The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Robin Hood

Some characters from historical literature have just had more of an impact than others, characters like Hawkeye in Last of the Mohicans, Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, King Arthur, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn just to name a few.  One that I started reading about when I was younger who still remains a favorite is Robin Hood. Countless books have been written about the legendary outlaw and even more film versions that include stars Errol Flynn, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner, and even a Disney animated version that I love.  Well, they can't all be winners, like 2010's Robin Hood.

A pairing of director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe with a great character like Robin Hood seemed like a no-brainer to me (Gladiator for anyone confused) even though I never got to see it in theaters. Going into this, I should say I'm a fan of the legend, the myth of Robin Hood. Like so many movies dealing with stories already known by audiences (Bond, Batman, Hulk), Scott goes with a reboot, telling the story of how everything we know about a character -- in this case Robin Hood -- came to be.  So basically, it's an unofficial prequel.  Bigger than that though, the title character is almost a throwaway addition.  This movie could have been any 12th Century archer fighting royalty.  I wanted to like this movie, and it just didn't happen.

After fighting for King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) in the Crusades for 10 years, archer Robin Longstride (Crowe) returns home to England with three of his closest friends and allies he's fought these many years with. Completing a mission he told someone he would honor, Robin rides to the town of Nottingham where he meets Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow) and his daughter-in-law, Marion (Cate Blanchett). He agrees to say on with them, posing as Marion's dead husband so they can hold on to their land.  Bigger things are at work though as a treacherous Englishman, Godfrey (Mark Strong), is pitting new king John (Oscar Isaac) against his people while also arranging a surprise invasion from the French. Standing in their way is Robin himself, ready to defend England to the last.

I made the unfortunate decision of watching Scott's Director's Cut, clocking in at 156 minutes instead of the theatrical 141 minute-version.  Bad choice.  I'm all for historical epics in just about any form, any historical time period, but there's both too much going on here and not enough at the same time.  Maybe the best thing going for the movie is the cast, but there's too many worthy actors here so they're in and out of the story too much.  After the introduction of all the players and settings, basically an hour goes by before any conflict is even introduced.  Then when it is presented, it's another 30 minutes before SOMETHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS.  Maybe I was expecting a different movie, but I was bored to tears and only stuck with it because I kept waiting for it to get better.  Insider tip? It doesn't.

With Scott directing and Crowe starring, Gladiator is one of my all-time favorites.  Reviews even identified this one as Gladiator with a bow and arrow.  Playing the title character (although he's only identified as Robin Hood once), Crowe makes this otherwise dull flick somewhat interesting.  The man is cut out to star in historical epics, and he makes Robin a believable leader, a man capable of convincing others to do something they never would have on their own.  Crowe also looks to do most of his own stunts -- fighting and horse riding -- so he gets points just for being cool.  As Marion, Blanchett is like a female equivalent of Crowe, an actress cut out for period pieces.  The two of them have some definite chemistry, but it gets lost in an endless series of scenes that go nowhere.

The name recognition alone for the supporting cast is great, but that's about all they get.  Over 80 now, von Sydow is still the man and just by being in the movie makes it better.  William Hurt looks like he stumbled into the wrong movie playing William of Marshal, a royal caught in the middle of a possible English civil war. Strong is a great villain, a man with NOT ONE redeeming quality, making it that much easier to hate him. Matthew Macfayden is the sheriff of Nottingham, relegated to background duty here. Huston makes the most of a quick appearance as the Lionheart. Robin's not so merry men include Friar Tuck (Mark Addy), Little John (Kevin Durand), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes) and Alan A'Dale (singer Alan Doyle). I would have loved to see a movie more about Robin and his men in Sherwood Forest, but I guess I can add that to my list of complaints.

One thing that still surprised me about this movie was the PG-13 rating because without the R-rating, the action and violence seem pretty tame, almost boring.  I don't need decapitated heads or gushing blood, but it felt very whitewashed here.  Not that the action is top-drawer by any means, but it was certainly more watchable than just about anything else here.  Like the rest of the movie, it just didn't impress.  On scale alone, this movie gets some points but other than Crowe, Blanchett and an underused supporting cast, I've got to pass on this one.  A disappointing result, and a surprising one too.

Robin Hood <---trailer (2010): **/****      

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