It’s true: There is no reason for another Robin Hood movie. But of course the Hollywood tradition of Robin Hood movies is to keep making them anyway. So here’s Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, another of Scott’s bloated vehicles for the battle-action Russell Crowe.
Stealing from the past to give to the present: Russell Crowe teams up with director Ridley Scott in Hollywood’s latest take on the Robin Hood myth.
Hope is not entirely out of the question. For example, we could hope for Scott to be in a churlish, patronizing mood, wanting to show a snot-nosed generation weaned on the origin stories of comic-book heroes what real Hollywood mythology is made of. We’d be hoping in vain, of course, as Scott feels like fully exploiting a public domain property. But at least we’d be hoping. In other words, any real gallantry to be had here will have to be supplied by the audience. That’s how lazy this movie is.
We meet the legendary proto-socialist and swashbuckler as an archer and foreign-policy skeptic in the crusading army of King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston). Robin’s battlefield pledge to return a sword to a fallen nobleman’s father (Max von Sydow) portends a stint playing house with the man’s steely widow (Cate Blanchett, swathed in breathy soundtrack lady-song) and, in turn, a rhetorically charged revolt against their simpering, tyrannical, tax-happy new king (Oscar Isaac). Look, it makes as much sense as it can.
Scott’s ad-man background shows in his compulsion for brisk scenes that establish brand identites. For all its sooty clutter (evidently piled on in Brian Helgeland’s script), this movie will not be misunderstood. It gives clues, telling us, “Pay attention to that guy, whose name will ring a bell,” or “Don’t trust this guy; he’s very bald, and he speaks French.”
Sometimes it just tells us, in actual text at the bottom of the screen, where a given scene is taking place. “Nottingham,” for instance. Those screen titles might also come in handy as legal disclaimers: We may safely assume any resemblance of that climactic army beach invasion scene to other movie imaginings of 1944 Normandy is purely coincidental. (Indeed; here it’s the French who are doing the invading.)
In fairness, the marketing property on offer here is well-served by Crowe’s stocky yet sprightly athleticism. At least he doesn’t seem at all daunted by the big-screen Robin Hoods that have preceded him, among them Fairbanks, Flynn, Connery, Costner and perhaps best of all John Cleese in Time Bandits.
I was about to add, O.K., fine, but a hey-whatever attitude does not a folk hero make. Nowadays, though, maybe it does. Have movies really gotten so used to supplanting history with mythology that they can’t resist supplanting mythology with drudgery? Scott’s expectedly humorless film, for all its production-budget abundance, suffers a fatal shortage of merry men.