I’ve been asked by several friends and family members over the past week – “What’s the buzz on the new Robin Hood movie?” Before I saw the movie, I simply replied that I hadn’t heard anything yet, but I expect at least decent things from its helmer, the iconic Ridley Scott. He may have never matched the greatness of his early features Alien and Blade Hunter; but he’s always put out interesting work. To say that movies like Black Hawk Down, Body of Lies, and Matchstick Men will go down as his lesser works says a lot about the filmmaker.
So even though I thought the trailers presented little need for a retelling of the Robin Hood tale, I trusted that Scott would make it worth my time.
Coming in with a reported $225 million budget, Robin Hood is Scott’s attempt to prove himself as a super-tentpole filmmaker, and proof that maybe he shouldn’t be one. His Robin Hood tale is a prequel, less interested in stealing from the rich / giving to the poor than it is in a convoluted war story that’s difficult to follow, without any of the appeal that a Mindfuck would usually confer. Here, the confusion is just a case of poor storytelling.
It doesn’t help that the story itself is flat – we understand that Robin Hood’s a good guy, but there’s nothing else to the character to care about. He’s just a dude that has a basic understanding of right and wrong in a semi-barbaric age, so he kills bad guys.
Scott’s Robin Hood is a story different from the one we grew up with, but it’s painfully similar to the spat of Lord of the Rings wannabe epics that Hollywood tried so hard to make work five or six years ago – I’m looking at you, King Arthur and Troy. Robin Hood, like those others just mentioned, took ancient tales and tried to convince us they were interesting again.
The problem is, none of them are crafted with half as much sincerity as Peter Jackson was able to weave into his trilogy; instead they felt like inauthentic, manufactured retellings that didn’t have anything new to say, and didn’t have the excitement or interesting characters to warrant a matinee admission. Ironically, one of the few post-LotR epics that worked was Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven – so what went wrong here?
It’s hard to say. Certainly, a script that presented hokey dialogue and a total lack of character definition didn’t help, but it could have worked if stars Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett hammed it up a little more. And it doesn’t help that the action is stifled and without excitement. The blame has to be set on Scott’s vision for the movie – a bland take on a story that has so much relevance in a time where so many members of the Tea Party are making exaggerated claims of “Socialism” in slight wealth redistribution, while at the same time, authorities (or, in our case, big business) frequently but accidentally make the case for themselves that they need to be monitored. Taking from the rich and giving to the poor is rarely as hot a topic as it is today.
Robin Hood could have commented on these issues. Or it could have just been an exciting enough action film. But it’s neither, and it’s not much of anything, really. Without being entertainingly bad, it’s totally devoid of anything interesting. I can’t wait to forget this chapter of Ridley Scott’s filmography, but I don’t think it’ll take very long.