Saturday, May 29, 2010

Robin Hood

"Did I wrong you in another life, Will Scarlett?"

A disillusioned soldier, traveling under a false name, falls into a French plot to invade England.

When I was young, my friend and I snuck off to explore a plot of land in the process of being developed, one where my mother had expressly told me not to go. There were no buildings there, only tilled up earth and piles of sand. We didn't recognize the significance of the fact that it had just rained the night before, and we made it two jumping steps in before we realized it might have been a bad idea.

One sneaker clad foot sunk into the mud and it took all my strength to free it, which only drove the other foot deeper down. So far down in fact that another yank freed that foot, but left the shoe... Only a few moments after we'd embarked on our journey of exploration to the forbidden lands, we were returning to my house- carrying instead of wearing- our mud covered (and filled) shoes with our feet clad in socks and mud up to mid calf, and wondering how we could keep my mom from knowing. This is what came to mind as I watched Ridley Scott's re-telling of the Robin Hood legend, which unfolds in basically the same way: what you expect will be an adventure quickly becomes a quagmire of half hearted storylines, leaving you to walk home in shame- desperately trying to figure out at what point this became a bad idea.

I found myself surprised, for a movie that claimed to be the "Untold" story of Robin Hood in nearly all of it's trailers, just how much Scott's 2010 release had in common with Kevin Reynold's 1991 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Russell Crowe is a long way from Kevin Costner I think we can all agree ("Not that there's anything wrong with that"), but both movies seem to bring the same humor, and many of the same emotional set-pieces- not to mention love stories that are virtually spiritual twins. You could say that's to be expected from two movies on the same subject, but to that I would ask exactly what about this is "untold" then? If it's the ham-handed political pseudo-commentary that this movie is rife with, then I would say we could have left that untold and lost nothing.

The two high points of this film are easy to spot. The first being Cate Blanchett, whom I am pretty sure could be cast as a rock and still be a memorable part a movie. Though her character in Robin Hood is set upon by horribly familiar/predictable scenarios, she manages to spin them into something interesting- at least until the final battle when everything falls apart anyway. The other thing that really struck me about this movie was production quality. The costumes and sets in use are top notch, so much so that watching them can occasionally be more interesting than the actually story. It's not often I am so impressed with reproductions of this time period. I cannot speak as to the accuracy, but the quality is top-notch.

That the apparel could out do a script written by the likes of Brian Helgeland is hard to believe, and I don't know that I would have it had I not seen it for myself. I don't know how a man with titles like L.A. Confidential, Man On Fire and Mystic River to his name could be behind this bramble patch. Maybe it's the subject matter? Maybe Robin hood just brings out the sugary-sweet hero side of anyone involved; who could say? It brought Scott Grimes back to the silver screen however, so for that I am thankful.

And so it seems that team Scott-Crowe's streak ends here. If Gladiator, American Gangster, and Body of Lies were all beautifully chiseled works of art, then Robin Hood is all the marble that's left on the floor. All the pieces are of the same quality, but they will never amount to a whole. As someone who's enjoyed all their movies together, and countless movies from them separately, I feel towards them how my mom must have felt after she found the mud splashed laundry room my friend and I had tried to wash away the evidence in: Not just mad at the mess, but mad because I should have known better.

The Reel Deal Reccomends
Master and Commander: Crowe in one of his best roles to date.
Babel: Brilliant direction featuring Blanchett in this ensemble piece.
Band of Brothers: Grimes in what is technically not a movie, but when you watch it you'll see why I made the exception.


Cristina said...

The fact that this blog exists makes me very happy. I wondered about Robin Hood, although due to your review I might have to watch it just for the costumes. I've watched many many below average movies for exactly that reason.

The Reel Deal said...

Well I would like to think that The Reel Deal exists to make you happy, so that's good news ;-)
Lol, it actually made me think of you. I know you have a love of costumes, I remember when we all went to see Elizabeth: The Golden Age and you were in heaven.