Sunday, May 16, 2010

Robin Hood and Little John walking through the forest - Oo-da-lalee, Oo-da-lalee Seems A Lot Like Michael Bay

Ridley Scott's latest epic action film is just that: an epic action film. And that isn't such a bad thing. The hyperbole surrounding this film is a little bit undeserved as it is a perfectly serviceable summer action film with a few foibles. Indeed, aside from its excessive length and an issue with pacing (the film begins very slowly before kicking into high gear and seemingly taking leave of all sorts of plot) it is not super offensive in any sense of the word. It may not serve any real purpose but it certainly isn't a bad film.

The only major criticism I can level against Robin Hood is its title. If they had only changed it to Medieval Movie or Russell Crowe Changes His Accent I would have passed everything off as minor complaints and went about my merry way. But no, they decided to make a movie which has almost nothing to do with legendary outlaw. First and foremost, I understand that this is a re-imagining of an already sketchy legend to begin with and there would be concessions. But when you fundamentally change Robin Hood's character to fit into your big action blockbuster you lose the very reason people would go to see a movie about Robin Hood! To the general public, he's a cocksure, smarmy, thin little fellow (maybe a fox, I don't judge) who is constantly making quips, treading the lines between hero and scoundrel, and showing off his impressive archery skills. What we get here is beefy, serious Russell Crowe who is devoid of hunour, substance and all traces of youthful exuberance. We want an older Peter Pan and what we get is a grizzled soldier who believes in liberty. Blech.

There are so many instances in which my little complaints about the film could have been solved if this wasn't a film about Robin Hood. I can look past historical innacuracies and fudging the truth but putting a beloved character through the grinder like this is ridiculous. It isn't an homage or re-imagining if you change every aspect of the character other than the name. It's a new character. Take for instance, a climactic battle scene near the end of the film. The English divide themselves into two fighting forces. The archers take to the top of a large cliff to rain arrowy death down on the enemies below while the cavalry go down to beat up on them once they're all full of holes. So where does Robin Hood go? He goes with the horse folks. And then he beats enemy soldiers with a hammer.

What the hell!

Sure we get the superfluous slow-mo action shots of Crowe shooting his bow but for an archery expert Hood sure likes to smack people with hammers'n'crap. This is also right before he runs in slow motion yelling "No!" Sigh. Surprisingly, Cate Blanchett as lady Marian is actually the bright spot in this crazy mixup. I usually don't care for her but almost every scrap of human emotion in this film can be chalked up to her efforts. Of course, this is all dashed asunder when she shows up in black armour and chain mail for no other reason than to give Crowe a reason to fight harder. Or maybe it was to remind us of Return of the King. Whatever. Also, the bad guy from the freighter on Lost was pretty cool as Little John, I guess.

Ridley Scott's Robin Hood would have been so entirely less a problem if it had settled itself for being an average medieval war movie. They probably still could have made a buck and stripped from the film all of the needless plot points to convince us that this is a story about Robin Hood. Instead we get a mistreatment of a well-known character tacked onto an already merely okay film. Stay for the animation during the credits, though. Pretty cool.

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