- Released Internationally on 12/05/10
- Released in Malta by KRS on 14/05/10
Preview (Published 01/05/10 in VIDA magazine)
In a nutshell
Mr. Hood needs no introduction. We’ve seen and read countless versions of the story, from fantastic foxes with whistling sidekicks, to Kevin Costner and his princely ways, and even merry men in not-so-manly tights. But that was all quite a while ago, so we’re due for another take, with this one promising to tell the back-story behind the outlaw. The details should remain the same, however – rob the rich, provide for the poor, arrows, friars, etc.
Why we’re hyped
Although Robin’s boots have been filled by various big names over the years, we can now look forward to a visionary director as well as a stellar cast. Ridley Scott has made many excellent films in a variety of genres, but has yet to recapture the epic feel and huge success of 2000’s Gladiator. He nearly managed with Kingdom of Heaven five years ago, but the theatrical cut was a bit of a mess, and Orlando Bloom was a bit of a wimp as the hero. Let’s face it – if you need to rally the troops, beat the odds and win the girl, you’re better off with Russell Crowe.
Who’s in it?
Besides Crowe as the titular archer, the film boasts the presence of the classy and beautiful Cate Blanchett as Lady Marian. As if those two weren’t enough to appeal to all ages and genders, we can also look forward to Max von Sydow (Shutter Island), Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes), Matthew Macfadyen (Frost/Nixon), Mark Addy (The Full Monty), William Hurt (A History of Violence) and Danny Huston (Birth) in lesser roles of varying menace and personal hygiene. The latest trailer looks very promising, so let’s hope for the best.
This is not the story of Robin Hood’s adventures. It’s a sort of prequel to all the Robin Hood adaptations you may have seen before, and tells the story of how a certain Robin Longstride, after returning from the crusades as part of Richard the Lionheart’s army, helped start an uprising against the tyrannical King John, and ended up being brandished an outlaw. Once this concept has sunk in, the scope and progression of the film become enjoyable to watch, and the ending proves very satisfying.
When King Richard’s reign ends, Robin and his closest friends desert the army, and try to make their own way home across the channel. They bump into a covert squad of French soldiers under the guidance of a certain Sir Godfrey, who are attempting to assassinate the king and lay the groundwork for the French invasion of the British Isles. Back in the Tower of London, King John eventually inherits the crown and with a mix of greed and ignorance manages to infuriate the already oppressed and impoverished English people. Tired of wallowing in misery as the state and church squander their precious resources, the villagers across the land start a rebellion, and the well-timed arrival of the charismatic Robin manages to unite them.
The more the merrier
The impressive cast all take to their parts with gusto, and the consistently strong acting is also helped by a script that manages to be grand without going overboard. The mid-section suffers a bit when it’s unclear exactly who is fighting who, but it all works out tidily in the end. Crowe adds a British accent to his Maximus persona, and is convincing as the hero, albeit without enough human flaws. Blanchett’s Marian manages to warm to him, but not too quickly, and Max Von Sydow as her father is, as usual, excellent. Mark Strong is suitably evil as the traitorous Sir Godfrey, King John’s henchman. His shaved head and reckless disregard for protective headgear make him the most easily identifiable of the enemy forces during the various pillage and battle scenes, and his rivalry with Robin develops as the film progresses, culminating in a wet and wild duel during the film’s spectacular climax.
Archers with tonic
The skills with a bow and arrow play an essential part from the prologue right up the epilogue scenes, and reach epic proportions in the French invasion of England - a magnificent scene mirroring the Normandy landings in WW2. It’s more or less everything you would expect from a war movie set in 12th century England, and at times the film is quite clearly a mix of Braveheart and Gladiator, even down to individual shots and actions. But I guess you could do worse than try to emulate those two modern classics. The score is one aspect which falls short, however, with the music being unmemorable and largely intrusive.
In the end
The second big film of this summer season should appeal to an even wider audience that the superhero antics in Iron Man 2. Anchored by predictably good performances from the hero and heroine at the core of the story, the film presents an original story, but told in a fashion we have seen before. It’s undeniably fun and action-packed, and like all good ‘prequels’ ends on a satisfying note with everything falling into place as you know it. If you loved Braveheart, this should be fun.