The last time the legend of Robin Hood was released on movie screens it was 1991 and Kevin Costner played him as apparently the only American in medieval England and was surrounded by a fun cast. The movie was a success and we had ball watching it because we all know the story and enjoyed watching him steal from the rich in Nottingham Forest to give to the poor. In this version from Oscar-winning director Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator) you'll see Russell Crowe star as the titular character and that may be all you'll recognize from the legend we love. The studio marketed this movie as the true story behind the legend but in reality none of it is. Historians don't really know anything about the real Robin Hood or even if he existed. So what writer Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River) did was put a character that takes the name Robin Hood and sets him in real historical events. I highly doubt, for example, that even if Robin Hood was a real person, the Magna Carta was HIS idea. That's not to say that the he's the only character you'll recognize. No way! You have everyone in this like Little John (Kevin Durand), Maid Marion (Cate Blanchett), Friar Tuck (Mark Addy) and The Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen) even shows up for a meaningless and brief role. What's confusing is that you have all these familiar characters in a completely different and unfamiliar story. I personally didn't think that was horrible but I can understand it if lots of people get turned off when they go hoping to see the story they know well and instead get schooled on twelfth century British history. The good news is that you still have Ridley Scott driving the ship. The sets, costumes, props and locations all look incredible in Robin Hood, but for a rumored $200 million, it damn well better. Scott and Crowe have worked together on four movies now and they know how to deliver an exciting product. Even when Oscar-winner Crowe gets really lazy with his performance and mumbles and stumbles his way through it, like he did in this. The movie is the most epic medieval action-drama I've seen since Braveheart, but it still comes no where near its scope and caliber. The battle scenes are well done, as they always are with Scott and the story is adequately compelling enough to get interested to see what happens next. The performances are bland except from Mark Strong who plays a new character named Godfrey. Strong, who last impressed me as the baddie in Sherlock Holmes and Kick-Ass, is quickly becoming the quintessential villain and can be scary no matter what accent he dons. I even thought the new story was fine for the most part, but if Robin Hood runs into too much flogging from the critics, it will be because of that. Imagine going to see an exciting movie about the Civil War, but all the major characters were from Star Wars. If a story like that sounds like your cup of tea, then Robin Hood hits the target.
Robin Hood (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B