Armed with a gigantic special effects budget, director Ridley Scott dives into history, re-strings Robin’s bow a bit and explains how he thinks Robin Hood became Robin Hood.
Key word — thinks. Do some diving of your own into the history of the time and the information is mixed and spotty.
Here are the legend’s basics. Robin — an archer of renown — lived in either the 12th or 13th century depending on the source. With bow in hand, he hid in Sherwood Forest and with his Merry Men and conspiring with Maid Marian and Friar Tuck, robbed from the rich and gave to the poor and caused much misery for the Sheriff of Nottingham.
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In Scott and screenwriter Brian Helgeland’s version of English history, King John, a just crowned, a self-serving monarch has initiated taxing policies that cause a rebellion. While John is focused on quelling the unrest, the hated French are planning an invasion of England.
King John’s brother, Richard the Lion Hearted, led a crusade to the Holy Land. Robin Longstride, who becomes Robin of Loxley, and then Robin Hood arrives back in England and eventually help solve both dilemmas. No good deed — as you know — goes unpunished, and Robin ends up an outlaw.
Russell Crowe takes on Robin, Cate Blanchett is Marian. Crowe gives the usual excellent performance and Blanchett could just stand and stare at the camera and be perfect. If Scott and Helgeland gave them something to do they would have been really good together.
It’s important to note the reason. Helgeland has not written a good screenplay since 2003’s Mystic River. Robin Hood keeps his negative record intact.
The villainy is shared by Mark Strong (Kick-Ass), as the traitor Godfrey, and Oscar Issac, who does King John. For an adventure to succeed and for the good guys to be good, the bad guys need to be really, really bad. Strong and Issac are paint-by-number villains. Nothing they do makes you quiver. You never worry about Robin, Marian, the people of England or anyone.
More menace would help. So would some humor. As bad as Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was, at least he had Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham. He was not only a seriously bad dude, but Rickman was funny as hell.
Scott aims high, but Robin Hood never hits the target. His salvation is superb skill as a storyteller, an ability to create and manage effects and name actors giving noteworthy performances. They help save his movie — barely.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, violence. It opens Friday, May 14 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.