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Sunday, 12 September 2010

Robin Hood

When you start to get up the expensive end of the blockbuster scale, a film's story becomes less about telling a story and more about juggling various demands. And when that blockbuster is called Robin Hood, the demands just keep on coming. It doesn't take long to realise that director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe really aren't that interested in making a film about the Robin Hood we know and love - presumably because we know and love him a little too well to be bothered going to see yet another film about him. So large chunks of this "prequel" to the Robin Hood story are the kind of movie they - or the people who hired them - wanted to make: a medieval version of Gladiator.

Crowe's Robin is the same character he plays in all these films: a low-voiced tough-guy who everyone looks to as a born leader even though he's basically a short mumbling brawler. Cate Blanchett's Marion is a scowling tough guy - uh, gal - herself, which actually makes her less interesting because revisionist or not, we've seen this kind of character before. But because the film is called Robin Hood no matter how badly they want to Scott and Crowe can't just have the French up and invade England so they can do a bows-and-arrows version of the beach landing from Saving Private Ryan.

They have to throw in a whole lot of bonus plot involving the chief villain (played by the current Mr Everywhere, Mark Strong) pretending to be working for new king John (Oscar Issac) as he rides around "collecting taxes" by murdering and pillaging and getting everyone pissed off at the foppish king. Meanwhile Robin (a working class bowman) is pretending to be Robin (a noble knight) to give back a sword and if all this stuff occasionally brushes up against the traditional Robin Hood story don't read too much into it because before long the film'll be back talking about how Robin's dad invented the Magna Carta.

Despite all that, this hangs together well enough to function as a solid, unspectacular, undemanding blockbuster you could happily take a less demanding family member along to see.Like Robin himself, it gets the job done without flair, glamour, or anything even remotely memorable.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #477)

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