I’ve been a fan of the legend of Robin Hood ever since I saw Disney’s 1973 version that featured a fox as Robin Hood. I followed his tale through Errol Flynn’s famous interpretation in 1938’s the Adventures of Robin Hood to Patrick Bergin’s 1991 TV movie to Kevin Costner’s film, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves to the most recent incarnation, the BBC’s Robin Hood series starring Jonas Armstrong.
So I was quite excited when I heard that Russell Crowe was going to be Robin Hood in a film directed by Ridley Scott. I got even more excited when I found out that Cate Blanchett would be playing Marian.
Unlike the other Robin Hood’s this one was epic and was quite gritty in its battle sequences. The basic plot of this Robin Hood is Crowe is Robin Longstride -in most version he is a nobleman by the name of Robin of Locklsey. He is returning from the Crusades and brings news that Richard the Lionheart has died and taken on the identity of Nottingham nobleman Robert of Locksley -who has died – on the promise that he bring back a sword that belonged to the dead man’s father Walter Locksley. With Richard’s brother, John (Oscar Isaac) now King, the King of France, Phillip believes that he can invade England as he believes that John is a weak King with no army. Philip enlists the help of British traitor, Godfrey (Mark Strong -playing another villain).
Robin journey to Nottingham to deliver news that Robert of Locksley has died and returns the sword to his father (Max Von Sydow) and meets his widow Marion. In her husband’s absence, she has been holding down the fort, struggling to keep her husband’s land from the tax collectors and fights off the advances of the Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew McFadden). Robin pretends to be Robert for the sake of the village. There is a montage of Godfrey “collecting” the taxes in towns throughout England and in the beginnings of what would make Robin, Robin Hood, there is a scene where he and his Merry Men of Little John (Kevin Durand), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes) and Allan a Dayle (Alan Doyle) are joined by Friar Tuck (Mark Addy) to steal back the grains that belonged to Marion and the village of Nottingham that were destined elsewhere. All the while, Robin and Marion begin what is their epic and legendary romance.
The film climaxes with an invasion on England’s south coast by the French, who are met as they land by the English army.
In terms of Robin Hood stories, this one is pretty good but there wasn’t enough action sequences for my taste and I wanted more of the legend of Robin Hood but I see what Scott was doing in setting this movie up for a potential sequel where we would see more of the Robin Hood legend. It was disappointing not seeing Robin steal from the rich and give to the poor (except for that one scene) as is in all other versions.
Crowe was fine as Robin, presenting us with a rugged, war-weary man and he has great chemistry with Blanchett as Marion. Unlike other Marion’s (besides Lucy Griffith’s Marion in the BBC version) she is no damsel in distress waiting to be rescued. She can hold her own just fine with a sword and a bow and arrow.
I thought the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham was wasted as he is normally the villain in most Robin Hood’s and it is a shame that McFadden didn’t have much to do. He was more of a comic relief than a villain and he is no Alan Rickman.
Strong was a better villain here than he was in Sherlock Holmes but still a stock villain. Robin’s Merry Men were quite good and also provide comic relief, especially Grimes’ Will Scarlett but I always think of Grimes from ER so it was hard to get his comically character out of my mind when he was kicking ass with a bow and arrow. I did like Durand as Little John, so much better here than he was in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The Great Big Sea’s Doyle was good as Allan and loved his songs in the film. Mark Addy was fine to playing Tuck, who is quite handy with bee hives.
Where do I place this in all the Robin Hood’s I’ve seen. Hard to say. I really loved the 2006-2009 BBC TV series until the awful third season. I mean how can you have a Robin Hood [spoiler alert] with no Marion (she got killed at the end of season two). It’s like having Superman without Lois Lane. I would say this was better than Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood by quite a large margin mainly because Crowe does a British accent throughout and believable as a skilled warrior.