He is a man whose mug and marrow have been toyed with and re-imagined by Hollywood a zillion times over on screen: a green spandex-wearing Errol Flynn, Disney’s animated swashbuckling fox, and a “Prince of Thieves,” played by that guy from “Waterworld,” to name a few. He also is arguably the most famous English folklore figure in history yet there has not been a memorable or worthwhile film ever made about him. However, leave it to Sir Ridley Scott to accomplish this feat through the three ways he knows best: reliance on history, brutal violence, and Russell Crowe.
Unlike many of the other films based on the skilled archer, “Robin Hood” tells the back story of how the brave and honest soldier became an outlaw against the British monarchy. But what about the stealing from the rich, giving to the poor spiel? In summary, it’s to make Hood seem less like an infant with a feather in his cap and more like a war hero fresh off the battlefields of the crusades. Dressed in chainmail and accompanied by a more badass version of his “merry men,” Hood finds himself on a quest to return the crown of the late King Richard to London and on to Nottingham to deliver a fallen knights’ sword to his father.
From then on, Hood becomes involved in a bit of English history as he discovers the plans of nobleman Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong) to initiate a civil war amongst the British people against the newly crowned King John. It then becomes Hood’s mission to help unite the English people and try to preserve their natural rights as freemen.
It takes a bit of caffeine to get through the middle of the film, thanks to the slowly paced dialogue and scenic helicopter fly-overs. After the fourth wide-screen shot of green covered foothills or an indistinguishable forest, you’ll come to realize how truly mundane English geography is.
But never fear, there is a worthy amount of impaling, flirting with Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett) and moments of mirth provided by Friar Tuck (Mark Addy) and Little John (Kevin Durand). Even the somewhat overweight Russell Crowe gives a sincere and earnest performance as the suave Saxon with his gladiator-like haircut and heroic attributes. His paunchy stomach also might explain why he isn’t jumping through the trees in a bright green leotard.
Sure, Robin Hood should have been in better shape, but the film oddly works. Apart from some of the actors like Danny Huston and William Hurt not even attempting to speak in a British accent, “Robin Hood” beats out any other film made about the mythical hero. It’s no “Gladiator,” “Alien,” or “Blade Runner,” but it’s good enough to let Ridley Scott sleep at night.