Pros: Historical detail, Blanchett, Crowe. Scenery.
Cons: No swashbuckling at all, seems politicized. First of a trilogy?
Robin Hood (2010) Directed by Ridley Scott
"Rise and rise again, until Lambs become Lions."
Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is a common archer serving the army of Richard the Lionheart. He is a pragmatic and honest man, and his honesty both gratifies, and annoys the king. When Richard is killed trying to take a French castle, Robert and his cohorts take to their heels, trying to get to the English Channel before the news, and thus avoid a ferry fee that will cost them all their wages earned to date.
Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge) is tasked with carrying the sad news, and the crown, back to England. But Phillip of France had already set an ambush to take the English King, and it snared instead this sad detail. Enter fate; who should be leading the ambush but Phillip's English traitor, Godfrey (Mark Strong) and who should foil his efforts but Robin and his angry archers? Godfrey is marked by Robin's arrow, and makes his escape. Now the two men's fates are entwined. Robert thanks him, and gives him his family's sword, charging him to return it to his father, Walter Loxley (Max Von Sydow) in Nottingham. Robin reluctantly agrees.
But Robin is as sharp as his arrows, and in that crown and sword he sees the way home again. He and his men appropriate the arms and armour of the knights, and make their way to the ship to England, and are transported with all haste to London, where word of Richard's death places his brother Prince John (Oscar Isaac) upon the throne. John has sat the throne for years as regent, held in check by the will of his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine (Eileen Atkins), and the wisdom of Richard's Marshal, William (William Hurt). It has not been easy; John is petulant, concerned with his own pleasures, and has bled the countryside dry in taxes to support his brother's war, and to raise his ransom. Now, he intends to continue as before, but for his own aggrandizement.
Robin and his men, Little John (Kevin Durand), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes), and Allan A'Dayle (Alan Doyle), make their way to Nottinghamshire where they find Sir Walter a blind man in his eighties and the running of the shire in the hands of his daughter in law, Marion (Cate Blanchett). Sir Walter may be blind, but he sees things as they are, and he has a proposal: Robin will continue his charade as Robert Loxley. If his son is dead, the land will revert to the crown upon his death, leaving Marion destitute. And Robin agrees. Thus begins the courtship of Robin and Marion. It is not without bumps, but when Robin and his men, aided by Friar Tuck (Mark Addy) rob the grain supply bound for the Bishop of York to provide Nottingham with seed, and joins the peasants planting it by moonlight, Marion begins to warm to this scoundrel.
Meanwhile Godfrey, King John's new Marshal, rides through the north doing his king's will...collecting taxes. This is the will of King John. But the manner he does it, with French troops, to the last farthing and burning the keeps that can't pay serves Godfrey's real master Phillip. And Phillip is preparing for invasion....
I was rather surprised by this adaptation of the legend. Gone is ever little bit of swash, there is not a speck of buckle to be found. This is about as far from Errol Flynn as you are going to find. I don't mind that, per say, and in fact one of things I like is the period detail, the veritas of the feel of the piece, unromanticized. Everyone looks like they have an aroma; some stronger than others. The war is loud, confusing, dirty, and hardly glorious. So, it is realistic.
What I did not like was the political feel. I know the message of Robin Hood, and it is a story about the little man making a stand against a corrupt government. But this version is going to be very, Very, VERY popular with the Tea Bagger Set. If you like Sarah Palin, you will love this movie.
That said, I found much to love; Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine was a delight, and while he was a bit over the top, Prince John was convincing as the envious offspring finally allowed to play with brother's toys. I was rather divided about how I felt about Robin in the beginning; he sort of exemplifies Crowe's understated method, and at first I thought this would lessen the impact of the character. But as the relationship between him and the lady Marion grew, I saw where Scott was going with this; these are both lower born people thrust into the halls of power. Neither goes mad from it, but instead tries to apply an earthy wisdom to their responsibilities. Robin grew on you.
More immediately likeable were the merry men; Kevin Durand was a great choice for Little John ("I'm proportionate!) huge and buff, but with a boyish quality. And Mark Addy as the worldly monk with a weakness for mead, and a fondness for the bees who make the honey.
But the oddest thing about this movie is the fact if feels like the first part of trilogy. The legend of Robin Hood is all about his time in the Green Wood of Sherwood, thwarting the Sherriff of Nottingham. But Robin was not declared Outlaw until the last ten minutes of the movie. It feels like there will be two more parts; Sherwood, and Nottingham. Maybe there will be. But for it to be a full experience there will need to be.