Ah, Ridley Scott, bringer of such films as “Blade Runner”, “Thelma and Louise”, and (urk) “Gladiator” – yes yes I know everyone thinks it’s great but I’m really not sure at all about his Oscar-winning epic. And that’s what I was slightly afraid of when going to see “Robin Hood”, that I was going to end up a shorter Gladiator, set in the forest.
Luckily, despite drawing similar parallels in the trailer, I was pleasantly surprised by what I got. Perhaps simply calling this movie “Robin Hood” is a bit misleading, as that title would suggest that the film was about his days of taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Instead, Scott has made a film that is more like “Robin Hood: The Prequel”. Don’t groan, most prequels are absolute rubbish but this isn’t! Following Robin (Russell Crowe), we see how he became a crusader and a beacon of hope for the poor people of Nottingham who had been stripped of everything by unfair taxes. There’s only one scene where he helps Friar Tuck steal from the rich to give something back: the rest focuses on the politics of the middle ages and the battles against the French that Robin ends up being a part of. Along the way he meets Maid Marian (Cate Blanchett) and they form a strong bond, despite their differences.
The acting in the film is brilliant and despite the big names you start to forget that Robin is Russell Crowe or that Marian is Cate Blanchett and start seeing them as their characters rather than actors. Despite the bad press, Crowe’s accent is only occasionally shaky and he maintains a steady voice that while not perfect is definitely consistent (although at the beginning of the movie he does fluctuate between Geordie and Irish for no apparent reason). The pair also have good chemistry on screen and their relationship is definitely believable: it’s not that often that you can say that nowadays.
Another impressive aspect of the movie is the battle scenes, which perfectly demonstrate the siege onslaughts and conflicts of the time. At the beginning of the film the English army are fighting in France and the way that they burn the gates down (by using runners to throw bags of tar on to them before using archer to set them alight with flaming arrows) is very close to the truth. The ending battle sequence is also impressive and shows that you don’t have to use a load of post-production editing techniques like slow-motion and CGI blood to get a realistic and brutal effect.
This was the first time that I had seen AD in full use: basically, AD seems to give the illusion of added depth so that the movie is less flat, a bit like 3D but going inwards instead of outwards and without the stupid glasses. The picture quality is also a lot sharper as a result. While I’m in no doubt that I would have enjoyed the film without having AD added on to it I also think that this added to the experience, especially in the battle scenes where the action was made more vivid. You don’t get that awful miniaturisation with AD that you do with 3D either, so that’s a bonus!
For me the only downside of the film was that some of the story was a tad fictionalised and it strayed away from the true historical facts occasinally. Some of the portrayals of certain characters was also a little off the mark but hey, it’s only a film right? I might have had more of a right to complain had this been a documentary about Robin Hood. At least Bryan Adams didn’t turn up!
Verdict: Great stuff, although people wanting to see some classic Robin Hood will be disappointed with the lack of robbing. If you can get past that idea, then Scott has made a very classy action movie that doesn’t overlook character building in favour of some pointless hack-and-slash.