Stealing from the rich and giving to the war

Often, when a tale that you’ve been told practically your entire life—whether it’s through movies or books—becomes new again and is re-adapted for film, it is fairly easy to follow the plot.

Often, when a tale that you’ve been told practically your entire life—whether it’s through movies or books—becomes new again and is re-adapted for film, it is fairly easy to follow the plot. Already, you have some idea of who the characters are supposed to be, how they will relate to each other and where the major source of conflict lies. When done well, this can be a surprising source of nostalgia.

Unfortunately, the majority of these attempts miss the mark. Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood is no exception. Starring Russell Crowe as Robin Longstride and Cate Blanchett as his love interest Marion Loxley, this new adaptation is supposed to represent the beginning of Robin’s story and how he became an outlaw, forced to live in exile from civilization.

However, without the cheesy parchment background with medieval-style script writing in the beginning describing what exactly the audience is about to view, there is no way anyone would know this. Strictly speaking, if the opening shot in a film must outline the storyline because key plot development is missing, then you’ve got a terrible script on your hands. Even worse is that when employed, it is still not clear what is happening in the first 30 minutes.

Another major signal that the writing is lacking is when instead of having clear and pointed scenes to depict warfare, there are montages. Not all montages are bad, but when there are scenes of men getting their heads chopped off and women and children running and screaming, juxtaposed against a burning map and names of towns popping up on the screen in a Powerpoint-esque way, one must wonder if the laughable 30 seconds was worth their time.

Aside from these examples of the poor directing choices of Scott, this story of Robin Hood is not one we’re familiar with. In fact, there is only one point in the film that we even get a glimpse of the classic Robin Hood many of us have grown up with, and it is arguably the best scene in the entire movie.

Passing himself off as Sir Robert Loxley, Robin is disgusted that Nottingham’s seed is being sent to the city (from the poor to the rich). So, along with his friends from the crusades and also Friar Tuck, Robin attacks the truck transporting the seed, bringing it back to Nottingham and planting it.

In the rest of the film, Robin is, instead, a man of war. Most of the film is spent in scenes of battle, and for this purpose, Crowe portrays Robin well (though, had we been with the traditional Robin of the Hood, he would be a disaster). In the final battle scene, when the English fight the French on the shore of the English Channel, Robin leads the battle (instead of the young—and unfit for his position—King John). As he calls for the charge, it feels as if the shot was taken directly out of 300, except in this case, the leader makes it out alive.

The rest of the cast does all right. The weak links fall in the supporting roles of King John, played by Oscar Isaac and the traitor Godfrey played by Mark Strong. The problem with Isaac is that, as whiny and childish as he comes across onstage, he makes a terrible King of England. He appears to be more Persian than he does English. Strong, on the other hand, plays the double-crossing Godfrey to a tee, but we’ve seen this performance before when he played the bad guy in Sherlock Holmes (along with all of the other villains he’s portrayed).

In the end, we’re left with subpar cinematography, a bad script and average acting—though we should expect nothing more from Ridley Scott, considering his track record. With very few good films from the director, it is no wonder he messed up this one. What could have been decent is not, and the sure-to-be sequel is bound to be just as bad.