Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston
Rated: PG-13 for violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content
Running time: 140 minutes
Bottom line: An epic-sized chalice of "meh"
Can Robin Hood’s wooden arrows pierce Iron Man’s armor? Doubtful.
Box office futures look good for "Iron Man 2," because "Robin Hood" should barely make a dent in the superhero’s breastplate.
The tagline for this "Robin Hood," which seems like the hundredth telling of the legend, promises to reveal the "Untold Story of How the Man Became a Legend." What, did they find a lost manuscript or something? Actually, that’s one level on which the film delivers, because this is definitely a new version of the Robin Hood story.
Our hero is actually named Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe), and he begins as an ace archer in King Richard the Lionheart’s army. Richard (Danny Huston) and his troops are ransacking their way home from the Crusades, when Robin and a few fellow soldiers, Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes), Little John (Kevin Durand) and Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle), are punished for insubordination. Of course, you know who they become.
After an arrow kills the King, Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge) and a small entourage are charged with returning the crown to England. But an English traitor named Godfrey (Mark Strong) and his men attack Loxley and company, killing them all. Robin and his merry-men-in-the-making come upon the ambush, and with his last breath, Loxley asks Robin to return his sword to his father.
Robin and his men return the crown to London, then proceed to Nottingham, where they return the sword to the blind and frail Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow) and Sir Robert’s widow, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett).
Some versions of the Robin Hood legend portray him as a commoner, while others say he was an aristocrat who became an outlaw when his land was wrongfully taken. This incarnation of the legend tries to have it both ways.
Robin Longstride was of common birth, but Sir Walter asks Robin to pose as his noble son in order to defend the village from the despotic rule of the newly coronated King John (Oscar Isaac) and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen).
Confused yet? You’re not alone.
This movie wildly over-reaches as the legend of the Merry Men bloats into a war epic. This is apparently the story of how Robin became a national military hero before becoming a class hero?
Obviously, you history buffs shouldn’t even bother with this one.
The movie is all patchwork, a hodgepodge of familiar plot devices. The Merry Men (who add desperately needed fun) defend the village á la "Seven Samurai" and any number of Westerns. Robin substitutes for a fallen fellow soldier, like in "Sommersby," "Brothers," etc. When the French army eventually attacks, they storm the beach, and the movie suddenly looks just like "Saving Private Ryan."
"Robin Hood" isn’t terrible. More than anything, it’s frustrating. One scene draws us in, then the next pushes us away.
The battle sequences are exciting and slick while avoiding the nausea-inducing camerawork and editing of many recent action films. At 81, von Sydow still steals scenes, and the other performances are all either strong or competent.
But wedged between those positives are a quiver full of embarrassing scenes and plot turns. By the time the movie hits its climax, it has deteriorated into absurdity. I laughed at what is supposed to be the most emotional moment because it was so forced and over-the-top. This movie is 140 minutes long and feels like it. Robin isn’t even declared an outlaw until two hours in.
The buzz around "Robin Hood" is minimal to nonexistent, and it’s easy to understand why. As we’d expect from such a talented cast and crew, it’s a capable film with several thrilling scenes.
But by the time we lumber through a ridiculous third act, we leave the theater feeling like our hard-earned money has been stolen, and we are none the richer.
Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.