Robin Hood: The Beginning
"Robin Hood" is an interesting movie and with director Ridley Scott once again working with Russell Crowe you sort of have certain expectations especially when these two gave us the epic "Gladiator". You expect this latest story of Robin Hood to be an epic action-adventure movie full of him battling the evil Sheriff of Nottingham with the aid of his Merry Men whilst romancing Marion, but it isn't. Oh there is action and much of it is shot in an epic style but "Robin Hood" isn't an epic movie and neither is it Robin battling the Sheriff of Nottingham. Instead this is a story which plays about with the legend to give us what is basically "The Beginning" of the legend, how he came to be an outlaw and in love with Marion. And as such you need to forget much of what you may have watched in other movies about Robin Hood because those legendary facts are definitely altered.
Having served as an archer in King Richard's crusades Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe - American Gangster) becomes tired of the brutality and when the King dies takes the opportunity to return to England with his friends Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes), Alan-a-Dale (Alan Doyle) and Little John (Kevin Durand). On the journey back they discover Sir Robert of Locksley (Douglas Hodge) dying having been ambushed and not only agrees to return his sword to his father but puts on his clothes to make gaining passage back to England easier. The man behind Sir Robert's death is Godfrey (Mark Strong - Stardust) a close friend of Prince John (Oscar Isaac) the soon to be King John and a treacherous rogue who whilst befriending John is working with the French to aid an invasion. Robin meanwhile having not only returned the royal crown to London, which Sir Robert was transporting heads to Nottingham where he meets Roberts father Sir Walter (Max von Sydow) who asks him to continue to pretend to be his son so that his daughter-in-law Marion (Cate Blanchett - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) will keep everything when he dies. But with an impending invasion from France and Godfrey turning the population against King John, Robin and his merry men find themselves drawn back into battle once again.
So as already mentioned "Robin Hood" rather than being another movie which focuses on the legendary battles with the Sheriff of Nottingham serves more as an introduction to the legend. And as such we have this interesting idea that Robin Hood is in fact Robin Longstride who having returned to England from the Crusades masquerading as Robin of Locksley then becomes that man. It's an interesting idea because it adds a certain mystery over Robin's past as he has little memory of his father but a strange inscription he reads on a sword stokes up memories and makes him look for truth. And as such this ties in nicely with him meeting Sir Walter Loxley and Marion Loxley as not only do we get Robin discovering more about his past from Sir Walter but also falling for Marion who initially dislikes him, as is so often the case in movie romances.
But then there is a lot more to "Robin Hood" than this and we have the parallel story of King Richard having died in battle and his brother John becoming King being tricked by Godfrey who is working with the French King. And so we watch as it becomes clear that Godfrey has helped the French invade England whilst causing the population to be at war by making King John a hated figure. All of which of course leads to Robin, his merry men and several Baron's to unite to defend the country from the invading French. And this ties in nicely with Robin's past, which he really is yet doesn't know because of wiping out painful memories of growing up.
As such this vision of "Robin Hood" is as I mentioned a fictionalised introduction of how comes Robin, Marion and his Merry Men ended becoming outlaws. And as such you do need to try and forget things you may remember from other movies as it will end up doing your head in trying to work out how certain things fit in.
Now because of all of this, because we have a lot of story from Robin returning from the crusades as Robin of Locksley through to Sir Walter wanting him to keep on pretending "Robin Hood" is not the big action movie you might be expecting. Of there is plenty of action from an opening battle in France to the big final battle against the invading French but it doesn't feel epic. In fact it feels like these big action scenes were epic but have been brutally cut down to keep the running length more reasonable and as such lose some impact. They also sadly end up quite cheesy or at least one does because of a certain character who really shouldn't be involved.
Now to the acting well Cate Blanchett is excellent as Marion as we watch her fall in love with Robin, fighting her feelings and Mark Strong is brilliantly evil as Godfrey in a serious rather than camp manner. The likes of Kevin Durand, Alan Doyle, Scott Grimes and Mark Addy are entertaining as the band of Merry Men whilst Oscar Isaac delivers weak and naive as King John. And then there is Russell Crowe who to be honest gives a brilliant performance as Robin Hood making him not only a man of action but a thinking man, a loyal man and one who is intelligent and compassionate. But there are times when Robin feels like he is becoming Maximus especially during the big rallying speeches and it just feels a little strange. But at least when you compare Crowe's Robin to Costner's, which you tend to do, Crowe easily wins hands down.
What this all boils down to is that Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood" is an interesting take on the legend and does a nice job of serving as an introduction to the character. But as such it may end up being a very different movie to what you may expect as this isn't about Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham and it isn't just all about the action; this is a story of how Robin came to be the legendary outlaw that we all know.
Tags: Robin Hood Movies