After the jury began splitting over the goodness (or terribleness) of Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood I began wondering just what I was expecting when I listed it as my #4 most anticipated film of the year. sure, I’m enamoured with Miss Blanchett (who isn’t) and though I’d say that Crowe has been snubbed by awards too often in recent years I don’t particularly love him. True, I did read the original script for the then titled Nottingham but with all the changes made that was an entirely different beast. Naturally I was disappointed with the tepid response, thus my expectations were somewhat lowered. I expected less and watching Robin Hood I got less.
Half an hour into Robin Hood two things truck me. The first was more obvious, I was feeling bored. However, more than this, I found myself remembering a book on screenwriting I’d read a few years ago. Sid Field had said that it’s always good to have a back-story to your screenplay so you’d know what happened to the characters just before the credits roll. She went on to say that sometimes writers like their back-stories so much they end up using it as part of the screenplay. Herein lies one of Robin Hood’s earliest issues. Screenwriter Brian Helgeland seems to be altogether too fond of his work and he chooses to open the movie forty minutes before it actually begins. It’s not that the running time is outrageous, but it feels like a chore. Note, I watched this the same day as the 190 minute Doctor Zhivago (my review), and I didn’t look at my watch once during that one. Even more he has a tendency to write some blandly expository dialogue that even Cate Blanchett (she thrives on those exposition passages usually) falters at times. It’s actually what does in Oscar Isaac who I was impressed with in Agora. Ridley Scott, or Helgeland or maybe Isaac himself seem so enamoured with making John a lascivious villain that he spends half the film shouting inane lines in a VERY LOUD VOICE. Pass.
And yet, don’t think I’m trashing Robin Hood because as it picks up I find myself charmed by its machinations. I’ve heard more than a few persons recognise Scott’s skill with battles, but I’d have preferred if he’d tried to make Robin Hood an introspective character study than an amalgamation of what we’ve seen before. The entire point of rebooting the series depends on it offering something different. Hence, it’s the new portrayal of Maid Marian that stands out in this incarnation. Yes, I am unfairly biased to Cate. It is what it is, but it’s a register that I like her in. She’s not as irrepressible as Kate or formidable as Elizabeth, but the toned down but nonetheless strong woman is something she plays excellently. It’s not her best, by any means, but her decision to show bits of emotion at the strangest parts turns her Marian into the most realistic portrayal of the film. Sure, it ends with a somewhat misguided monologue from her but the almost chaste attraction between Hood and Marian work. Marian is past her prime, and more than a heated romance she wants a man she can finally depend on and stand by. Thus Ridley’s decision, to make it less about the physical and more about the intellectual, works for me.
More than any film Robin Hood thrives with the promise of what could have been…but I’ll put the possibilities out of my mind. Robin Hood is imperfect, but in its own way it was divertingly charming. Certainly not the comeback Scott and Crowe were looking for, and after a year and a half without Cate I’m unsatisfied. Still, they could do worse. I came in expecting less, but I didn't get nothing.
B- [almost a C+, but not quite]