Sunday, October 16, 2011

Robin Hood (2010)

IMDB says... In 13th century England, Robin and his band of marauders confront corruption in a local village and lead an uprising against the crown that will forever alter the balance of world power.

The 73rd Virgin says... Really? World power? I could care less about the legend or stories of Robin Hood. I don’t care whether he’s Robert Loxley or Robin Longstride or Robin Jones.  I don’t care that Queen Isabella of the 1320s should suddenly find herself catting around with wicked King John in 1199. I don’t care that the Magna Carta appears to have been written by a stone mason and signed by a bunch of barons about 60 years before it was presented to the King, (at which point I turned to my wife and said, “well, what the hell, why not?”).  I only care a little that Maid Marian should slip her 120 pound frame into about 40 pounds worth of chain mail and swing a ten pound sword at fully armored Frenchmen and change the course of battle. But did it all have to be such a slog?

Ridley Scott appears to have learned nothing from the spotty pacing and loss of momentum which made “Gladiator” something of a disappointment after the first hour. Once again we have beautifully mounted battle scenes at the outset, and Russell Crowe’s manly but inward looking presence.  At 45 minutes I’m thinkin’, “not bad, not bad at all.” Then he travels to Nottingham to return a sword to Walter Loxley (long story) and finds himself acting as a stand-in son to Walter and stand-in husband to Marian. Dramatic gears grind and pop and finally strip altogether as the story comes to a halt.

When the movie tries to torque up again, all that’s left in the tank are:
Guys on horses ride one direction, yell at each other in French and English, fight and do awful things in the name of King John, and then ride another direction. Some other guys on horses ride back and forth telling each other what has just been done in the name of King John. Every now and then there’s a party where the merry men sing songs and act like rock stars, sometimes lords and barons stand around and yell about how the King needs the people as much as the people need the King – and then more riding.

Crowe is listed as a producer (Cate Blanchett has no such excuse) which may explain why he allowed himself to be filmed trying to keep these lines interesting.

How a bill becomes a law in 1199.

The final battle scenes beneath the white cliffs of Dover have all the requisite visual quotes from “Gallipoli”, “Lord of The Rings”, “300”, and even, rather suddenly, drop in some of the hyper jerky high def film tricks of “Saving Private Ryan”, before switching back to regular film. It's like they had to try to reference everything once. Oh, and the music sounds a lot like “Last of the Mohicans”.

It’s nice to see Max Von Sydow, as Walter Loxley, still going at 82. I would have guessed he was 110. He doesn’t bother with changing his all-purpose Swedish accent, which is just as well after watching William Hurt mangle an English accent. Matthew Macfadyen is a bit wasted here as the Sheriff of Nottingham. The great Mark Strong, bad guy of the most recent “Sherlock Holmes” and “The Way Back”, is even badder here as the double-crossing Godfrey with his fashionably shaved head and an all-black outfit reminiscent of Darth Vader (and why is he the only guy not wearing his hard hat?).  At the end he rides off alone cackling madly with an arrow through his neck, the Sheriff of Nottingham has been humiliated, and Robin, at 2:24:00 is now finally an outlaw, thus setting up the sequel which - prithee to a just and merciful God - will never appear.

Scott has succeeded in remaking the legend to be more clichéd than the legend itself.

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