This film is quite simply the longest intro in cinematic history - one long drawn-out prologue to set up how Robin Hood came to be. The plot drags on like a slow moving history lesson instead of an exciting, action-filled adventure. The mediocre opening battle sequence sets the tone for the remainder of this uninspired movie.
Beginning with an outlaw tale printed in Old English calligraphy, we are drawn into instant battle and heroism by Robin Longstride (a grimacing Russell Crowe). As an archer fighting for King Richard the Lionheart (a gratuitous Danny Huston), Longstride is accused of disloyalty, but escapes after Richard is killed. Upon retrieving the dead king's crown from bandits, Robin sets out for London, where Richard's weaker brother John (Oscar Isaac) will now reign. King John's evil henchman Godfrey (Mark Strong) is in cahoots with the opposing French enemy. After assuming the identity of a fallen soldier, Robin goes to Nottingham and meets the soldier's widow, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett) and her father Sir Walter (Max von Sydow) who asks Robin to pretend to be his son. The bloated plot just gets in the way of itself. Basically Robin goes from archer to nobleman and finally to enemy of King John and the movie ends where the folk-hero adventures we've come to love are set to begin.
The actors must have had fun dressing up in robes and leather, riding horses, hollering once in while as they carried swords, daggers and shot arrows, but their performances are consistently bland. Crowe brings no life to his character and is way too solemn for a merry man. Blanchet is a saucy wench indeed, but wears too much make up for a farm-woman. Sydow bubbles with delight, but you just know he's gonna croak before the credits. Isaac plays the same fey conqueror as Joaquin Phoenix did in Gladiator with unforgivable bouts of over acting. And once again, Strong is plucked from the villain stable to sneer and growl like a good scoundrel.
The script is Robin Hood's weakest link. Instead of robbing from the rich to give to the poor, this Robin Hood just babbles Old English dialogue with contemporary slang and preaches about liberty and the rights of the individual. I am pretty sure they didn't use the phrase "this is a whole different animal" back in those days.
Inevitable comparisons will be made to Gladiator, the other Scott/Crowe collaboration, but Robin Hood is so much more watered down and monotonous that the two productions are ultimately light years apart. Director Scott has a visionary film style, which he implemented in movies like Alien, Blade Runner, and Thelma and Louise, but what looks good cinematically makes it all the more obvious and disturbing when it isn't working. Robin Hood has arrows and slashing swordplay, but no surprises and no trickery or deceit unless you thought you were going to see a good movie. Ah me, poor unfortunates, ye have been duped!
Starring Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchet, Max von Sydow, Marc Strong
Directed by Ridley Scott