I mentioned in my Iron Man 2 Review that writing reviews for movies that I liked are very difficult as opposed to movies I loved or movies I hated. Well brace yourself for another like-storm, because I actually rather liked Robin Hood, much more than I expected anyway. This was a movie that I had no desire to see. I remember seeing the previews for this film and saying, “They’re making a Robin Hood movie? Why? Aren’t there like 487 other versions of Robin Hood already?” Well, yes there are, just like there are also 487 other versions of Sherlock Holmes and 487 other versions of A Christmas Carol, but that doesn’t stop Hollywood’s current trend of remaking everything they can get their grubby paws on, usually with three intents: 1) make it closer to the original source material, 2) make it darker, grittier and more character-driven and 3) turn it into a franchise that can carry itself for at least three films before we reboot it again. In a way, I hate Hollywood for being so f***ing unoriginal, but in a way I love them for bringing back the characters we love with the actors we love portraying them and Robin Hood is no exception to any of these rules. It was a darker, grittier, more faithful take on a much-loved character that also acts as a set-up for what will probably be a trilogy of films. However, just because Robin Hood was typical, does not mean I hated it.
I should mention that Robin Hood does not feel like Robin Hood movie, so get Kevin Costner and Errol Flynn and that talking fox out of your heads, because this is not your typical Robin Hood movie. In fact, this film acts more as a prequel to the Robin Hood legend; detailing the events leading up to what is usually shown in just about every other Robin Hood movie. We find out why King John hates Robin Hood so much, how he and Marian fall in love and the events that led to his transformation from soldier to legend. It was all pretty interesting and not what I expected going into this film. I was never really blown away by the film, but I wasn’t expecting to be. I expected to be relatively entertained and I was, it’s well worth the money if you’re looking for something new to watch and you’re sick of Iron Man 2 and How to Train Your Dragon. It was not the gladiator rip-off like everyone said it was going to be. Tonally and thematically the two films were really quite different, though they both definitely had that Ridley Scott touch that can make some of his films great (Gladiator) and some not-so-much (Kingdom of Heaven). This film sits somewhere in the middle. In fact the only similarity it shared with Gladiator was Russell Crowe.
This brings me to my next section, the actors. This film carried some real weight behind it in terms of acting prowess with the likes of Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett with veterans like William Hurt and Max von Sydow. But just as wars not make one great, actors not make movies great. None of the actors really carried the film for me and by this point, Russell’s tired likeable working-class hero routine is about as lifeless and phoned-in as it can get. There’s even an inspirational battle speech that always seems to come up in movies like this where I distinctly remember zoning off and counting the number of speakers in the theatre (There were 4 on each wall and 4 behind me). Cate and the other supporting cast seem to do a an OK job of holding things together though, but I felt like I had The Dark Knight syndrome with this film, where the lead actor is actually one of the weaker actors in the film and his performance is constantly overshadowed by the players around him. Not so great, considering Crowe’s fantastic performances in some other Scott films like Gladiator and American Gangster.
I don’t think the acting was really the main draw for this film. At least for me it wasn’t. It’s the battles, the action, the fighting. This film delivers that to an extent, but I was almost bored by it this time around. It felt a bit like a retread of films like Braveheart and Lord of the Rings. Sure, the action is epic, but big doesn’t always mean interesting. I was also perplexed by decisions like having Maid Marion join Robin in the final battle, or having King Richard killed by a French chef (I’m not even joking) Also, the action seems to be allotted to the first and last acts of the film, with the second used mostly for setting up an elaborate plot where Sir Godfrey (played by newly type-casted Mark Strong (who plays the villain in everything he’s in (Sherlock Holmes, Kick-Ass, this movie, the upcoming Green Lantern film))) betrays King John to the French, which eventually leads to a large battle scene at the end. Like I said earlier, despite all my complaints, I was still moderately entertained by the film. It wasn’t bad, I did feel an emotional connection to Robin at certain points when he’s dealing with the loss of his father and there were only a few moments that had me scratching my head, but I was only entertained because the film was telling me to be. It’s the equivalent of watching an old magician. You know all the tricks and the magic dies after a while, but you don’t mind watching anyways, ‘cause what the hell? It’s magic.
So, all-in-all, Robin Hood is mostly harmless fun. Just remember not to look at it as a traditional Robin Hood film and don’t expect too much and you might find that you actually like it. It’s big, its action packed and you’re gonna want to see this one before the sequel comes out.
I give Robin Hood 3/5.
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