I actually first saw this movie on the week of its release back in May. But back then I was yet to start my blog and therefore didn’t write a review for it. But now I am back home in Alderney for the Summer and our cinema shows on average two films a month and about 4 months after their general release (I bet you’re wondering how I survived 16 years of this). In a way it’s good for me to review films I saw in the cinema before I set up my blog and viewing them again at a cinema allows the film to refresh in my mind. So my first film of Alderney’s Summer line up is Ridley Scott and Russel Crowe’s latest collaboration, a new take on the legend of everyone’s favourite outlaw, Robin Hood. 

I am a huge fan of Crow and Scott’s first feature together, Gladiator. It was a perfect Sword and Sandal epic that many movies have tried to copy but have failed in doing so (see Alexander, The Last Legion, King Arthur). Robin Hood is very much a different kind of beast altogether, there is a lot more established material to work from, as the legend of Robin Hood since the end of the 12th Century. Plus, Gladiator is on a much grander scale, which means you can’t expect this to be another Gladiator, the plains of England hardly as grand as the cities of Ancient Rome. What we have here is a much more entertaining flick, for the fact that the tone isn’t as serious and plays out as much more of a old-fashioned yarn that you don’t really see a lot of nowadays.

The story begins at the end of Richard the Lionheart’s (Danny Huston) 10 year Crusade as his army are making their way across France back to England. But during a battle with the French, Richard is killed and the King’s guards leave ahead to take the crown back to England so that Richard’s naive and devious brother John (Oscar Issac) can succeed him. At this same time, Robin Longstride (Crowe) and a group of fellow soldiers are making their own way back home and stumble across the King’s guards who have been ambushed by the French led by an English traitor Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong). Robin and his men take the responsibility to bring the crown back to England, Robin posing as Sir Robert Locksley. Once returned to England, Robin fulfills his promise to the dying Locksley and returns to his home in Nottingham where he agrees to continue posing as Locksley to avoid taxation, and begins to fall for the Lady of the manor Maid Marion (Cate Blanchett). But soon he must help bring the country together to face an invasion from France.

The story is certainly not what we’ve seen from other Robin Hood movies, there is no chance of Sean Connery popping up as Richard the Lionheart at the end of this one. It acts very much as a prequel to the story of Robin that everyone knows about, robbing from the rich to give to the poor and all that jazz. This is part of the reason why I enjoyed this version so much. There have been many versions, from the classic Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, Kevin Costner’s camp yet enjoyable Prince of Thieves, to Mel Brooks’ spoof Men In Tights. The story is certainly the correct direction, the earlier ideas floating around this movie were a lot more ambitious, having Robin and the Sheriff as the same person. But what the final film has done is allowed for familiar elements of the legend to be maintained so it still feels comfortably familiar, yet offer a new spin. The film technically acts as a prequel to the legend everyone knows. Scott though certainly isn’t taking any chances here and isn’t trying anything ambitious, as the original story may have turned out like. This is a director who gave us incredibly original sci-fi flicks; Alien and Blade Runner, and kicked started the epic genre with Gladiator. It certainly seems like he is playing it safe, I hope this isn’t a sign that he is starting to slack a bit in his old age, time shall tell.

Certain evidence of this is in the battle scenes, amazing and energetic in Gladiator, here they’re lavish enough but not entirely fresh. The final battle takes time to gain momentum, and mirrors a medieval style Saving Private Ryan, quite obviously as well. Once it gets into the sword clashing and 12-A style blood-spilling it is entertaining and does serve well for the final act. Another fault in the story direction is the lack of a definite villain. Alan Rickman was scene-stealing in the Costner version, but here we have Godfrey as an English traitor who is really just a whipping boy for the French and we have Oscar Issac as King John, who has great fun with the role but isn’t entirely menacing as he himself is a victim in the course of the movie’s events.

Crowe on the other hand does impress as Robin, despite rumblings about his accent. Sure, he does slip into his Maximus voice from time to time (‘Rise and Rise again, until Lambs become Lions’), but he does maintain the ‘tut-Northern’ twang that the character needs, much better than Costner who didn’t even seem to try. The chemistry between him and Cate Blanchett’s Marion is very playful and does give the film real heart. The relationship with the Merry Men is very genuine (all the actors are actually friends in reality). It is the scenes with Crowe and Blanchett and the Nottingham countryside that stick in mind once you’ve left the theatre, it is simple yet effective characterisation, not the battle scenes.

The ending of the movie certainly opens up for a sequel, although it is unclear as to whether the intention is to make a franchise or leave it to us to continue the story, assuming we know the legend from this point on, I can’t see Crowe as a franchise man either It is very much a movie that has historical flaws but only if you’re looking (and Robin wasn’t technically real anyway), and you should just take it for what it is, an entertaining old-fashioned yarn.

4/5- Another collaboration between Crowe and Scott with top-notch results. Scott has done better with harder material, but what he has delivered here is a crowd-pleaser that puts a fresh twist on the legend.

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