Tuesday, October 20, 2020

ROBIN HOOD

 

 

Every decade or so, Hollywood is compelled to turn out at least one new version of the English Robin Hood Legend. The first silent film appeared in 1908, and has been followed down through the years by at least 18 English language versions, including classics and non-classics, starring such non-Brits as Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Errol Flynn, Sean Connery, and even Kevin Costner. That’s a short list of two Americans, one Australian (Tasmanian), and one Scot. Now, Russell Crowe, a native New Zealander joins the crowd.  It’s even been done in Russian, Japanese, French, and Italian.

This time Director Ridley Scott has a different take. He offers up the back-story to the Legend. This is the tale of the making of Robin Hood.  An unknown archer in the service of Richard the Lionheart during the Third Crusade, Robin Longstride, is a warrior at the siege of Limoges. According to Scott, Lionheart dies heroically in combat in that assault. (Some historians believe that Richard was accidentally killed by one of his own men. Never mind.) Longstride comes upon the dying knight, Sir Robert Loxley, and promises to deliver Loxley’s sword to Nottingham, a down-at-the-mouth village that has been subjected to the ravages of excessive taxation.

Longstride not only gets to Nottingham in the company of a few of his latter day Merry Men, but he returns the sword to Daddy Loxley (Max von Sydow) and meets the fair widow, familiar to us as Maid Marion (Cate Blanchett). The old man persuades Longstride to assume the late Robert’s identity, and take arms against the corrupt, arrogant, and beastly King John. Of course, Longstride does all that, and encounters numerous villains along the way, as well as befriending another old favorite – Friar Tuck. One of the more vicious and unprincipled characters is one Godfrey; played by Mark Strong who also did a villain turn in “Sherlock Holmes.” Oh, yes, the Sheriff of Nottingham does make a cameo appearance, but his big role comes much later in the Legend.

Sword fighting, ambushes, and cavalry charges will satisfy most Ridley Scott moviegoers.  Consistent performances by a dour Russell Crowe, and the assorted villains and good guys move the action along. The sight of Widow Marion donning armor and wielding a rather large sword is a bit over the top, but it’s Hollywood after all. To boot there are various disconcerting scenes of waifs racing through what becomes the Sherwood Forest of Legend.

This film has already been aptly compared to the essential plot of “Gladiator,” a point well taken. It’s also another heroic role for Mr. Crowe, including the obligatory shirt-off, muscle rippling scene. But, there’s much more. The film takes non-subtle swipes at the Church of the 13th Century, contains a political undercurrent, and offers a suggestion of how society creates an outlaw – in this case Robin Hood. There are a number of allusions, and one big scene, that refer to the Magna Carta, which the barons forced John to sign in 1215. However, that gets a bit lost in the derring-do.

Since it is a prequel there’s no harm in revealing that in the end Robin, Marion, the Merry Men, and the waifs all wind up in the forest where they’ll turn things over to Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland.

Is it worth seeing? Why not? The action is good, without much blood and gore; the acting is fine; the plot has an interesting spin; and there are even a few laughs.

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