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film review: Robin Hood

by Leonard Maltin
May 13, 2010 4:30 AM
28 Comments
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I went into this film with a “show me” attitude, but I freely admit it won me over. In spite of a few quibbles, I came away entertained. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay to director Ridley Scott, screenwriter Brian Helgeland, and their cast is that I didn’t find myself comparing their work to Robin Hoods past. They have managed to put their stamp on a familiar tale without completely subverting it.

One reason their movie stands apart is that it endeavors to tell the origin of Robin Hood rather than simply repeating the usual story. The action begins as our hero is fighting for his King, Richard the Lionheart, who is pillaging his way through France on his way back home from the Crusades. One by one we meet the characters who will play crucial roles in the Robin Hood legend-to-come, as well as—

—new figures who matter most in this pre-history.

Russell Crowe has all the right ingredients to play this heroic figure—physicality, personal charisma, and sincerity, whether declaiming noble thoughts or sly asides. He’s believable as a leader and as a lover. Cate Blanchett is a perfect choice to play his Marian, the kind of woman who can stand toe-to-toe with such a hero, earning both his respect and ours.

The large supporting cast is peppered with familiar faces and newcomers alike, from Mark Addy as Friar Tuck to the current cinema’s go-to villain, Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes, The Young Victoria, Kick-Ass), as the principal bad guy; he certainly commands the screen. But it’s a couple of acting veterans who show us what decades of experience can bring to the party: Eileen Atkins, as the proud Elinor of Aquitaine, and Max von Sydow, as Blanchett’s father-in-law, who plays a fateful role in our hero’s evolution. At 81, von Sydow dominates every scene he’s in, as his role is designed to do; he offers humor, heart, and authority to a character you won’t find (to my knowledge) in any previous Robin Hood.

The sets and Welsh locations are impressive, and the action scenes are gritty and forceful. When these arrows find their targets, you can feel the victims’ pain. Only the finale, a spectacular battle at water’s edge, feels out of place, as if it belonged in some other movie. I’m sure I’m not the only person who will be reminded of Saving Private Ryan (I won’t go into details), an unwelcome distraction that isn’t helped by the most obvious CGI effects in the film—and a couple of helicopter shots that drive home the incongruity. It’s also around this time that the movie starts feeling long.

Moviegoers won’t be able to complain that they haven’t gotten their money’s worth: this Robin Hood delivers an abundance of action and story, but its real value is the human element provided by its principal actors. It’s that aspect of the legend that has captured our imagination for years, and fortunately, it hasn’t been forgotten here. Robin Hood may not be a great film—and it certainly won’t displace other versions of the story for all time—but it has much to enjoy, for longtime fans of the story and newcomers alike.

To revisit other Robin Hoods worth remembering click HERE.

Todd McCarthy’s Robin Hood Review

Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” is neither as good as the director’s personal best period epic, “Gladiator,” nor a match for Hollywood’s most memorable previous accounts of the beneficent bandit of Sherwood Forest. ... 

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28 Comments

  • Sameer Chowdhury | January 17, 2011 11:04 AMReply

    This horrendous mutilation of the legend using modern manipulative insinuations is almost unimaginable and I felt after an hour how I would be able to stand the rest of this clunker.
    The problem with the reimagination of the legend, giving it a beginning is not so much erroneous as its handling, and by the end of the film one is left wondering if Ridley Scott actually meant this as one of those infamous big budget duds that arose out of Hollywood from the late '70's till the mid '80's. And even if it was intended as a 'bad movie' the joke's in poor taste. Bomb.

  • Steven | May 20, 2010 12:42 PMReply

    Did not like this movie. Nothing about it worked and most of it was very predictable. Lady who should stay home goes into battle and almost gets hero killed is one of many examples. The love story was not believable, I did not care if the two got together or not. Costner was worse, Flynn better, Greene better, Todd better,Connery better.

  • Rob | May 19, 2010 5:58 AMReply

    I can't wait to see this movie.

    http://cinemacriticsclub.blog.com

  • Jason | May 16, 2010 6:48 AMReply

    I do hope this completes Ridley Scott's foray into historical action films. Dont' get me wrong I liked this film and Gladiator and especially Kingdom of Heaven but I think it's time Ridley Scott try something different.

  • Ben | May 15, 2010 3:47 AMReply

    There was a naval engagement in Robin Hood?

  • RIO | May 14, 2010 12:45 PMReply

    Gotta love these 'authentic' remakes. Everything looks like a pig sty and everyone looks like they just crawled out of it! "Authentic'? Would really like to see Blahnchet pull an authentic English longbow. Screw this neo 'realism' and give me good old fashioned escapism!! After all, Robin Hood was not real and King Richard was a real screw-off!

  • Irving Nelson Canfield | May 14, 2010 11:52 AMReply

    Crowe is such a weenie. All he can do is make bad, really bad remakes. Take that stupid tiny hat he wore in "3:10 To Yuma" - PLEASE. An insult to the original. An insult to the public. He'd be better off selling flanel shirts in Canada.

  • Susan McConnell | May 14, 2010 11:39 AMReply

    I haven't seen this movie yet, but am planning to...Russell Crowe is a great actor and since my last memory of a RH movie was the one that was ruined by Kevin Costner, who wouldn't or couldn't even affect a brit accent....this movie has to be better! and as far as Cate Blanchett, she is a wonderful actress, and contrary to a previous post, she is a lovely woman. Not everyone has to be the vacant bleach blonde bimbo type to be attractive.

  • Ruth Cooke | May 14, 2010 10:54 AMReply

    What Russel Crowe manages in an acting role he does despite his looks, not because of them. Actually, I can see him more as a Friar Tuck! What about someone like Viggo Mortenson as Robin Hood?

  • James Doran | May 14, 2010 10:40 AMReply

    Richard was a dickhead. John was a brilliant administrator. raising taxes to ransom the dickhead got him bad press.Woe to those who varnish history with romantic drivel.JMD

  • Dan Bushey | May 14, 2010 10:22 AMReply

    Movie critics don't pay for my movie ticket. There is no reason for me to listen what THEY, think of how good, or how bad, a movie is!! I pay my own way into the movies!!!! Besides, I like, Russel Crowe!!!!!!!
    SIGNED: DANIEL L. BUSHEY

  • walkingman717 | May 14, 2010 10:06 AMReply

    Yes, Fess Parker passed away a couple of months ago. He and other childhood hero Guy Williams - Zorro, are gone, but not forgotten.

  • kt | May 14, 2010 9:50 AMReply

    I saw it this afternoon and it was awesome. Russell Crowe did a great job and all the other actors wereoutstanding!! I loved it and can't wait for the sequence!! I know it's coming!!! WELL WORTH YOUR TIME, CHECK IT OUT!!!!

  • Jesse Ehrhart | May 14, 2010 9:06 AMReply

    I agree with JRD

  • johhnyg | May 14, 2010 9:06 AMReply

    Saw RH. Wow! Best RH movie yet. More of a reality check about the evils of some royalty. It is the beginning of the Robin Hood story. The parts of the old movies that were left out. I certainly hope that they will continue with the story. Casting was perfect. The screenplay was very well written with plenty of drama and emotion. There is some violence. Weak stomachs stay home. The sites chosen to shoot the movie were incredible. Everything looks authentic. Down to the dirty little orphans. It gives you a picture that not much ever changes in history. Only the weapons and the leaders. Go see it.!!!

  • Jim | May 14, 2010 8:46 AMReply

    I haven't seen this yet. I am going to.
    I don't remember Maid Marian's father in any of the other films. That in itself will be good.
    Richard I go to the movies to be entertained (get away from reality) If I want facts about something I will watch a documentary.
    When the History Channel started airing things that put forth things that weren't factual I stopped watching. Some programs made an assumption about certain things (aliens who came to earth thousands of years ago, Assumptions about Christ that were not based on any fact or even gossip.)
    They air a lot about Nostradamus. Where are programs about the prophecies from the Bible and what occured to prove them right?

  • Dman | May 14, 2010 8:31 AMReply

    give me the disney version any day. That was by far the best movie version of this tale and that what the other's have tried to follow.

  • JOE G | May 14, 2010 8:04 AMReply

    OK RUSSELL CROWE WAS AWSOME I RATE MOVIE 3 STARS FIRST HALF HOUR CONFUSING BUT U HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION THEN MOVIE PICKS UP AN LOT OF ACTION

  • JRD | May 14, 2010 8:00 AMReply

    I'm sorry, for me it will ALWAYS be Errol Flynn and the 1938 version. No one brought more to that role than the greatest film swashbuckler of all time.
    I wish Hollywood would stop with all the remakes. I'm so afraid they're going to try a "Casablanca" remake one day and cast Will Smith in the lead.

  • Elyse | May 14, 2010 7:26 AMReply

    Movie sounds great for the genre. I have one problem; Richard was not in France in 1199 pillaging his way home from the Crusades. Richard returned to reclaim his throne in 1193 after crusading and then having been in a German prison for a year. He was now in France trying to keep his unruly barons in check which he had spent most of his life doing in order to make Aquitaine a prosperous land (he was crowned Duke d'Aquitaine since he was 16). He died a premature and untimely death at age 42. However, g - - forbid we have some historical accuracy even though mediaeval movies are still alot of fun.

  • Dick | May 14, 2010 7:24 AMReply

    "You can fool some of the people all of the time...Look folks, the original tale of Robin Hood is a simple one. Robin never fought in France, never fought in the crusades, and if you ever bothered to read the original work of fiction you'd kow that Robin dies at the end of the story. This is just another case of Hollywood hype...taking what is simple and prostituting it into an expensive mega-blockbuster with a lot of sound and fury, but remember the last part of that line from Shakespeare. It is: "SIGNIFYING NOTHING!"

  • feherszarvas | May 14, 2010 7:14 AMReply

    I love Ridley Scott's movies I've never seen a bad one yet! That and Russel Crow why I would go see this movie! For othher movies lately I would be thinking to spend my time and money (that is four months I havent go to the movies)

  • lights out | May 14, 2010 7:05 AMReply

    To Richard: How do you feel about the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus??? SHHHHHHHHHHHH I wont tell

  • grace | May 14, 2010 6:49 AMReply

    I can't wait to see this movie. I think Russell Crowe is one of the best actors of our generation. He should be holding two Oscars instead of one. I'm also so tired of these silly, stupid movies -i.e., The Backup Plan. My goodness - what a waste of time and effort and there are so many of these types of movies. Just give us Russell Crowe and actors of his caliber.

  • Jeff Feamster | May 14, 2010 6:48 AMReply

    Is Fess Parker dead ?

  • Jeanne | May 14, 2010 6:45 AMReply

    Can't agree with you about Cate Blanchett. She's not good-looking.

  • Ev | May 14, 2010 6:42 AMReply

    Richard you are an idiot!!!

  • Richard | May 14, 2010 6:36 AMReply

    Although I haven't yet seen the movie, its hasn't it my area yet, I think one should remember movies such as they are soley for the purpose of entertainment and are not documetries (even some of those I wonder about). True, some are based ON real people, which does not mean these movies are factual. Just enjoy these movies for what they are, entertainment, nothing more, nothing less. If you want facts (per se) watch the History Channel! Russell Crowe is a excellent actor, true, some of his movies are better than others (this too, can almost be said of any star). I just have to wait and see on Robin Hood. Russell, what's next? Davy Crockett?? (Please say no..The late Fess Parker actually made Davy Crockett my childhood hero, do not destroy that!)

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