Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Robin Hood

I saw this movie Saturday night, but my reactions to it were complicated enough that I needed some time to sort them out and to figure out the reasons for them. To go further, I have to give some spoilers, so stop reading now if you want to avoid them.

First, the bottom line: Despite the movie's many flaws, I liked it well enough that I recommend it if you're in the mood for a big-budget action flick and don't mind turning off your critical faculties.

That said, what's wrong with the film is that it's not a Robin Hood tale. It's a prequel, the story of how the Robin Hood legend began. It starts in the war and ends with Robin in Sherwood Forest, leading his band of rebels--except Marian is his wife and part of his band, that band includes a bunch of orphans, and so on.

Are you beginning to see the problem?

When you take on an icon--this and the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes film come immediately to mind--you're likely to win in only one of two ways: by sticking to the original story and simply creating an amazing version of it, or by reimagining the tale in some exciting new way. Both of these examples went the latter route, and Robin Hood couldn't quite pull it off. That failure doesn't make it a bad movie, though; it just makes it a very flawed one.

The movie also went too far in sacrificing facts and sensibility to advance its action sequences and its political agendas. When Marian and a band of orphans ride ponies into a giant battle on the beach, you know someone should have been told to do another draft of the script.

What the film most lacked, though, was the larger-than-life majesty of the true Robin Hood tale. Yes, as Kyle pointed out in a comment on an earlier post, Robin was a terrorist, but he was the hero of the story, and we all rooted for him. He was the good guy helping the poor. He soared above the labels and made us cheer for him. He became a legend. This movie never really captured that legendary spirit.

So with all these complaints, why did I enjoy it? Crowe, though too muted much of the time, was muted exactly the right amount some of the time, and when he hit those perfect notes, his performance as a damaged man torn between self interest and nobility was moving. Blanchett touches my heart like few other actresses, and for much of this movie she was captivating. Max Von Sydow delivered a flawless performance. The filth and grit of that earlier world was good too see. In short, the film had many virtues, I don't regret seeing it, and with many caveats, I recommend it.

It just wasn't a Robin Hood story.

2 comments:

J. Griffin Barber said...

I haven't seen it yet, but from the clips I have seen, the horses you mention are called palfreys, a class of horse that look like ponies.

They were the volkswagon of the middle ages, much more affordable than the warhorse of the high nobility or the thoroughbreds used in the mid-east.

I think the ones used in the film are an icelandic breed.

Mark said...

Griffin, I will hope you are right. That would limit the error to having a woman magically materialize armor and lead a group of boys with sticks into a battle.

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