When many people think about “Robin Hood,” they probably conjure up images of a rebel causing trouble for the sake of his fellow man in the forest. They probably imagine a strong and charismatic leader standing up against a cold and overpowering government. The idea and the legend of “Robin Hood” are powerful and inspirational but unfortunately, the new movie about the famous outlaw is bleak and disappointing.
The new Ridley Scott film tells the story of Robin Hood in the period before he was known as an infamous outlaw. Oscar winner Russell Crowe plays Robin Hood, a brilliant archer and warrior. After a dying man asks Robin for a favor, Robin fulfills his duty to him and eventually becomes involved with the dead man’s wife, Marion Loxley (Oscar winner Cate Blanchett). After their romance grows, Robin Hood returns to battle to fight for the country he loves against forces that wish to undermine it.
Unfortunately, the movie has little sense of the adventure that Robin Hood is often known for and the characters in this film are not well-developed. For example, I was struck by the frantic pace of one of the early battle scenes and how little I cared about the characters battling in it. Many of the figures in this story are well-known but this movie fails to bring them to life. Although there were some strong supporting actors in this film (including William Hurt and Max von Sydow), the leading actors were disappointing. For one, Russell Crowe is far too serious in this film to have a good time with the role and he fails to create a memorable depiction of Robin Hood.
The second half of the film does improve as the movie slowly finds its footing. The best parts of the film occur when the movie stops focusing on the one-dimensional characters and focuses more on an unlikely alliance that Robin Hood is forced to make with the corrupt leader of his country, King John. I was not a fan of Oscar Isaac's portrayal of King John but it was interesting to watch him slowly face reality towards the end of the film. The scenes involving him being forced to compromise on his political values when his country is threatened was a highlight.
One upside is that destructive nature of government overreach is a recurring theme. Leaders are repeatedly forced to negotiate when the people turn against their agendas and individuals seem to constantly rise up against "the Man" in his various forms. However, the movie fails to coherently develop any of those major themes and the audience is left seeing some smaller pieces that could have worked nicely in a better movie.
Unfortunately, the movie's strengths are not enough to overcome it's weaknesses and “Robin Hood” turns out to be a depressing film that does not contain much of the excitement and thrills that are usually associated with the famous outlaw. There are parts of this film that are enjoyable and I think that an exciting movie could have been made using a similar plot about “Robin Hood’s” pre-outlaw days, but Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood" squanders that potential, taking the adventure out of a legendary story that is known for it.