The International Writers Magazine:
Robin Hood (2010)
Director Ridley Scott
Brian Helgeland (screenplay)
Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe team up for another collaboration, this time to tell the old English tale of the mythical and legendary Robin Hood.
Crowe plays the hooded one, this time as a man fighting for King Richard in France after being away for ten years fighting in the Holy Crusades. Old favourites Allan A’Dayle, Will Scarlett and Little John are already with him, also as soldiers fighting for the King.
As this new take on the old legend unfolds Robin and his friends become unwittingly involved in a plot to overthrow the English crown by the French. Rushing back to England they find a land ruled by the vain, inexperienced, unfit and megalomaniacal Prince John (Oscar Isaac). The action moves swiftly on to the middle of England held to ransom by corrupt Norman nobles where the common people are barely surviving on subsistence farming and taxed to the hilt paying for unpopular overseas campaigns (sound familiar?)
Robin and company journey to Nottingham to fulfil an oath he made while in France and it is here that he meets the Lady Marion (played by Cate Blanchett), Walter Loxley (Max Von Sydow) and Friar Tuck (Mark Addy). In Nottingham Robin unlocks the secrets to his past, learning who he really is and where he is from. This plays well to the myth and I felt this was a clever plot device as there is still a very loose basis for the reality of there ever being a Robin Hood (don’t tell that to any Englishman!)
In a short space of time these new allies must form an alliance, rally a disillusioned population and see off an invading French army hell bent on seizing the English crown.
This is unlike most other adaptations of the famous archer and liberator of the poor and oppressed, but I found this refreshing rather than sacrilegious. The last thing I wanted to see was a re-tread through the usual ‘pantomime’ telling of the legend. As much as I loved Allan Rickman’s camp turn as the Sheriff of Nottingham upstaging a frankly bland and miscast Kevin Costner as Robin in the 1990 version, I feel that this film is one more suited to our slightly more cynical and sophisticated times.
There is blood, mud, grime and rain. This is the real World and it shows thanks to some excellent use of locations and first rate cinematography. I was apprehensive that the tales of development problems and alleged creative differences between star and director would show a troubled production on screen. I can happily state this is not the case. The film moves along at a fine pace and I found it engaging at all times thanks to strong all round performances. There is plenty of plotting, scheming and ambiguous characters in this film. Mark Strong who seems to be making a living as ‘Chief Bad Guy’ is on fine form once again as the evil, sadistic and duplicitous Sir Godfrey. Matthew Macfadyen (‘Frost/Nixon’) plays a weak, corrupt and ineffectual Sheriff of Nottingham.
The end battle is imaginatively staged, not in a forest, but on a beach where the English forces make a stand against the invading French. I found this scene played out almost like a Medieval ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and there was plenty of action to keep the adrenalin pumping. Crowe and Blanchett have good chemistry together and the basis for their relationship is based upon mutual respect, admiration and shared adversity rather than soppy romance.
I have to say that it does leave the door open to a possible sequel. This film does really set everything up for the legend as we all know it to be told. Whether that will happen all depends on how well it performs at the box office. For me this is a bold and original retelling of an old favourite. Director Scott has hit the target once again.
© Daniel Cann May 13th 2010