Where'd those kids come from?
Ridley Scott, the director behind such classics as Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator, turns his hand to the reliable old legend of Robin Hood. There's no denying that Ridley Scott is gifted as a visual director. His sense of atmosphere and shot composition is rarely less than perfect. Having said that, he can be somewhat hit-and-miss with the stories and scripts that he picks to work with.
It's fun to see an updated version of Robin Hood, especially with Scott's talent for exciting action and involving characters and situations. There are a few interesting twists to the legend that give it some new life, as this is very much an 'origin' tale. They seem to be quite popular in Hollywood at the moment, given the success of Batman Begins. Stories outlining the beginnings and origins of various heroes and characters rather than simply jumping into their fully established worlds. In this case, Robin Hood starts during the last leg of King Richard the Lionheart's return journey to Britain, then gradually moves us into the collapsing world of King John (Richard's brother) as he takes power during the period of Robin's return.
Russell Crowe (Gladiator, Master and Commander, American Gangster) plays the eponymous Robin and suits the role, but should have stuck to the nondescript accent he had in Gladiator. He attempts a Yorkshire accent that would be somewhat appropriate to the character, but unfortunately seems to veer between Yorkshire and Irish, with a good dash of others such as Cockney and even Liverpudlian. Cate Blanchett (Lord of the Rings, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Elizabeth: The Golden Age) on the other hand, plays Marion, and takes to the part quite well as a more mature character than we're used to. The one person who does command the screen with his presence, though, is Max Von Sydow (The Seventh Seal, Conan the Barbarian, Dune), who plays Robin's 'father' (You'll understand when you see the film). Even in the smallest roles, he is an imposing presence, and in this case he gets to enjoy a fair amount of screen time.
The cinematography is beautiful as always with Ridley Scott, but the overall product is simply enjoyable. There are moments that are just too similar to Scott's own Gladiator, that when combined with Russell Crowe, take one out of the movie because of familiarity. Then there are the rather strange children seen running around in the forest like some kind of bizarre reference to Lord of the Flies. One can only presume they may become the bulk of Robin's 'band of merry men' one day.
Perhaps it is because Robin Hood has been re-trod so many times that makes it difficult for a new story to breath fresh life into the events. Either way, I hate to say it, but Robin Hood is middle-of-the-road Scott. Having said that, middle-of-the-road Scott is still superior to 95% of the competition. I enjoyed it well enough, and if you don't set your expectations too high, I'm sure you will too.
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