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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 21, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 21
Robin Hood a lifeless adventure = tedium
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Robin Hood a lifeless adventure = tedium

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Robin Hood
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An archer fighting under King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) on the trek home from the crusades, Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) and some of his fellow soldiers are done with the bloodshed. After their leader falls outside a French castle, he and his men make their way back to England, crossing paths with dying knight Sir Robert of Loxley (Douglas Hodge) who has been charged with taking the royal crown back to London.

One things leads to another, and next thing Robin knows, he and his fellow archers are wearing the garb of the fallen knights. After returning the crown and witnessing the crowning of King John (Oscar Isaac) by his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine (Eileen Atkins), they head for the township of Nottingham. There they meet the lovely Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett), and what at first was only intended to be a quick stopover instead becomes an extended impersonation after Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow) urges the soldier to continue his impersonation of his son.

There's more, lots more, going on inside director Ridley Scott's (Alien, Body of Lies) newfangled (if historically semi-accurate) Robin Hood. In fact, there is so much going on with writer Brian Helgeland's (Green Zone, L.A. Confidential) screenplay that the overall effect is a muddled and confused mess. One part British lore, two parts Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven-style medieval warmongering, and three parts The Tudors-type melodrama, all with a dash of The Lord of the Rings and Peter Pan thrown in for good measure - the movie is a bizarre, disconnected disaster.

My greatest wish watching it was that the movie would at least come to a quick conclusion. Sadly, as the film stretched to 140 minutes, that was one wish that did not come to pass. Others that also failed to materialize: More detail in the glorious subplot revolving around von Sydow, less of Mark Strong's forgettable duplicitous lead villain Godfrey, some more depth revolving around Robin and Marion's budding romance, and a heck of a lot more of the political wheeling and dealing going on between the newly crowned King John and his brother's one-time trusted advisor William Marshall (William Hurt).

But wait, there's more! Mentioning everything that this new Robin Hood is not (yet still manages to infuriatingly hint at) would force me to not talk about everything this disastrous epic does poorly. What I will say is that there are tons of potential here, so much that I silently sit here while I type and fantasize about the movie that might have been.

Granted, fantasizing about the Robin Hood that might have been is like wondering what would have happened had the American Idol judges not lost their collective minds and given Michael Lynch their save when other contestants (i.e. Siobhan Magnus) clearly deserved it more. All I can talk about is the picture that was delivered and not the one I wanted, and even if said delivery was a waste of time and effort, at the very least it did give me plenty to think about as the curtain finally closed.

Seriously, I came out of this wondering what in the heck the filmmakers were thinking. An origin story that has no clue as to the best way to focus its narrative, a historical epic that wouldn't know excitement if it came up and bit it in the butt, Scott and company so thoroughly dropped the ball this could quite possibly be the biggest mistake of the legendary Oscar-nominated director's entire career. The pacing is turgid, the narrative is nonsensical, and the best bits feel cribbed from other sources. This film has no idea what it is or who it has been made for, and unlike previous Scott misfires like A Good Year, White Squall, or Black Rain, there's not a single redeeming moment that makes the dullness of the rest even slightly worthwhile.

Pity, because Crowe was born to play the title character and Blanchett equally so to portray his lady love. Had this been a bit more focused I could see the two of them soaring as Robin and Marion, as their delicate give and take is a ferociously engaging balancing act that insinuates wonderments never to be told. I also think Isaac is fantastic as the Machiavellian British monarch, and if Scott and company had chosen to tell a story solely about him and his reign, we potentially could have had something grand to talk about.

But that's another might-have-been and thus not really worth the effort to talk about. The bottom line is that this Robin Hood is thudding in its pacing, disjointed in its storytelling, and muddled in just about every other way. It is a long, joyless exercise in tedium that defies imagination. This new journey to Sherwood Forest is an arrow to the jugular that's as lifeless as it is disappointing.

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