PLOT: Robin Longstride (Crowe) is an archer in Richard the Lionheart's English army around 1200 A.D. He's mistaken for a man from Nottingham and learns his true destiny. Meanwhile the English are under threat from a French invasion.
WHO'S IT FOR? If you've longed for more history surrounding England around the time of Robin Hood and King John, then this is for you. If you're desperate to see a ton of bows and arrows, you'll need to look somewhere else.
EXPECTATIONS: I didn't feel the need for another version of "Robin Hood," but I had every reason to think the combination of Crowe and director Ridley Scott would be a good time. Sure they made A Good Year together, which was a bad time, but otherwise they've been a solid duo.
Russell Crowe as Robin Longstride: The mistaken, and then purposely faked identity of Robin as Sir Robert Loxley is an interesting twist. Crowe's a big man, and no one of his size and stature has really played this character before. For me, it never totally worked. Especially because Robin just happens to stumble upon the crown. Also, for a known archer, they really only show off Robin's skills twice, and one of those times it's a miss. Score: 5
Cate Blanchett as Marion Loxley: I'm a strong-minded independent woman. I'm a strong-minded independent woman. I'M A STRONG-MINDED ... OK, Marion. We get it. Score: 5
Max von Sydow as Sir Walter Loxley: Walter is the blind, stubborn old man who gives Robin some insight into his past. The flashback scene is told in an almost mystical way and really detracts from the film. That's not Sydow's fault. This character is at his best when he's putting his foot down and cracking some jokes. Score: 6
Rest of Cast: The main villain here is Godfrey (Mark Strong). He likes to play both sides if you know what I mean. England and France, that's what I meant. The best thing he has going for him is his scar. The movie typically breathes the most life when the merry men are involved, including Little John (Kevin Durand from "Lost"). Scott Grimes as Will Scarlet is the funniest here (just like he was in Critters). Friar Tuck (Mark Addy) likes bees and drinking, but I could never understand if he was using the cloth or respecting it. It actually took me a second to recognize William Hurt who plays William Marshal, adviser to the King. Oh, and then there's King John (Oscar Isaac). He whines a lot. The Sheriff of Nottingham is not worth mentioning because he's barely in the film. Score: 4
TALKING: There are some fun moments with Robin gaining favor with the Loxley family. Plus, they drop in one clever line about "the more the merrier," as a nod to the merry men. Otherwise, the dialogue really drags here, and you're just waiting for some action. The real Sir Robert Loxley should have clearly said, "I'm not dead yet," as an ode to Monty Python. It took him way too long to die. Score: 5
SIGHTS: We only enter "arrow vision" twice. The look of the film seems very accurate, and the sets are great looking. But then again, you pay for what you get. One of the more interesting moments for me was just seeing the army eat, drink and relax while there were still archers making sure the battle was going on. The final battle is very odd with a French version of the beginning of Saving Private Ryan ... it didn't work. Score: 6
SOUNDS: The score seems slightly out of place, almost like it was just left over from the Gladiator film. There's plenty of times when Allan A'Dayle (Alan Doyle) is plucking along and singing a song and that works just fine. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: Robin steals from the rich and gives to the poor. You probably already knew that though, right? Well, when he goes after some grains, the movie works just fine and you expect it to be just the beginning. Unfortunately, it's the only time.
ENDING: The ending is what most people would expect to happen at the 20-minute mark.
QUESTIONS: Wow, Robin and Robert really sound the same with these accents, don't they? Also, could you at least give me a map if you're going to show me towns and villages over and over again? I have no clue how many different places are actually showcased in this film.
REWATCHABILITY: It's 2 hrs and 20 mins. The answer is no. The best case scenario for this film and me would be for it to show up on TNT and I accidentally watch the middle half hour again.
Why make another version of "Robin Hood"? That's the question that needs to be answered. My response before the movie would have been, why not? Especially when you have Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott together. Now, after I've seen the film it becomes clear. Scott wanted an epic. And no, apparently I'm not talking about just one movie. But wanting an epic, even if you're as good as Scott, isn't enough. This film is teasing us with the Robin Hood character and I feel a little toyed with. This is actually a soap-opera drama about crown politics. Films like Elizabeth, and even the sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age capture the drama of the crown better than this film. Because Scott wants an epic, he extends a story that most audiences will either be confused by or simply lose interest in. The first hour is a time suck. When we finally get to Nottingham, there are glimpses of good, though the "Lord of the Flies" boys living in the forest really didn't work.
Films like Braveheart and Gladiator gave us immediate reasons to care about the man we were supposed to root for. This film just assumes you really like Robin. We don't even really know who he is or what he stands for until an really bad flashback scene, and then he's a leader. Plain and simple. This movie doesn't attempt to reinvent the character of Robin Hood as much as it attempts to simply make him part of a bigger story. They just failed to make that bigger story interesting to watch. Sure, Kevin Costner's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves has its flaws (like accents, or lackthereof) and it's quickly become dated, but at least it's a jolly good time in the forest.
It's a hard notion to try and get the audience to believe the story of Robin Hood isn't a fairytale. Scott tries to beat you over the head with the true story of Robin Hood. This version is a little boring, and then, by the time they try the movie magic ending, it's too late for us to believe.
The correct title for this film is Robin Hood: The Beginning. I just don't know if I want or need to see the end.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10