Harry wrestles with the colossal failure known as Ridley Scott's ROBIN HOOD
What is it about the story of Robin Hood that keeps us coming back?
For me, it isn’t the stealing from the rich to give to the poor. That’s the populist hook. I’m also not a die-hard when it comes to the romance of Robin and Marion, though I do love that part of the story. Is it merely his Badassery with a Bow and a sword? Is it his merry band? The quarterstaff fight that happened to introduce him to his best friend Little John? No.
For me – when you boil everything away. What I love about the ROBIN HOOD mythology is the concept that Robin loved his king, so much – that when a plot to dispose of King Richard was hatched by his lesser brother, John… that it was a knight from the wrong side of the tracks – that helped to organize a revolt. That sought to protect those that could not protect themselves. He used terror to strike fear into the corrupt puppet government that was bleeding the people dry.
ROBIN HOOD, while being distinctly British as a story, is the very essence upon which the dream of America was formed… to me. When the government is unjust, it is the duty of its citizens to set it right, no matter how hard that road may be.
It is a lesson meant to empower a disenfranchised populace to demand more from their government. To become more involved. BUT at its heart, there is love for what their Government SHOULD be. There’s a patriotism that has a critical quality to it, that I just love.
Support, within reason.
So… What was Ridley Scott & Brian Helgeland’s favorite thing about Robin Hood?
Apparently – they didn’t like a single thing about the character or his story. Other than the fact that Robin Hood is pretty good with a bow. Not supernatural. He misses a shot early in the film, which would’ve pretty much made the film a 25 minute short story – that still would have irked the living shit out of me. But he had to miss that shot, for the film to move on with its tale.
Ok. Let’s get into this.
First and foremost – this amazing cast that they put together – is completely and totally wrong for the story they’re attempting to tell with these characters.
Russell Crowe is 47 years old. That’s already 7 years older than the average life expectancy of a man living in the time of Robin Hood. And when Sean Connery played Robin Hood, he was 47. Of course, he was cast as an aging Robin Hood – having fought in two Crusades… returning to England with nothing left to live for, save maybe his Marion, played by the amazing Audrey Hepburn.
Only, this is a prequel. A story that allegedly takes place prior to the key events of the Robin Hood mythology. So automatically – there’s just something that rings untrue about it all. For a film that goes through excruciating efforts to get the period right, it totally screws the pooch with the casting & pretense of its main character.
BUT – ya know what. I gave them that. As I watched the film, it is evident that while Russell Crowe is obviously a man in his 40s – that in this version of the 12th Century – Man commonly lived into their late sixties – as is evidenced by characters throughout the film. I’m just gonna say it was a hard life and men aged faster than they do now – and a 46 year old man was probably the way your typical late twenties man would look in the 12th Century.
By the time the movie started – I decided to just set aside a lot of my problems with this story and just see what it was that Ridley did with it. He’s a filmmaker that generally I have given a lot of respect towards – and if he wanted to break down the Robin Hood legend – and attempt to tell it as some “true story” style thing – with a late 40s Russell Crowe… so be it.
I like Russell Crowe – and he is quite good in the film. Far better than Costner. And had they told the story of Robin Hood with Russell Crowe, I probably would have loved it. But instead – Brian Helgeland decided to do a rewrite of A KNIGHT’S TALE if you applied Robin Hood to that story.
You have a group of scurvy lower class men that happen upon a scene of an ambush, where some English Noblemen were attacked by the French. Robin and his merry band (in France) fight off the French – to then rob the corpses of their fellow noble countrymen – only to find an injured right hand man of the now dead King Richard… who is nearly dead. This man is Robert of Locksley. He’s dying. He requests of the younger “Robin” to take his father’s father’s sword back to his father in Nottingham… and Robin is just a nice enough guy to do it. After Robin presents King Richard’s crown to the Queen Mother – he and his band ride off to Nottingham, where he meets Marion Locksley… no longer Maid Marion – you see – she was married to Robert, who went off on a Crusade a week later – apparently never having consummated their wedding – Oh – by the way, I just looked up the spelling of Locksley. Locksley is how it is traditionally spelt. However, the filmmakers have decided, like everything else, to throw that out and make it Loxley. FYI.
So… How does Russell and Cate hook up?
Well, Old Blind Man Locksley – Max Von Sydow – decides that this Robin Longstride (who he just happens to know his forgotten history, how convenient) should pretend to be his son, something he had been doing, and pretend to be Marion’s husband, so that when he dies – Marion could still run Nottingham. Seriously.
Meanwhile – King John is banging some French lady, a distant relative to the King of France. John has basically put Mark Strong in charge of collecting taxes – he’s essentially a Guy of Gisborne style bad guy – but called Godfrey – and Godfrey is working with the King of France to create Civil War in England, so France could just conquer. So – Godfrey is running around with a band of like 400 French soldiers, in French Uniforms – raping and pillaging, murdering and burning every small burg in the hill country of Northern England… And none of the retarded knights and lords of those areas notice the French folks killing, raping and burning – they just read the notice placed upon a town posting post – and decide they all need to kill the king.
Max von Sydow tells Robin Longstride that he’s the son of a philosopher stone cutter who essentially pens the rough draft of the Magna Carta, which historically was known as ARTICLES OF THE BARONS. Which sort of goes with everything in this film – because this isn’t really a movie about Robin Hood – it is a film about King John’s early rule and what led to these Articles. And what Mark Strong’s Godfrey is doing – is essentially what led to the events that led to the signing of that document which – historically speaking is what eventually led to the Magna Carta.
And honestly – a movie called KING JOHN – about the injustices that gave rise to the royalty being legally held accountable for their actions, and that could have been an interesting story. In fact – it kinda is.
But putting ROBIN HOOD in the middle of all this history – is basically like …
Well, it’d be like doing the ALAMO as history with Pecos Bill.
Putting Little John, Maid Marion, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlett, the Sheriff of Nottingham, etc – all in the midst of this larger story of England as a whole – in a pre-Myth history… just comes across as being fucking ridiculous.
By the time Marion comes riding onto a beach leading an awesome force of feral children on Horseback – in full Custom Armor that was way cooler than the armor she wore in ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE. And she goes Marion Warrior Princess… but ends up laying in the surf gurgling salt water as Robin roars in slow motion repeatedly coming out of water - well… it gets real embarrassing.
You see… as a historical film set at the dawn of the 13th Century – the film is moderately entertaining, but the history disarms the vitality of the story of ROBIN HOOD.
By trying to tell the truth of the era – it just makes Robin Hood… frankly a stupid story. Because he doesn’t belong in HISTORY, but in Legend.
Because Robin Hood isn’t a story of the 13th century. It’s really a story and a legend of the 16th century when it became a popular story that was told and retold. Sung about and performed. Robin Hood was the seeds of revolt in a time that gave way to the colonies revolting – and just a general feeling amongst the populace that they were no longer going to be happy with being trounced upon.
Robin Hood is a romanticized shorthand for the revolt that took place during King John’s time. And historically, ROBIN HOOD doesn’t work, because it absolutely does not work with the FACTS of history. SO…
Tell the legend of Robin Hood.
This is another, in a long line of films that just come across as being stupid because the filmmakers that took the story on got so bogged down by THE REALITY – that they forgot to dream. ROBIN HOOD is a populist story about Tax Revolt. A very popular concept.
But in adapting Robin Hood’s origins with the basic steps of A KNIGHT’S TALE, burying him within a very convoluted and mishandled telling of the Baron revolt that took place under John and a really ridiculous Beach sequence – I find myself looking at the title and wondering…
What the fuck does any of this have to do with Robin Hood?
The result is a very aggravating and pointless film. It is obvious that Brian and Ridley felt passionate about the history of the time, but they ruined the history by combining it with a Legend that they completely render impotent.
By the time you have King John burning up the agreement he had signed, which led to the ultimate revolt that took place – but then cutting to Robin & Marion and his merry band in Sherwood Forest with a gaggle of feral children. It just hurt my head.
Intellectually – I could see the various pieces they were trying to smash together – but it just doesn’t work.
You can’t really compare this film to Errol Flynn’s ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD – and at the same time, you can’t compare it to Costner’s either. Because this is absolutely not the story of Robin Hood. Instead, you kind of have to marry this to ROBIN & MARION. This is a hodgepodge reinvention. Taking from history, legend and other works altogether unrelated.
There’s a reason why Michael Curtiz’s ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and Flynn’s Robin Hood will never ever be threatened by films hamstrung by the HISTORICAL FACTS of the day. Stories like ROBIN HOOD, IVANHOE, the Arthurian tales… these are not history, they’re legend, myths and literature. As such – you’re not bound by history.
But then… that’s why Ridley Scott was not the right man to retell Robin Hood. Ridley drinks in historical detail. And this film lovingly recreates the era. And the film is to be admired for it’s production design – but frankly… that’s about it.
The whole time while watching the film I kept thinking – “I love these sets, they’d be perfect for a Robin Hood movie.” Sadly, there was no Robin Hood to be seen. Instead, all that talent was wasted on a movie called ROBIN HOOD, that never wants to tell that story. It is a film that hates its titular subject, but loves its time and place.
The film works as an observable work – just not an involving one.
This is actually my least favorite Ridley Scott film. It is a conceptual failure with too few bright spots and no real point for existing. It is a colossal failure and waste of time, talent and story-telling. The individual elements – actors, sets, costumes, make-up, props… well, they’re all quality – they’re just never terribly interesting. About 40 minutes from the end, I just wanted it to end. I contemplated leaving the theater – but felt I owed it to Ridley to finish the film – see if he redeemed it in some way.
But in all their conversations – I do wonder. Did they ever want to just tell the legend of Robin Hood? Just tell a badass, intense telling of the legend? It just seems nobody was excited or particularly happy to tell this story. It’s all rather dreary and humdrum.
I’ve seen the story told better at Renaissance Faires. Disney did it better. Fairbanks and Flynn – much better. If ever there was a film that deserved to be received with a resounding box office THUD sound, it is this.
I expect far better from all involved. These are some of the best talents we have – they were afforded great latitude in telling this story.
I know. I’m the one lone crazy guy that really liked the recent NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET – but I absolutely honestly feel the Platinum Dunes guys have far more respect for their material than Ridley did with this. And that is the most frustrating thing of all to me. I just want filmmakers to love their material, to feel that from their work. Here, you get the idea that the story of ROBIN HOOD was too inconsequential… too light for Ridley to deal with. And they are right.
Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett and Ridley Scott absolutely should never have made a ROBIN HOOD movie. Cate is not a lady in waiting, so of course they radically reinvent her role.
Like IMAGINE’s woeful telling of THE ALAMO a few years back – Grazer and Howard seem to be producing a series of films that drain all the power of the legends they tell. They’re telling versions of these stories that serve to lay flaccid, useless to anyone. They’re passionless material, without any real dramatic heights, no nail-biting suspense, no true romance or thrilling action.
There are very few things that hurt as much as seeing a story you love told devoid of every element that made you love it. This is the husk of Robin Hood. The discarded dead skin that the legend sprung from – and at the end of the film – you just wonder… Why did we focus on the caterpillar, when they should have shown the butterfly.