Robin Hood: Men in Rewrites
When Ridley Scott's take on the Robin Hood legend was announced
a couple years back, film buffs quivered with excitement.
After all, it was a fresh interpretation called Nottingham, written by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris (Kung Fu Panda) in 2006, depicting the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham in a different, more sympathetic light - that of an investigator sniffing out a known outlaw.
Frequent collaborators Scott (Alien) and Russell Crowe (Gladiator) were set to direct and star, respectively, until a plague of rewrites, reportedly at Scott's behest, resulted in the dull and surprisingly convoluted Robin Hood.
Instead of clever, thought-provoking filmmaking, we're left with a medieval warfare movie that has little to do with Robin Hood, but bills itself as "the untold story behind the legend."
Let's not even get into the contradictory nature of untold stories behind legends. But, suffice to say, historians have proven that even they don't know for certain the true story of Robin Hood, much less his identity.
As far as screenwriting goes, this leaves a pretty clean slate for some compelling storytelling.
Robin Hood's final rewrite, curiously by the talented Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential), focuses on the character's back story (an even cleaner slate), leading up to the legend we all know and love.
So, it's baffling why Scott and Helgeland would release such an unimaginative, joyless "epic."
Crowe stars as Robin Longstride, expert archer for King Richard the Lion Heart (Danny Huston, Children of Men) on the return journey of his Third Crusade. When Richard and nobleman Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge, Mansfield Park) are killed in battle, Robin, eager to wash himself clean of war, poses as Loxley for safe passage back to England.
There, he'll deliver Richard's crown to Prince John (Oscar Isaac, Body of Lies) and Sir Robert's sword to his father, Sir Walter Loxley (Max Von Sydow, Shutter Island), before fading into obscurity.
But the newly crowned King John, inflated with ego and power, as the royal coffers are deflated from financing Richard's crusade, ups the taxes and sends the cruel Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong, Sherlock Holmes) to collect and kill all those who would oppose.
Little does he know that Godfrey is in cahoots with France, biding time until English favor is turned against King John, resulting in a political climate rife for invasion. Feeling that Robin knows more than he should, Godfrey sets to kill him for good measure.
But Robin is laying low in Nottingham, spending time with Sir Robert's widow, Marion (Cate Blanchett, The Lord of the Rings), and father. In addition to King John's obscene taxation, Nottingham has been enduring famine and other hardships, which Robin and several of his best friends and fellow crusaders - Little John, Will Scarlet and Alan A'Dayle - seek to amend.
But as Godfrey's treachery reaches Nottingham, Robin realizes that the people of England must make a stand for freedom, and the battle begins.
Truth be told, one of the few refreshing components in Robin Hood are the battle sequences - not that they're anything new, but rather because Scott employed actual actors and stuntmen, rather than outsourcing the action to computer-generated imagery.
Robin Hood was also well shot on some stunningly lush English countryside, but these organic aspects don't compensate for its utter lack of character. And though it features an all-star cast of more than capable actors, their talents are wasted on a dull and formulaic screenplay.
Rather than develop character, the filmmakers assume we're already well acquainted with our hero, instead of building him anew like the "untold story behind the legend" would suggest.
And since this is Robin's back story, we don't see him as Robin Hood until the film's conclusion, which, unfortunately, is when things actually start to pick up. There's more fun and liveliness in the film's last five minutes than its 140-minute duration, leaving viewers hungry for an actual Robin Hood adventure.
Instead, we're given some stylish closing titles and a riveting musical score. But it beats that Bryan Adams song.
Robin Hood, rated PG-13 for violence, including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.