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Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood is out in theaters everywhere today, but regardless of whether or not the film is any good, it will probably get steamrolled at the box office this weekend by Iron Man 2 and next weekend by the last Shrek film, adding to a string of financial disappointments for Universal (a list which includes Wolfman and Green Zone). Does it actually deserve a better fate? Hit the jump for some of my brief thoughts, and feel free to leave your own in the comments section.
Many critics, including /Film’s own Peter Sciretta and Russ Fischer, think the film is mostly a dull bore. I can definitely sympathize with this point of view. There a few action scenes at the beginning and a couple of battles at the end, but for the most part, the movie focuses on Robin Longstride’s quest to return the sword of a fallen soldier to his blind father, and the consequences of that journey. Meanwhile, England’s subjects chafe under the tyrannical rule of their new king, and seek recognition for their rights of self-determination and taxation with representation and all that good stuff that we Americans already take for granted. It felt as if Scott wanted to imbue Robin Hood’s origin story with some kind of broader significance, but didn’t stop to think what would be cinematically interesting.
Those expecting a medieval version of Gladiator will most likely come away disappointed. While that film was also epic in scope, the conflict was pretty simple. You had Maximus, Commodus, Lucilla (the woman that gets between them), and the father figure of Marcus Aurelius. Sure, there were a bunch of side characters, but it was a classic battle between good and evil. By comparison, Robin Hood feels overstuffed with over a dozen characters, each playing a substantial role in the film. As a result, we learn little about each one and care even less.
But ultimately, I was swept away by the pageantry of Robin Hood. Helicopter shots of hundreds of men riding off into battle? Brutal scenes of castle-invasions? Ultra-slow-motion arrow-shooting done by Russell Crowe himself? Yes, please, I’ll eat it up. So what if the characters are poorly defined? So what if there’s relatively little action? So what if 3/4ths of the way through the film, Russell Crowe transforms into a hammer-wielding Maximus for some reason? Of course, your mileage may vary.
Still, there are few people that can handle world-building like Ridley Scott. There’s a short scene in the film where two characters communicate using messenger pigeon. It’s a small detail that didn’t ever need to make it onto the big screen, yet Scott took the time to conceive it, hire the people to act in it, train the pigeons, and so forth. If nothing else, the movie is meticulously and lovingly crafted.
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