In one sense, Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood is fresh – a ‘prequel’ to the typical Sherwood Forest story, and Robin as you’ve never seen him before; in another, it’s anything but – a mishmash of things you’ve seen plenty of times before. But being a historical action epic starring Russell Crowe as a common soldier who leads an uprising, goes on to fight side-by-side with kings, before becoming an outlaw – it’s fair to say that Scott has given the Robin Hood legend the Gladiator treatment. This is a distinct departure from the camp, comic and swashbuckling incarnations from the past – from Douglas Fairbanks to Disney, Errol Flynn to Sean Connery, and (who could forget) Kevin Costner’s ‘Prince of Thieves’.
That’s not to say this film is bad – with Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, Scott has proven his passion and proficiency for historical epics with superbly shot battle sequences, and a heady mix of political machinations, romance, sex and blood. Robin Hood follows this mould, while never quite filling it (by comparison to Gladiator). While he surrounds the legend with lots of interesting historical detail, and ties it to the origins of England’s Magna Carta (a charter of liberties that marks the birth of modern constitutional law), I found it hard to muster much interest in the actual characters, despite good performances.
Crowe plays Robin ‘Longstride’ as a warrior, with considerably more heft than cheeky wit; Cate Blanchett gives her typically nuanced inflection to Marion (a glint of the eye here, a raised eyebrow there, perhaps a hint of amusement around the corners of her mouth), although the period setting and the steely nerve at the centre of her performance call to mind Elizabeth. There are some fun scenes between the two, and even a couple of genuinely romantic moments – but no real urst.
If it’s an adventure you want, that’s what you’ll get – but not much more!