As usual, give me a minute here to annoy you readers who like the writer to jump straight to the good stuff. I have a couple background issues to cover before we get to the actual review. So, first of all, you must know that Gladiator is one of my all-time favorite movies. Some people listen to Metallica to get pumped up. Some people do steroids. I watch Gladiator. If Mark McGwire were listening to Metallica, while being injected with steroids by Jose Canseco who was simultaneously listening to Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N Roses, it would almost equal the amount of adrenaline output I get from watching one scene in Gladiator. In fact, though it’s unlikely, if a girl ever quoted my favorite part (Russell Crowe: “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”), I would literally propose to her on the spot. I know, I know it’s tempting ladies; but please refrain from trying this the next time you see me.
The reason I bring up Gladiator is that it has a whole lot to do with Robin Hood. Ridley Scott returns to direct Robin Hood, Russell Crowe again takes the leading role, and the dynamic duo again creates an absolutely awesome film. Everyone loves the story of Robin Hood. Everyone loves Ridley Scott. Everybody loves Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. If a + b = c, and a + c = b, and…the square root of…or…nevermind. What I’m trying to say here is that if all the main elements of a movie are fantastic, there is very little chance that the movie won’t be fantastic.
With that in mind, let me finally proceed to the actual review of Robin Hood. BUT, before I get there, two very quick disclaimers:
1. Don’t be like me. Don’t assume that Robin Hood will be Gladiator 2. Similar elements, similar personnel and a similar style does not a sequel necessarily make. Luckily, I had a revelation before watching Robin Hood and decided not to unfairly hold it to the standard of what I believe to be one of the greatest movies ever made. I still had unbelievably high expectations, and while I wasn’t exactly let down, Robin Hood didn’t get a fair chance.
2. This is NOT the classic story of Robin Hood. Don’t go into it expecting to see Robin stealing form the rich, giving to the poor, etc. I made that mistake, and while it also didn’t change my feeling on the movie, I was surprised and felt a kind of awkward anticipation the entire movie. As a species, we do not like surprises, we don’t like to stray from the norm, so prepare yourself for this movie adequately.
Without further ado, the story before the legend we all know and love as Robin Hood:
Russell Crowe plays Robin Longstride, a common archer in the army of King Richard the Lion Heart. King Richard is on his way back from his Crusades, and sacking and pillaging French castles in the process. At the last castle before sailing back to England, King Richard is killed by an arrow. After hearing the news of the King’s death, Robin and his band of merry men decide to ditch the army instead of continuing back with them. On their way, they see English knights who are in charge of delivering the crown back to London, get ambushed by a French squadron led by an English traitor named Godfrey (played by Mark Strong – Sherlock Holmes, Body of Lies, RockNRolla).
Robin and his men decide to take the deceased knights’ armor and try to pass themselves off as the procession in charge of returning the deceased King’s crown in order to be richly rewarded by the new King. Although they make it to London, the new King is Richard’s incompetent youngest brother John, who refuses to give them any type of reward. Godfrey, who slayed the knight Robin is impersonating, happens to be at the kingdom when Robin returns the crown, and recognizes that the imposter “knows too much.”
Robin’s next quest leads him to Nottingham to return the sword of the knight he is puppeting to his blind, dying father, Walter Loxley. Merrian Loxley (Blanchett) is Walter’s daughter-in-law. Walter convinces Robin to stay at their home and pretend to be his son so as to provide temporary stability to the family. All is good and well in Nottingham, until word gets out that Godfrey is on a rampage with a French army through England, “collecting taxes” for the unsuspecting King John by mercilessly raiding every town he passes through.
The brunt of the story is based on Robin leading the English army in a surprise siege upon Godfrey and his arriving French troops. Along the way, the audience learns to love and hate many characters with a passion. Robin must protect his people, lead in a way that King John can not, and uncover a surprisingly un-cliche mystery about his own father. I’m a big fan of not spoiling movies, so that’s what I’ll leave you with as far as plot goes. But, I can tell you that the acting, for the most part, is impeccable in Robin Hood. The directing is impressive, as is typical with Ridley Scott films. And the storyline is thankfully brilliant, as so much could have gone wrong trying to backtrack through Robin Hood’s life.
Blanchett and Crowe make a great acting team in the film and have terrific on-screen chemistry. The lesser actors are perfectly suited for their roles and rarely acted poorly. The best thing for me is that in a couple instances, you get the epic, stone-faced Russell Crowe-delivered line, reminiscent of Gladiator. In the end, Ridley Scott managed to squeeze in a perfect sequence of events that leaves you hanging and begging for a sequel: the common Robin Hood tale.
My anticipation for a sequel is built up very high now, and I have to say I’d be severely disappointed if there wasn’t one. I really believe that this could be one of those rare instances where the sequel has the potential to be better than the original film. While I won’t spoil the events leading up to the end of the movie for you, I can safely tell you that in the sequel, Robin will be referred to as “Robin of the Hood,” and he and his allies will have a bounty on their heads, considered thieves living outside of the law. And all Robin Hood leaves you with is the wonder of what in the world they are all doing in the depths of Sherwood Forest right now.
I highly recommend this film to anyone who likes action, adventure, Robin Hood…heck, anyone who enjoys a well-made movie. Robin Hood is to Gladiator as Eli Manning is to Peyton Manning. Solid, entertaining, surrounded by a good cast…just not quite as great as the big brother. Either way, I give Robin Hood a B+ overall and would expect a real classic out of any potential sequel.