Ridley Scott Plays to Robin's Strengths
Timeless tale told well would be an understatement; but, was it told well enough to placate the most ardent critic, who expected far too much? Possibly not.
How can the professional critic be satisfied with this version of such an ancient story when there was such a limited up side to producing the perfect film? When such a well financed picture is perfectly cast, with the perfect action director, Ridley Scott, would it shine like a diamond? Well, "Robin Hood" did not; but that's okay with me. There are few perfect films.
Perfect films become timeless classics, whether they receive outstanding reviews or no, and whether they are remembered in the awards rush when often the better film is passed over for the favored artsy vehicle. "Robin Hood," despite its few imperfect moments, did make the grade. For me, it was a well spent 2 hours, 20 minutes. I was never bored, and well appreciated the mix of action and dramatic tension on a variety of levels, not least of which is the convenient romance between the films' two leading actors, Russell Crowe as Robin Hood and Cate Blanchett as Marion Loxley.
Russell Crowe wrapped his character into his usual strong, confident alpha-male role, which was unique to all other Robin Hood characterizations in its unmitigated veracity. Errol Flynn, the iconic Robin Hood in the 1938 version, "The Adventures of Robin Hood," was dashing, and charming. Kevin Costner in " Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves," was totally miscast in the leading role. Director Ridley Scott's Robin Hood was more sensitive to the period, and with the blunt force trauma that Russell Crowe brings to his characters in all of his physically demanding roles: "Cinderella Man," as New Jersey boxer, James Braddock, "Gladiator," as the patriotic Roman general, Maximus and "L.A. Confidential," as the fist-happy loyal brute, Bud White.
No one sells his role better than Russell Crowe. If one enters the theater and they find the Australian actor on the big screen, with closely cropped hair, be ready for some serious, and most convincing trauma inflicted upon any perceived adversary. Crowe's Robin Longstride / Robin of Loxley was the typical working class hero come to save the day. All he needed was his band of merry miscreants and the strong woman who holds up her end of the bargain. In actress Cate Blanchett's Marion Loxley, actor Crowe was matched with his fellow Australian, and the romantic tension was palpable.
Unlike former Marion Loxley characters, " Maid Marion," Cate Blanchett portrayed a more hardened romantic interest to the leading man, sharing some of the fighting, and all of the hardship associated with life in England during the "Dark Ages" period that was Europe during the time of the Crusades. Blanchett's Marion Loxley was no nun-in-waiting. She was dynamic, flexible to the whim of circumstance, and above all else, strong.
This was the crux of the film: Whose strength would persevere-that of the good, or that of the less good? Ultimately, the film ends as many of the Robin Hood predecessors have; but leaves more questions than answers, which portends a sequel. Consequently, the right that emboldens might well be the theme of any sequel, since this premise was never settled in this Ridley Scott opus.
While the characters of this film are multi-textural in scope, in a larger sense, there are defined boundaries between good and evil, and Director Scott keeps his audience aware of the difference; however, we are also aware of the dubious questions that shape the characters at the heart of this tale.
The backdrop of Olde London on the Thames is as period as the supporting characters that bend this story to its fortuitous conclusion. Character development and capable casting is the hallmark of all Ridley Scott films. "Robin Hood" is no exception, with William Hurt as William Marshal, Max Von Sydow as Sir Walter Loxley, and Eileen Atkins as Eleanor of Aquitaine as the older lead characters representing the forces of good. Mark Strong, who is making a living playing the bad guy, as he did in the most recent "Sherlock Holmes" (2009), and Guatemalan born actor, Oscar Issac as Prince John represent the forces of evil. Danny Huston as the most eclectic version of King Richard The Lionheart is worth the price of a rental for no other reason than to see the rendering of an iconic character that is more representative of someone who would have spent many of his formative years far abroad in The Crusades as it really was, rather than the romantic jihad, as it was often portrayed, to make the holy land safe for all Christendom.
Brian Helgeland created this story of Robin of Loxley, and wrote the screenplay, which weaved all these elements of a fine tale into a well presented film. It may well not be a junior classic of a film, but it is a serviceable story, and I hope they do a sequel. It would probably be time well spent - both times.
Released on DVD September 21, 2010. Rated PG-13.
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