The Further Adventures of Robin Hood
20 years after his legendary battles with the Sheriff of Nottingham (Robert Shaw), Robin (Sean Connery) and Little John (Nicol Williamson) have grown tired of following Richard the Lionheart (Richard Harris) around as his crusade has become little more than that of personal greed. Returning to England and Sherwood Forest they discover plenty has changed, from their old haunts having fallen in to disrepair through to Marian (Audrey Hepburn) becoming a nun, not that it stops Robin from paying her a visit as he tries to rekindle their old romance. But one thing hasn't changed and The Sheriff of Nottingham is still as evil as ever as he plans to arrest Marian on religious grounds, not that Robin will let him get away with this.
Whilst not the most often made movie the legend of Robin Hood and his band of merry men has been made into quite a few movies over the years from action dramas to out right comedies, but most of these movies just focus on the well known tale of young Robin, his merry men, Maid Marian and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Richard Lester's "Robin and Marian" is slightly different because it picks up the story of Robin 20 years on from those often told escapades and has him return to England from the Crusades an older man. And to be honest there is something entertainingly clever about this as he attempts to rekindle his love for Marian whilst also facing his old foe the Sheriff. But "Robin and Marian" has a problem and it is basically a split personality, one minute it is humorous, delivering plenty of laughs yet the next it goes dark and in fact serves up a surprisingly dark ending. The blend doesn't work and sadly it spoils what could have been an imaginative and entertaining movie.
Now to be honest I have never been the biggest fan of the legend of Robin Hood and other than what I have seen on the big screen over the years I know little else. So on that note; I don't know where the legendary story of Robin stops and where writer James Goldman's creativity starts but I will say that he has come up with a clever story. The fact we pick up the story 20 years on opens up for so many possibilities from Robin himself having grown older and wiser during the years as part of the Crusades through to what happened to Marian during that time. And we do learn about all of this, from Robin having witnessed terrible brutality on his travels whilst shockingly we learned that Marian tried to take her own life before becoming a nun. And of course with Robin being older he's not as swashbuckling as he once was as his fellow merry men who tire quickly and take longer to do things.
But whilst we have this development in characters we still get the familiarity of the old legend and so we not only get those old feelings of love between Robin and Marian but also the rivalry with his old foe the Sheriff of Nottingham. As such there is part of "Robin and Marian" which feels like it has taken the original tale and used certain bits again so that it does feel like a continuation. From Robin and Little John running into Friar Tuck and Will Scarlett in the forest to Robin evading the Sheriff's capture when he enters the city it feels familiar.
The trouble is that "Robin and Marian" has a split personality as whilst there is a typical humorous side there is also a darker side and not in a darkly funny way either. Things such as Robin telling Marian all about the brutality he witnessed really kills the fun side of the movie and then there is Marian showing the scars on her wrists from trying to kill herself. But that is nothing compared to the actual ending which feels so wrong that for me I wished I had turned off before it got to that point. This dark side just doesn't fit in with all the fun which is going on and whilst maybe the intention was to make "Robin and Marian" a tragic comedy the balance is well off.
Despite this issue with the darkness "Robin and Marian" does feature some good performances with chemistry between Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn being a delight. You get a sense that there is a deep love between them with an element of almost being an old married couple in the way they speak to each other. Yet there is a tenderness as well as in the scene where Marian tends to Robin's injuries and sees how battered his once youthful body has become through years of fighting. But there is also a humour to this relationship and from Sean Connery you get that sense of being young in mind yet his body is not up to it anymore, think Danny Glover in "Lethal Weapon" movies going "I am too old for this" and you will know what I mean.
But the good performances are not just confined to Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn as in minor roles both Denholm Elliott and Ronnie Barker are entertaining as is a small and very theatrical cameo from Richard Harris as Richard the Lionheart. But it is Robert Shaw as the Sheriff of Nottingham who really stands out as for a man who says barely anything he actually says a lot. Just through a look we can appreciate how disappointed he has become with the young fighters who train in the grounds, how disapproving he is of Sir Ranulf who has eyes on his position and how happy he is to see his old foe Robin return. And on that note there is also a strange respect which flows between Robin and the Sheriff as if they hadn't been enemies they could have been best friends.
What this all boils down to is that "Robin and Marian" is an entertaining and imaginative movie which basically feels like the further adventures of Robin Hood. It's such a shame that it ends up spoilt by a split personality with the various darker scenes jarring with the light hearted tone which dominates so much of the story.
Tags: Robin Hood Movies