Robin Hood Review

Published 5 years ago by

robin hood review Robin Hood Review
Screen Rant’s Vic Holtreman reviews Robin Hood

Ridley Scott’s incarnation of Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe is a prequel to the story we’re all familiar with – so it may not be the legendary story you’re expecting.

The film opens in 12th century France, where Crowe plays Robin Longstride, an archer in the army of King Richard. The King is on the last leg of the Crusades, “bankrupt and plundering his way back to England” (that’s right, not quite the version of King Richard we’re familiar with). We are introduced to Robin here, establishing that he is a moral man of honor and not afraid to fight.

During an attack on a French castle, things go very wrong and the result is that Robin and his small pack of buddies (eventually the Merry Men) make off for the coast in order to find their way back to England. Along the way they come across an ambush of their fellow countrymen led by Godfrey (Mark Strong), the right hand man of King Richard’s brother, John. Robin is too late to save his countrymen, but one remains barely alive – whose last name is Loxley. In this version, this is how he becomes Robin of Loxley. He’s not a nobleman, just a lowly archer.

Upon returning to England, he meets the wife of the man who’s name he’s taken: Maid Marion (Cate Blanchett). Marion is a beautiful, self-sufficient and strong-willed woman, but when her father-in-law Walter (Max von Sydow) dies (he’s 84, which is OLD for that time), she will lose all claim on her property – so Walter comes up with a solution that Marion is not too pleased with.

In the meantime John is being the King we recognize from previous films: selfish, petty, and willing to tax the citizenry into oblivion to keep his government afloat. He replaces his brother’s advisor William Marshall (played by William Hurt) with Godfrey. Marshall is good and wise while Godfrey is more inclined to John’s methods – so he should not be trusted by anyone, including John.

From here on out we spend most of our time with Robin and Marion as he plays the good, stoic man and she the defiant woman. There are some side trips to visit the Merry Men very briefly (which are enjoyable moments) as well as an introduction to Friar Tuck. In particular I wish that Kevin Durand and Scott Grimes had more screen time – loved seeing them in their roles. We meet the Sheriff of Nottingham early on and sporadically throughout the film – but he seems inserted for no more than tradition’s sake.

crowe blanchett robin hood Robin Hood Review

Russell Crowe & Cate Blanchett 'Robin Hood'

Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow and William Hurt are a pleasure to watch every moment they’re on screen and frankly that makes Robin Hood a lot more bearable than it would have been otherwise. I get that Russel Crowe is playing the solemn, quietly strong hero, but if I didn’t know better I’d say they had Prozac in 12th century England.

Oscar Isaac as Prince John doesn’t seem to fill the role – he’s not supposed to be a strong character by any means, but he comes across a bit too frail even for who he’s portraying. Since they took liberties with the (pre-)story, they took him in a direction that while different, was looking interesting – until they completely reversed it in the last couple of minutes of the film in order to set things up “properly” for the sequel. Considering what came before, his scene at the end felt completely shoehorned in just to fit “canon.”

Mark Strong always makes an effective villain, and while it’s no fault of this film, it’s the third movie in the last five months in which he portrays the bad guy, so I’d like to give someone else a chance at being the villain. Matthew Macfadyen’s role as the Sheriff is so inconsequential it could have been easily removed from the film entirely without affecting it one bit.

What was good? The performances I mentioned above, the battle scenes and the look of the film. They did an admirable job making everything look like it really belonged in that time period – from the costumes and sets down to the gritty look of places and people.

But overall I found the film overly long, drawn out and tedious. When during some point in a film I ask myself “When is this going to be over?” – that is a bad sign. Sure there are some good battle scenes but there’s an awful lot of boring in between. When it comes to superhero movies, people tend to complain about having to get through the origin story – well Robin Hood is ALL origin story. My 3 star rating is on the generous side.

The very last thing you see at the end of the film is “The Legend Begins.” Yeah, that’s the movie I would have rather seen. Frankly, I think you’ll enjoy yourself more if you watch the Errol Flynn version of Robin Hood.

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If you want to discuss the movie after you’ve seen it without worrying about spoiling it for others, head over to our Robin Hood Spoiler Discussion.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. as much I hate russel crowe I will be seeing this, I love the myth of robin hood and must admit I have not really heard much about the crusades before sherwood forrest

    BTW does anyone watch the british bbc robin hood tv series?

    • It’s funny you say that about Russell Crowe becaue if he wasn’t in the film I don’t think it would stand a chance of doing very well at all – he’s the big draw.

      As far as the crusades, they barely touch on it in the film so don’t go in hoping for any sort of in-depth story line about them. They’re just used as a set up for what’s to come.

  2. you couldnt get me to watch this if my life depended on it. i cant stand crowe or his acting, i knew this would be sucky from the minute i heard it was in the making.

  3. Even though I loved Gladiator, Crowe has always come off to me as as a touchy, angry, overconfident and arrogant prick, just don’t like him, though his is a fine actor. I’ll be renting this.

    • your thoughts and mine are one 😉

      • Personally I don’t see how an actor’s personality has any bearing on seeing a film they star in. Marlon Brando was horrible man on the set. Doesn’t stop me watching the Godfather or Apocalypse Now. Klaus Kinski shot a man’s finger off during filming for Aguirre and I still love that film. The actor’s behaviour really shouldn’t be an issue when seeing a film in my opinion.

        • It should because you watching the movie means giving that actor more credibility and money. If you don’t like someone or something, don’t support it if it’s important enough for you. Just personal preference, some people care, some people don’t. I’m half-half. Some people I hate enough to not want to watch their movies, the others I dislike but watch them anyway if they are good at their job.

          I think the only people I hate enough to boycott are Tim Robins, Sean Penn, George Clooney, and there might be one or two more…

          • Actually. No. It shouldn’t. These people aren’t our preachers, parents, teachers, family, etc. so they are NOT people that we look to as a moral compass. We should all learn to separate the person from the ENTERTAINER. If MORE of us lived by this simple idea than life would be so much more fun. lol.

            • Actually. You should live how you like to, and let others live how they like to. If you have a problem with me or anyone else not wanting to watch certain actors, then too bad, go cry to your mother. lol.

  4. This movie just looks bad.

  5. This is what I expected for the movie once I started seeing trailers and stuff, a movie that I’d be sitting through thinking “when will this end?” like I did for Transformers 2. Haven’t had any desire to see this movie and seeing that a 3/5 rating from Vic is “generous” I’ll be sure to go ahead and skip it.

    Thanks for the review

  6. I thought it was awesome, I saw it last week and although Rob is right there was a point where it kind of dragged I liked that it followed a more realistic and historical time line. I am personally glad that they didn’t romanticize King Richard it was a good touch because you focus more on Robin’s story. The chemistry between him and Blanchet was amazing too.

    • Rob? You mean Vic, right?

  7. The big turnoff for me is Cate Blanchette’s character oddly enough.
    I mean, they’re going for historical accuracy right? But unfortunately “self-sufficient and strong-willed” women didn’t exist back then.
    They were taught from practically birth that they needed a man, either husband or father, to provide for them. The mere idea of a woman providing for herself or sustaining herself was considered blasphemy. As for will, this was back when beating your wife/child was not only accepted but encouraged, and women basically had their spirits broken as soon as possible.
    So for a women in that day and age to exhibit the kind of behavior I’ve seen in trailers was pretty much impossible.
    Maybe, once in a blue moon you would get a woman who could maintain some force of will or even independence. But ask Joan of Arc how well that worked out for her.

    I get that people nowadays expect strong female roles in film. But wouldn’t painting a more accurate picture of women in that society, to show the progress that has been made and to ensure progress keeps being made, be more productive than pretending all that beating and stuff never happened?

    Food for thought

    • On the most part, I agree but sometimes it does happen. Case in point, Deborah, judge of Israel. I haven’t seen this movie yet, so don’t know how Blanchette fares.

      • There are a few differeces, though. In ancient Israel women weren’t treated that well, but they were given slightly more respect than in europe.
        Take marriage, for example. In ancient Europe, marriage was basically the man owning the woman like a piece of property. Marriage in Israel was still arranged and the woman was subservient to the man, but it was more regarded as a partnership than one person owning another.
        Women were also allowed to hold property in Israel, whereas in Europe they would hold property only in the event of their husband’s death, and were encouraged to remarry as soon as possible.

        You are right, Deborah was a rare exception. But the concept of an empowered woman was slightly less alien in that society than it would have been in Europe.

      • Actually, strong-willed self sufficient women did have their place at this point in history. They could not inherit land but they could manage it and run the finances of the land. It is a 19th century notion of the supressed, frail, subserviant woman that you are thinking of, I’m sure.

    • I’ll comment more once I’ve seen the film this week, but I DID have to point out that Marian’s strength of will, while not extremely common in public back then was, in fact, quite possible and fits very well with the whole Robin Hood legend.

  8. I saw this at a test screening a few weeks ago, its awful, never before have I yearned to see Kevin Costner on screen!

    Prequel or not, this is no Robin Hood. It’s poor mans Gladiator and not a Bryan Adams power ballad in sight.


    • Wait…. I know a Caleb that talks just like that… But he doesn’t know this site…. O_O TIME WARP!

  10. I want to see this simply because I grew up on “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” That makes me programmed to want to watch cheesy adaptations of legendary heroes. Note I said cheesy, not bad.

    DrSamBeckett you sadden me with your knowledge of no Bryan Adams power ballads. Is Robin Hood really Robin Hood without the slightly gravelly tones and ridiculouly long guitar solos of an Adams’ power ballad?

  11. Thanks Vic for the review. Looks like the other reviewers agree with you.

  12. I enjoyed the film. It was an interesting look at a character/legend that’s been done to death. I should note that I also like Fuqua’s King Arthur as well. None of this is history – it’s Hollywood. So having a strong female lead or playing loose with the history is ok with me. It’s not as though the a lot of the summer movie going audience are historical experts.

    I find it weird that people are pulling out arguments like “Crowe looks too old, men didn’t live that long back then,” or “Marion is too strong willed for a woman back then,” THIS IS A HOLLYWOOD EPIC. Robin Hood is Tall Tale – go wikipedia what that means/entails.

    BTW, since when did Robin Hood become the ultimate sacred cow? Reviewers keep talking like Robin Hood is the most thrilling and beloved legend ever told and that no one should EVER do ANYTHING except retell the same legend we’ve seen again and again. Since when did that become the rule? Last I checked, people haven’t exactly been clamoring for a Robin Hood movie since POT came out. Now all of a sudden Robin Hood is this cherished cinematic icon? Yeah, not buying that argument.

    The Gladiator argument… should be left, IMHO. This isn’t a Ridley Scott judging contest, this film should be liked or lumped strictly on its own merits.

    Vic I found your review fair, although I know we disagree. Nice work.

    • Thanks, Kofi, that means a lot. Appreciate it. :)

    • WELL PUT. And I agree about Fuqua’s King Arthur–a fresh look at another old legend.
      I for one, though, will compare it to other Scott films, in that everytime I see one of his battle sequences I get goosebumps. Not sure why, just me. I did find the interspersed text/montage passages of time to be a bit cliche for someone like Ridley Scott.

      I can understand the lack of story argument (i too did ask myself once or twice during the film, why should I care about who these characters are and “where” they are going in the story, despite how entertaining and engaging they are…) In the end, the acting, chemistry and action were enough to make up for the lack of plot.
      Would have liked to see more of the “merry Band” as well, seems like they had a pretty good chemistry that was untapped. In fact, if they had not named this “Robin Hood” it might have been a better movie, in that people would not go in with false expectations. (isn’t it true that the script/story was in constant flux throughout production?)

  13. I would never boycott an actor based on their lives. Crow can punch any one he wants and throw all the fits in the world he is a damn fine actor and that’s all that matters. Sean Penn and Tim Robbins are idiotic self important douche bags who are good actors especially Tim Robbins. Mystic River and Shawshank Redemtion are to good for me to boycott.

    That said I’ve hated this movie since they changed what it was suppose to be I was intrigued by the idea of Ribin Hood not being a hero because that’s how I view him as a villian of sorts. I thought it would be interesting on screen so I laugh when people bring up the originality argument in a favor of this movie because it’s been anti originality since they changed it.

    • Shawshank Redemption was good, but I couldn’t stand Mystic River. Way too many “stare intensely as we play dramatic music in the background” moments, arg… And the whole “twist” at the end was so contrived in my opinion. One of my pet-peeves of movies is when their intention to make you feel a certain way is evident. Like when movies seem like they are trying to jerk tears or when they are trying for a dramatic moment, etc… That’s just me.

  14. I don’t think I’ll be seeing this. Sorry to go a little off topic, but this review used the phrase “canon” and I’ve always wondered what that means but haven’t been able to get a solid answer. Can someone help me out? What does “canon” mean in the context of movies and TV?

  15. It’s basically the same as the term continuity (sp?). Basically it means established plots ideas and theames. Like if ur watching a tv show and a character picks up a gun to use that he sold in the episode before it that’s not following following properly. Or a character is always angry and mean and suddenly he is a saint that’s not following canon. A great exaple is watching star trek one series always destroys canon established by another. It’s like if Robin hood suddenly was an undertaker instead oc an archer.

  16. I honestly loved Mystic River I really connected with it but I can understand ur point and see how u wouldn’t like it. Still this Is about Robin Hood. Havnt seen it had they went with the original idea would of been there opening day but they changed it and I list interest. Still I love Crowe so I’ll give it a dollar theater shot in three months.

    • This will be a rental for me.

    • Likewise – since they ditched the role reversal idea I’ve not had any great inclination to see this.

  17. When I look at Crowe I see a guy that if not for a career in films would be working on an oil rig in the Indian Ocean, getting into fights and trying to stay one step ahead of alimony lawyers.
    I never liked Robin Hood either. 😉
    Read a story today that Crowe walked out on a BBC show when the host asked if he was going for an Irish accent.

      • There’s a clip of Billy Connolly talking to chat show legend Parky if you hit the “Michael Parkinson” link at the bottom of the piece. Russell Crowe apparently based his accent on this guy, which I find…strangely believable. I can imagine him giving a dialect coach hell and watching TV instead.

  18. Kevin Costners Robin Hood was a great fun family movie…even tho Costner was sooo wrong in that role…it worked ! Like other folk here I am put off by Crow in all of his stuff…Gladiator was a class movie….he was good in that…but the movie would have been great without him…as for this version…it looks like they’re still trying to make an English version on BraveHeart…..Crow is no Gibson folks…and never will be !
    ’tis true…he is a twit !

  19. I loved this movie, I thought this was a fantastic movie from start to finish. It told a great story, kind of like a prequel to the “Sherwood Forest” Robin Hood we all know about. I’d love to see a sequel with this same cast that delves into that part of the story as well. Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe together are one phenomenal team. You can all say what you want, but this movie was fantastic, MUCH MUCH better than any version of Robin Hood I’ve ever seen.

  20. I want to see this film but the trailers show more epic battles and not the classic Robin Hood we all love.

    Great review Vic, and i totally agree with you about Mark Strong. Do you think there will be a sequel?

  21. Thanks for the heads up, Vic. I always agree with your critiques (save for one: Punisher.War Zone) so I wont hold my breath for this one. That said, I have always expressed my reservations for this movie since we learnt of the storyline here. Robin was a childhood hero of mine and I am yet to see a more exciting adaptation than the 80s English tv series: Robin of Sherwood. I suggest you check it out if you want to see the real thing. Dark but adequate humour.
    You have to be a real good writer to sharply derail from a legend and still get it right..ا

  22. Oh, and by the way, Robin Hood without his classic death looks incomplete. That was what was missing in Costner. The tale is not exactly

  23. What’s with Hollywood and prequels and reboots these days. New subject for discussion, Vic? Is it hurting the industry or what since Star Wars?

  24. I saw the movie yesterday and sorry to say it was a let-down. It’s not Ridley Scott at his best. I had the unfortunate feeling of having seen this all before. Burning the town folk in the main hall (Patriot anyone?), the landing of the French troops on the English beaches (Private Ryan in medieval drab) and then the ludicrous landing barges. (again ww2 with oars) Come on, Ridley you can do better then that.

    My highlight of the movie was when King Richard got shot by a French cook, Sacreblue!

    • Come on, Ridley you can do better then that.

      No, no he really can’t.

  25. I keep reading on the web about how Robin Hood didn’t live up to expectations, but everyone I talk to has nothing but great things to say about the movie. What’s the real story? I think I’ll just check it out this week and make my own assessment.

  26. Given the current prevailing political clime in Hollywood, I can’t say I’m shocked that even with first rate action, performances, and production values, this movie turned out to be a dud.

    With it’s central themes of social justice and wealth re-distribution, the legend of Robin Hood is a perfect vehicle for advocacy of the Leftist viewpoint, except for one thing; The Crusades.

    There is no room in a legend for moral ambiguity, and you cant tell the story of Robin Hood’s origin without mentioning the Crusades. To say that after four centuries of unprovoked aggression and the conquest of 2/3 of Judeo-Chistian lands at the point of the sword, the Saracen just MIGHT have had it coming, is anathema to the culturally sensitive world view that mainstream cinema seeks to promote.

    Instead we get the “Motorcycle Diaries” treatment, where the savage, fratricidal, depredations of the Europeans become the hero’s motivating factor. Gone is the just and noble king, called away on a vital mission, who is forced to leave his kingdom in the charge of lesser men. Without that essential premise, it just isn’t Robin Hood.

    If I want to visit Sherwood Forest, I’ll let the swishbuckling. technicolor man in tights be my guide, or even Disney’s cartoon fox. I’ll definitely look up that Brit TV series too, a shame it was never aired in the US.

    Shout out to Kahless and Big D, check back on the ST11 monster thread, I posted another installment last week.

    • “Gone is the just and noble king, called away on a vital mission, who is forced to leave his kingdom in the charge of lesser men. Without that essential premise, it just isn’t Robin Hood.”

      Well said, bud. That was part of my problem with the film.


    • But here’s the thing, Bright Eyes: Richard I was NOT a “just and noble king, called away on a vital mission.” He was a glory-hound from the beginning, which is why he took off on the Third Crusade in the first place, and he did indeed bankrupt his country in the process. Moreover, he was always far more concerned about his French holdings than his English ones, in which he spent maybe six months of his entire reign. He may look like a decent king compared to his brother John, who was even worse, but he wasn’t a fraction of the leader his father Henry II was. All told, this movie’s portrayal of him seems fairly accurate.

      As for “the Saracen,” you seem to have a chip on your shoulder about Islam. Suffice to say that no amount of historical revisionism or “they’re bad too!” finger-pointing can actually justify the way Christian Europe conducted itself during that period.

      Part of what’s interesting about this picture, to me, is that it tries pretty hard to put the politics in a genuine historical context… and indeed, to that extent, it actually eschews most of the traditional “wealth redistribution” theme. (Something about which some other critics have complained.) Scott and Crowe were clearly trying to get away from the romanticized version of the legend familiar to audiences, and tell more of an historical epic.

      I think they succeeded. If you want romance, go watch the Errol Flynn version from 1938 (it’s a great picture in its own right). But this wasn’t trying to be a remake of that, and there’s no reason it should have been.

  27. HAving just arrived home after seeing this, I see that the level of your knowledge of filmmaking rivals Jimmy Carter’s presidential competence. I would gladly pay to see it again, and I fully expect to buy the DVD.

  28. So are we saying that Robin Hood starring Kevin Costner was better?

    • For me it was. It all depends on what you are looking for. I was looking for historical accuracy, I was looking for entertainment. This movie wasn’t bad but it was far from great for me.

      • DRAT! I meant “wasn’t looking for historical accuracy”. Vic, you gotta get that edit button back, man. :-)

  29. I liked the movie.