Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Movie Review: Robin Hood, 2010



I know what you might be thinking.

"Another Robin Hood?"

But to me, I was more interested than disinterested by a Robin Hood revamp; I simply do not like any of the film versions done to date. And to be honest, I'm not much of a Robin Hood fan at all.... So I decided to see this after seeing the trailer; I didn't expect to love it, but was curious enough to check it out. When I later discovered it was directed by Ridley Scott, I knew I wouldn't like it. (Before we continue, I need to state that my one regret with this review is my lack of historical knowledge of this period. Therefore, I'm going to have to decline to comment on historical issues.)

So how was this version any different than the ones before it?

Told as a prequel of sorts, this new Robin Hood tells a grittier tale of Robin's life. No tights and few merry men are to be seen here (and Robin and Marion are much older than usual). Instead, we have an origins story...the origins of a man I honestly did not like. (Robin lies, cheats, steals, and impersonates two separate people for personal benefit, just to start.)

As per usual Ridley Scott, the admitted hater of religious fanaticism, the religion is muddled. Robin, while appearing to have some kind of belief system, is rather indifferent overall. The Catholic church is mostly portrayed in a negative light, and while I don't mind that (and back it up, myself) what these filmmakers don't understand is that Catholicism is entirely separate from Christianity. The only "good" clergyman is Friar Tuck, an admitted drunk who boozes and carouses his way through the story.

In one scene, Robin recounts the story of King Richard the Lionheart's Crusaders massacring countless Muslim men, women, and children. Robin is clearly filled with guilt, as he clearly should be (the look of "pity" given him by a woman that he would kill was particularly disturbing to him), but what came across to me more is that, here we go again, a politically-correct slant just to have a politically-correct slant. It was an unnecessary scene to the story and felt rather contrived. Were the Crusades backed by the entirely pure motives of the Catholic church? Probably not exactly. But then again, since when was Islam anything but the religion of bloodletting?

As to plot, it was just okay. Acting wasn't too shabby. Russel Crowe is good, Kate Blanchett did a fine job, but poor Mark Strong did his best with a rather one-dimensional role. Speaking of which, the characters backing this story were nothing to write home about, to put it bluntly. Strong's character, Godfrey, was far too evil; not that it isn't possible, it just felt that he was nothing short of a gimmick character. Godfrey's theme music was great and fit the mood and all, but also it created an aura of epic villain-ness that is far too Hollywood. (The rest of the score was good as well; not great, but good.)

Marion was a rather stupid character, and Robin's crude pals (such as Little John and Will Scarlet) were also gimmick characters (as well as Tuck). Prince John was far too predictable, but thankfully was a tad out of the ordinary during one bit. And what was with that whole thing with the "lost boys", who are a constant thorn to Nottingham's residence? What is this, Peter Pan?

[ADULTS ONLY] There was little language, but a bit of sexual content was present. We get a handful of references, a couple of sexualized scenes (though not overly bad) and one bed scene. I personally didn't see anything much, but we do get a view of a man's back and legs around his buttocks area as he stands up naked (you almost see his buttocks).

As to violence (If that bothers you then what are you doing with a medieval movie?), this film was quite "violent" of course, but there was absolutely nothing over the top. In fact, I was very disappointed by the lack of blood in this film. Let's get this straight; I'm not a fan of intensely and needlessly gory films, but let's face it. This is 1199. Battles were fought with swords, axes, pikes, and arrows. To kill your foes you had to cut, stab, slash, hack, pierce, and chop to pieces. It's only natural for just a little bit of blood to come out. I'm not asking for a Mel Gibson-esque mess, I'm just asking for a little realism here. I assume the lack of blood on-screen was an attempt at restraint of some sort (perhaps for a PG-13 rating), but still. Come on.

Other than the above, I admit the fight sequences were very well done. The castle siege at the beginning was especially pleasing (Yet far, far too short!). The final battle was very unusual in a positive sort of way as to setting, however, Spencer just got quickly bogged by the fact that he felt their strategy had dangerous holes. Unfortunately it would appear that Scott succumbed to Hollywood's usual mass of chaotic every-man-for-himself, mano-a-mano duels instead of the more historically accurate lines of men-at-arms as well. (And what on earth was Marion doing in armor, fighting? Is she Joan of Arc or something?) The use of bows in the film wasn't all too pleasing to me, either. Besides the effective scene near the end with a veritable storm of arrows, volley after volley, something just seemed off to me. Perhaps I don't know what I'm talking about, but the ease and agility which the characters approached bow use seemed too simplistic. My understanding is that the English longbow, one of the most effective weapons in all of history, required a bowstring pull of fifty to one hundred pounds (possibly somewhere in the middle, around eighty pounds I've also heard). And our aging little "maid" Marion can easily string a bow and loose an arrow. I'm sorry, but is that off, or is it just me?

The best part would have to be a saying repeated many times during the course of the film: "Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions." While I find it weak that a man who is only concerned with self should suddenly do so, Robin gives a good speech on this topic (although I did noticed the rhetoric felt tailored to modern audiences).

If you do go to see this one, please pay close attention to this philosophy here. If you take it seriously and take it beyond the somewhat stupid and modernized base of this particular film, it is well worth your while. This is what these kinds of stories are really supposed to be about.

Spencer

3 comments:

olde.fashioned said...

Excellent review, but then would it be anything else? ;-P

You didn't mention the costumes! I want all of Marion's dresses, and must confess all that chainmail was squeal-inducing. *iz odd*

Jonas said...

Aha, Jonas is back! With a google account!

Anyway, as someone who has some knowledge of the period, I thought I'd share some insight.

"Robin is clearly filled with guilt, as he clearly should be (the look of "pity" given him by a woman that he would kill was particularly disturbing to him), but what came across to me more is that, here we go again, a politically-correct slant just to have a politically-correct slant. It was an unnecessary scene to the story and felt rather contrived. Were the Crusades backed by the entirely pure motives of the Catholic church? Probably not exactly. But then again, since when was Islam anything but the religion of bloodletting?"

While I agree a bit with you about the "a politically-correct slant just to have a politically-correct slant", I feel the comment had a point, because it does illustrate a profound difference between then and now, between the Crusaders and the Muslims. Of course atrocities and murders were commited on all sides during the crusades and religious conflicts of the era, however the Muslims never were nearly as brutal as the so-called Christians. Despite the massacre at the Christian conquest of Jerusalem, the Muslims did nothing of the sort when they reconquered the lost parts of the holy land, in fact a lot of the Orthodox and Armenian Christians living there preferred the Muslim rule, so did the Jews. The same goes for Iberia. To put it simply you fared much better as a Christian in Muslim countries than as a Muslim (or Jew) in Christian ones. Some Byzantine chronicles I've read even show that the Greeks of Constantinople sometimes preferred dealing with Arabs and Jews to the Western Christians, even to the point of defending them against attack of over-zealous Crusaders - while the Crusaders on the other hand motivated their pillaging the Christian city of Constantinople by saying that the Greeks were "worse than Jews".

So yes, I think Robin mentioning that does illustrate an important point in what the conflicts of that age looked like, and the difference between the two sides. Then again there were Christians and Christians, as well as Muslims and Muslims, of course, but the general picture looks like this. The mad ideologies of (so-called Muslim) organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban are largely products of the 20th century, of the Cold War, Imperialism and other factors, it's not a common trait that has dominated, or even played a substantial part of, Islam for any long time. So referring to Islam as a religion of bloodletting is really quite unfair in my opinion. All major religions have really dark sides of their history, so has Islam, but not worse than any other.

The Warrior said...

Jonas is back! Whoo! Who's in da hooooouse? ;-P

So...I'm going to cheat and give you just a short comment instead of a responsive long one. :-P

We'll agree to disagree.