The first thing you must know about Ridley Scott?s Robin Hood is that it is unlike any Robin Hood movie you?ve seen before.
So put aside visuals of a cheery Errol Flynn swinging from trees or Kevin Costner battling the Machiavellian Sheriff of Nottingham. There are no men in tights here; they aren?t very merry; the Sheriff of Nottingham isn?t the worst villain; there?s barely any robbing the rich to give to the poor and Marion isn?t a maid but a lady.
This Robin Hood is an origins story. It tells us how Robin Hood came to be Robin Hood. The film reunites Scott with Russell Crowe for the fifth time and has been dubbed Gladiator with bows.
Sadly, Robin Hood doesn?t have the propulsive power or the emotional strength of Gladiator. But if you?re willing to be patient, it does work as a handsome historical epic with some crackling battle scenes.
The first hour or so of Robin Hood establishes the various power centers, alignments and treacheries that push our hero on the path of rebellion. He begins as Robin Longstride, a valiant archer in Richard the Lionheart?s army. Here he meets the men who will eventually become his comrades in arms in Sherwood Forest.
After a furious battle, the King is killed. His sadistic brother takes his throne and Robin returns to England, assuming the identity of a dead man. The man?s widow, Marion played by Cate Blanchett, goes along with the charade because it?s the only way they can hold on to the sprawling family estate.
Blanchett is elegant and fiery and these scenes of the two living together as husband and wife have a real chemistry and vigor. The trouble is that there just aren?t enough of them. Scott keeps returning to the politics, which, beyond a point, are dreary and joyless.
But Robin Hood picks up pace in the second hour, moving toward an all-guns-blazing climax in which, Marion fights alongside Robin and Scott demonstrates once again, his ability to stage a grand, rousing battle.
Crowe plays Robin Hood with just the right degree of brooding self-righteousness. He has both physical and emotional heft.
Crowe and Blanchett light up this somewhat plodding film. Check it out.