Rated PG-13 for violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content, 140 minutes
Spectacle, lush adventure in the hollow, unnecessary "Robin Hood"
The new "Robin Hood" is really a prequel of sorts, examining the rise of the popular legend that many doubt even existed at all. Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe team up once again to bring to the silver screen one big, expensive backstory (oh, around $200 million) to add to the summer fanfare. While the production itself is impressive with a few well-placed action set pieces, this "Robin Hood" is largely an expendable, entertaining crowd-pleaser that reminds too much of "Braveheart."
It's the 12th Century, and Robin Longstride (Crowe) is a common archer in the Third Crusade. When Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) is killed, Robin and three fellow soldiers attempt to return home. Impersonating a fallen solider, Robin ends up informing the French royal family of Richard's death, and Prince John (Oscar Isaac) is crowned king. He instantly proves to be a harsh king, and along with evil confidant Godfrey (Mark Strong), is behind an attempt to instill civil war and unrest in England, just as Robin is returning home to his native Nottingham. There he finds Marian (Cate Blanchett) and her father (Max Von Snydow) attempting to save their lands from the terrible Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfayden). Robin and his men heed the call to right injustices to save England and become the hero, outlaw and legend he later became robbing the rich and giving to the poor.
"Robin Hood" is a lush, epic action-adventure produced on grand scale. The action is well-handled by Scott and the sublime visuals and detailed production design highlight the film. But the story, more fiction than fact, is problematic and tends to slow the action down considerably. And while the film benefits from a strong cast, particularly a slimy antagonist Strong, a brave maid Marian played with panache by Blanchett (who adds to all the action in one fun scene) and a strong supporting part from veteran actor Von Snydow, "Robin Hood" is hurt by the casting of Crowe, who's too old, too serious and too stocky for the role. While Crowe ecks out a believable performance, he lacks the lithe, youthful energy of Errol Flynn, who was always remembered in the part.
The costumes, the sets and the music are impressive and the film's production design deserves praise, even if the script by "L.A. Confidential's" Brian Helgeland is too choppy, too familiar in a "Braveheart"-like way (particularly the scenes with the evil king and his assistant) and adds way too much filler, some of which could've been cut. The climactic, battle scenes pop with energy and should still please and the end credits give rise to the legend of the Robin Hood that we all became familiar with, but much of it's unnecessary given the fact that his adventures that followed were far more interesting than this.