If you’re planning to see this film in the expectation of watching a new telling of the traditional story of Robin and his merry men standing up the Sheriff of Nottingham on behalf of downtrodden peasants while robbing the rich to give to the poor, you’re in for a massive disappointment.
Despite the name, this film jettisons just about everything you’d expect from a Robin Hood tale in favour of a very patchy and nonsensical plot about Robin Longstride, an archer who finds himself returning from the Crusades on an errand to return a sword to a man he’s never met before yet who, in a ludicrous and unbelievable coincidence, is able to tell Robin about the father he never knew.
This story of self-discovery is woven around a confused invasion plot in which King John – depicted here by Oscar Isaac as an insubstantial whiner – is betrayed by a close ally who leads French troops (who have a flotilla of D-Day style landing craft at their disposal) to England where they set about causing civil unrest.
This in turn leads to one of the most embarrassing plot developments ever scripted, for it turns out that Robin’s dad drafted a charter of rights that the Barons wanted the King to sign. That’s right, the film implies that Robin Hood’s dad wrote the Magna Carta.
But it gets worse, with Robin debating the conditions of his people, King John asks him: “should every man have a castle?” to which Robin replies: “A Englishman’s home IS his castle”, whatever line followed this was drowned out by guffaws and groans from the preview audience.
Action-wise the film is ‘ok’ but not outstanding, the camera work consists of a predictable dose of quick edits and slow-mo. Combined with some apparently CGI-enhanced water splashes in the final scenes, these techniques at times managed to make the film resemble one of those Sky HD TV ads.
Overall there’s no passion or vigour on display, this is especially obvious in a siege scene towards the start of the film which unforgivably pales in comparison to the similar but hugely superior scene which kicks off John Boorman’s Excalibur.
Echoing just about everything else to do with this film, Crowe’s Robin is an uninspiring spectacle who displays no obvious charm or character trait other than ‘rush into danger’ heroism.
Matthew Macfadyen’s Sheriff is a mere bit player, he has a handful of scenes and even fewer substantial lines. Given almost nothing to do, McFadden’s easy charm is wasted in what is essentially a background role.
Indeed, most of the film’s population are seriously underplayed, including supposedly major characters such as Cate Blanchett’s Marion, as for the ‘Merry Men’, they get only a few lines of dialogue and are merely shallow, one dimensional non-entities who exist only to gaze on in awe of Crowe’s frankly unimpressive Robin.
Not only do Crowe and Blanchett seem to switch into some very odd accents at times, there’s zero chemistry between them.
When Robin tells Marion, seemingly just a day or so after meeting her, that he loves her, the line comes out of nowhere, there’s no foreshadowing of the sentiment in their joint scenes.
In truth, had I paid to see the film I’d have walked out long before it spluttered to an end.
Robin Hood is set for release on 12th May 2010
From the store: