Movie Review: Robin Hood

By Tom Houseman

May 18, 2010

Realizing what a train wreck this is, Crowe (unsuccessfully) attempts to flee the set.

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What sort of punishment is inflicted upon me for being a good sibling? Having to sit through Ridley Scott’s mess of a sword-and-sandal (make that bow-and-breeches) epic, Robin Hood, a prequel of sorts to the legendary outlaw’s story. Seeing my sister for the first time in months, she wanted me to join her and her friends in sitting through this lifeless blockbuster, and I reluctantly agreed. I’ll give Robin Hood this: it’s not a good movie… at all… but it could have been a heck of a lot worse.

One of the reasons why I agreed to see Robin Hood was because I had an escape strategy. If the film was really bad I knew I could sneak out 20 minutes in and go see Iron Man 2, which was showing in the same theater. That was a good plan, as it meant I was putting no pressure on Ridley Scott; he could be as banal a director as he wanted to and I wouldn’t care, because it would give me an excuse to finally check out Iron Man 2. But I stuck it out for the full two and three-quarters hours, mostly because Robin Hood wasn’t as bad as Kingdom of Heaven - although the fact that it takes that comparison to make Scott’s latest “effort” a good film is a bad sign.

Robin Hood actually picks up where Kingdom of Heaven left off, at the end of the crusades. Through a series of wacky coincidences involving King Richard’s death and a horse running off with his crown (giving “my kingdom for a horse” a new meaning) Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) ends up impersonating the deceased Sir Robert Loxley. Longstride is welcomed by Loxley’s father Walter (Max von Sydow), who needs help protecting his village, which has been ravaged by the taxes leveraged by Richard and the newly crowned John (Oscar Isaac).


I would go into more detail about the plot, but frankly, I was so freaking confused by this absurdly complex story that I had enough trouble following it, let alone explaining it. The characters were one-dimensional enough that it was still relatively easy to figure out which one was Robin Hood, but beyond that, deciphering what the heck was going on was about as easy as playing Boggle in Mandarin. I can handle confusing plots - I loved Syriana, which is the king of complexity - but confusing and boring is a deadly combination, and Robin Hood has that in spades. The first hour of the film is incredibly dull, mostly because Robin isn’t an interesting protagonist and John is a painfully static bad guy. After that, the battle scenes around which the film is built turn the story into a swamp of double-crossings and “shocking” revelations.

The most depressing thing is this: the battle scenes are the worst part of the movie! I have never been a big fan of Ridley Scott. I think his films contain no style whatsoever and unlike his peers Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, he is less of an artist than he is a butcher. But the work he does in Robin Hood may be his worst. The final battle scene is the only comprehensible one because Scott ignores everything going on except for one sword-fight. With as bloated a budget as this film is reported to have, you’d think that Ridley Scott would have put more of an effort into actually crafting a well-made film, but it seems like that wasn’t a concern of his.

Most of the performances are fine, which makes the film slightly more bearable, but with this weak a script even great actors like Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett are hobbled. The pair have strong chemistry as Robin and Marian, and their flirtation is entertaining, but it is so brief and adrift in the rest of this ridiculous movie that the relationship never really develops. The rest of the Merry Men make appearances as well, as does Friar Tuck, all of whom serve as “comic relief.” And yes, that was in quotes, and those quotes were in italics, because most of the attempts at levity fail miserably. But considering the movie they’re in, is anybody surprised?



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