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By Preston Garrett · May 16, 2010
After seeing Robin Hood, I did what I always do when I see a movie that leaves me… perplexed, confused, frustrated, bored, annoyed, [fill in the blank with any other word that resolutely says “it sucked”]. I hypothesize as to what had to have been going through the director’s and writer’s heads when they finally said, “Alright, let’s do this. Let’s make a film for 100s of millions of dollars. This script is the closest to perfect as it’s going to get.”
The thing with Ridley Scott’s update of the film (that’s been made time and time again by the likes of such duos as Kevin Reynolds and Kevin Costner, Mel Brooks and Cary Elwes, Michael Curtiz (Mr. Casablanca himself) and Errol Flynn*)… well the thing is that I already know what was initially going through their heads. The story of the latest Robin Hood film is an interesting one, arguably a lot more interesting than the actual story in the film. It switched hands of directors many times over, and the story that you’ll see onscreen at the cineplex is far from what was intended to be up there.
Long ago in a far away land called Hollywood, there was a script floating around called Nottingham– a sort of retelling of Robin Hood that employed the Sheriff of Nottingham as its protagonist. According to the fanboys and other sources, this script gave empathy to the otherwise infamous Sheriff. He was more or less painted as the victim, Robin Hood his ever malicious foil.
Now… yes, this spits in the face of Robin Hood lore across the board, but by God, it’s interesting.
Needless to say, when I heard about this idea, I was totally intrigued. Robin Hood as a villain? Sign me up. It’d almost be like Barrabas – the tale of the murderer who was supposed to be crucified instead of Jesus, but was then let go at the hands of the masses. Whereas the Bible and other biblical cinema paints Barrabas as a heathen, a barbarian, a Godless nihilist, Barrabas (both the book and the film starring Anthony Quinn) shows this man’s humanity – that he may or may not have felt entitled to the public’s compassion for him, and his struggle with coming to grips with this. You can say the same for The Last Temptation of Christ, where we see Jesus as a normal guy who willfully attempts to reject his role as the son of God. In short, the switcheroo is pretty damn interesting, and as our blogger Leroy James King preaches time and time again, stories of alternative history are infinitely creative – they challenge audiences with a sort of de ja vu, parallel universe take on things they already know. They engage people in a questioning process. “If I did this differently, what would have happened? How would things have unfolded differently?” Think of LOST– this show is a totem for weaving alternative histories within its own mythos microcosm. And that’s why we love it.
So back to Robin Hood. There definitely was this potential to engage everyone in this alternative history storyline. But somewhere along the way, writer Brian Helgeland had to have been like, “Nah. Our audiences are idiots. Lets give Robin Hood’s ‘backstory’ and make it really hard to understand, and while we’re at it, let’s make Robin Hood kind of a droll, boring guy who has random times of wisdom, and then abruptly paint him as a heroic outlaw at the end of the movie. Sound good? No? Whatever, it’ll sell.”
And there you have it. The story drags, you never get a real sense of character or individuality from Robin Hood (Russell Crowe). Robin’s just kind of a guy that does things… you don’t really know why he does them, other than the fact that he’s likely trying to impress Maid Marion (Cate Blanchett).
The only actual interesting thing about the movie is that Robin comes back to England after the Crusades posing as someone else – one of King Richard’s (Danny Huston) Knights. I could explain why he does this, but it’s so complicated, muddled, and based on assumption that it’d be a whole other article that read tediously and without any sort of personality, just like the film. Anyway, Robin heads to Nottingham after he gets back to tell the Loxley family (the family of the guy that he’s posing as) that their loved one is dead and that he’s been posing as him, blah blah blah.
In a snap decision, Walter Loxley (Max Von Sydow), the father of the deceased guy that Robin is posing as, decides that he’s totally cool with Robin’s ruse after about 12 hours, and actually encourages him to keep it up and start hooking up with Maid Marion to fool (I guess) the government…? Everyone…? Eh? I don’t really know, but Robin is cool with this too, and so is Marion after a hot minute of snide comments. Soon everyone in Nottingham buys the ruse as if they never knew the real guy in the first place. Siiiiiigh.
It’s useless going much further. What I really get a kick out of is the TV trailer that dotes on the quote that the film is “Epic.” It’s epic in the following ways:
1) It’s incredibly long.
2) There’s a lot of SUPERS that indicate different locations, and in turn, never really allows you to orient yourself with what’s going on.
3) There’s a lot of sweeping music.
4) There’s a ton of characters, all of them oafish and who just kind of do things in the same vein as Robin.
The main thing about the film that really lumped it in the category of “WTF” is the deficits in tone throughout the entire film. Yeah, in an epic story there’s a need to relieve tension from time to time with some comic relief – Lord of the Rings, the original Star Wars films, even Gladiator did this smartly, and with moderation. For about a solid 30 minutes of the film, Robin Hood turns into a kind of comedic romp – suddenly cartoonish “Awww, jee whiz” moments become what the film is all about. Then they just stop, but you continue to laugh anyway because you have no idea what’s really going on.
The absolute most interesting moment of the film: when I nodded off for about 15 seconds, snapped my head up, and then saw my glasses fly off my face. For the next 10 minutes my buddy and I were feeling all around for my glasses, giggling to ourselves. This was the funnest part of the movie, by and large. If I didn’t have to review it, I would have left. Fer serious.
To sum it all up, I enjoyed The Human Centipede much more than Robin Hood. That’s saying… God, so much.