For as muddled as its medieval politics are, thanks to a scattershot screenplay by Brian Helgeland, director Ridley Scott’s cloud-covered history of Robin Longstride’s path to outlaw legend soars whenever Cate Blanchett takes the screen as Maid Marion.
The same filmmaker responsible for Alien, Black Hawk Down and Gladiator works in a brown and gray palate of natural light to conjure up 13th-century England. The ever-humorless Russell Crowe is a paunchy archer in King Richard the Lion Heart’s army when the ruler (Danny Huston) is killed during a generic battle involving gallons of hot oil, arrows and muddy swords. Entrusted to deliver a dying soldier's sword to his father Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow) in Nottingham, Robin (Crowe) and his mercenary companions take the opportunity to return King Richard's crown to England's callow new leader King John (Oscar Isaac).
Upon receiving his son Robert's sword that bears the inscription “rise and rise again until lambs become lions,” the blind Sir Walter insists that Robin impersonate Robert — something Robin has already been doing to avoid military punishment — and also pretend to be husband to Lady Marion so that Loxely's land won't be taken away when he dies.
It's from this overlong set up that the prequel takes its shape. In an overworked effort at making Robin Hood a somber man with heavy emotional baggage about his father and an idealized sense of justice, the filmmakers have drained all the fun out of a story that should at least have some amount of proletariat joy. While it's true that this Robin Hood is unlike any you've seen before, it's also one that you might not want to see again. Grade: C-plus
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