Film review: Robin Hood (2010), directed by Ridley Scott
What do you get when Ridley Scott decides to tell the legend of Robin Hood? A very long film that could just as easily have had characters called Peter and Evelyn or something instead of Robin and Marian. I mean, if they’ve buggered up the myth this far, why not just rename the characters and thus make for a much better film?
Because yes, that bothered both me and the Squeeze. I pretty much loathe BBC’s Merlin for how they’ve adapted the King Arthur myth. Had they only renamed the characters to something more inconspicuous, it would have been just an okay fantasy show instead of one that after the first episode had be proclaim it was an insult to the myth, and the only true Merlin was the one played by Sam Neill in 1998. See, I don’t have quite the same attachment to the Robin Hood legend, funnily enough, so I’m not too bothered about how much the BBC messed it up with their latest adaptation. However, I do get a bit aggressive when it comes to historical accuracy.
Which this film sadly lacks.
We start in France, where King Richard is plundering his way back from the Holy Land. Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) and his merry men are there too, of course, along with a certain Robert Loxley. The king gets killed in battle, trying to take a castle. No mention of his being held for ransom in Austria, and he’s very good at speaking English too, for a man who could only speak French.
Locksley is going to England to deliver the crown and the message that the king is dead. He gets ambushed by Godfrey (Mark Strong) – the Gisborne character, sort of – and his men, and dies, but not before being found by Robin and asking him to take his sword back to his father for reasons of [enter father/son sob story here]. Robin agrees, and assumes the name of Robert Loxley, delivers the crown and witnesses Prince John be crowned King John. And then heads off to Nottingham.
In Nottingham, he meets Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett), who was the wife of the late Robert. Robert’s father is the blind Sir Walter (Max von Sydow, biggin’ it up for the Swedes, y’all!) who suggests that actually, why not have Robin pretend to be Robert? So he does.
Meanwhile, the dastardly Godfrey, who had such a nice head of hair back when he was Mr. Knightley to Kate Beckinsale’s Emma but now seems to be very fond of the skinhead badass look, is trying to take over the place by using French soldiers, and prepare for the French king to invade. Because that obviously happened in real life … and then Prince King John’s moral compass is confusing.
The Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen) is not the Big Baddie at all. He hardly has any screen time, and when he does, is he doing any big badass stuff? A clue: no. Disappointing, it really is. He just has a beard and looks a bit cross. At least Godfrey gets enough time to establish himself as an unredeemable swine. He’s not a Lost Soul or anything, he’s just downright nasty.
While it’s not a bad film, it’s pretty good – lots of battles and swords and arrows and trying to burn people alive and that sort of thing, if you’re into those kind of films – but it’s over two hours long (156 minutes for the director’s cut, 140 if not) and … well, it’s just a bit long. No matter how nice the costumes are or however you feel about Marion donning chainmail and fighting the French on a beach and Friar Tuck keeping bees in order to make mead … it’s just a bit long. Cut for pace, you know?
Well acted, nice scenery and set design and battles that were a lot better choreographed than the clunky stuff they did in the BBC series. Not bad. Not brilliant, though. Good enough to feel you’ve not wasted a good part of the evening in front of the telly. It ends with what seems to be “and here’s where the legend begins”, as if to say it was some sort of prequel. Say what? That doesn’t make much sense. But oh well, there is one thing to be happy about: at least this Robin Hood has an English accent. Not exactly sure where the hell his accent is supposed to be from in England, but at least it’s not from somewhere in America.