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.
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.
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.