridley Scott.
Written by Brian Helgeland.
Starring Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow and Oscar Isaac.

Posted by Andrew

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