Friday, May 14, 2010



The Wolfman comes to mind when settling down to write this review. After evaluating my feelings of the prequel tale of Robin Hood, before his legendary days as the Prince of Thieves, I realized I left the theater less happy than walking in. I rated The Wolfman higher than this movie almost strictly on the basis that I was  more disappointed from Robin Hood, expecting greatness but only receiving mediocrity.

The movie is the precursor to Robin Longstrides's classical tale of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor while on the run from the law. This film highlights the story before he became an outlaw. Robin Hood boasts a dynamite cast of Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, William Hurt, Max von Sydow, the up and coming Oscar Issac, and the always beautiful Cate Blanchett,

Speaking of gifted actors, I have to give credit to the cast for playing their parts to perfection (despite some porous writing). Oscar Issac is deplorable most of the time and gives the audience a character to despise playing the pompous King John of England. Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, and Cate Blanchett all flourish in front of the camera as they always do.

The environment for this relic tale is very well established by Ridley Scott and Co. The dark hues, the gritty look and feel, the elaborate costumes and set design, and the skillful cinematography create a world that a viewer can lose themselves in. Even with this well established environment, the Robin Hood narrative never pulled me in close like the story of Maximus in Gladiator.

I am not usually an advocate for comparing projects against one other like Robin Hood vs. Gladiator, but it is almost forced when a film has the same director, the same male lead who is a master of gun powder-less weapons, the same rebellion against the state type tale, and a similar rustic time period as the backdrop (though the Roman Empire was the 3rd Century and Medieval Times were the 15th).

Comparing these two movies on paper almost seems to favor Robin Hood with the talent of Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Man on Fire, A Knight's Tale) penning the screenplay. Despite Helgeland's reputation, I can honestly say that his work was sub par in Robin Hood causing the grade this movie received; it would have been lower if the rest of the production wasn't so well rounded. Keep that in mind. I appreciated a lot of the other positive elements in this film despite the poorly constructed story.

The dialogue and most of the characters worked, but pieces of the story and the way it was told were poorly crafted. Early in the narrative, elements of drama and strong implications for the characters and the overriding story are thrust to our attention before we get  a grip on this story's main players. If I don't know who or what is at stake, then why do I care? It was a good half hour into the movie before I felt the drama between characters. The best way to describe the unfolding of this story is, at times out of place (the opening scene especially).

One adjective I would not use to describe past Ridley Scott films would be cliché, and Robin Hood seemed to be filled with tacky overused Hollywood blockbuster goo. One particular example is a slow motion shot of Russell Crowe bursting out of water screaming like he is Wolverine in X-Men: Origins.

Overall, Robin Hood has the look and feel of an epic period piece like Gladiator, but upon further inspection you may realize it is hollow similar to Paris Hilton's head. Robin Hood is almost like those televisions in furniture show rooms; they fill the space, but don't really work.

The project appears rooted in creativity and originality; but the screenplay does not seem to mirror this at times falling into predictable  and cliché storytelling. Instead of immersion in the beautifully constructed landscape, I was constantly reminded I was watching a movie that seemed to strive to be a typical blockbuster.

This is not Ridley Scott, Brian Helgeland, or Russell Crowe's best work; but it is worth a view. When premiere Hollywood icons like those three collaborate on a movie, greatness is expected. Unfortunately, this film is nothing but passable. If you are a fan of any of those three, like solid adventurous action, or have already seen Iron Man 2, go see it and post your thoughts below.


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