Robin Hood- ***1/2
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, Mark Strong, William Hurt
Release date: May 14, 2010
Contemplate all you want. Debate and quarrel with director Ridley Scott’s primitive vision of one of the world’s most celebrated and decadent of men: Robin Hood. Men of charismatic demeanor such as Errol Flynn (1938), Sean Connery (1976), and Kevin Costner (1991) all managed to make evident the unalterably essence of cool that Robin Hood conveyed. Director Scott disrupts that essence, disintegrating it completely and allowing his vision of Robin Hood to be a dynamic mixture of both barbarian and comforter. Some will see this barbarism as an incredulous act when tacked on to such a time-honored icon. But this is exactly Scott’s intention. He wants to depict Robin Hood before he actually earns the name Robin the Hood by responding not to the whimsicality and glorious luster previous manifestations of this character took participation in. This is Scott adapting a scheme from the superhero genre; the prologue enlightening us on how Robin became the man we all know him by now. When he is stripped from all the external charms he comes at you, thanks to Russell Crowe’s wonderful performance, like an irresistible torrent that leaves you mute and silent, but also wild and boisterous.
Robin Hood instills what has been rudely banished from the action epic picture in the last decade, and that is the grandeur, size and, most importantly, the emphasis on humanity. Scott, who has intertwined humanity with the most radical of individuals (non-humans in Blade Runner and drug lords in American Gangster), has an acute eye for that which makes the heart ache and he promulgates this discovery in a robust fashion, slowly developing scenes that are frankly beautiful. He sees the emotional factor that most directors drown out with excessive action scenes.
Robin (Crowe) is a mere archer in Richard the Lionheart’s (Danny Huston) army of men in England during the twelfth century. Their crusades have lasted ten years and have easily accumulated enough debt to put King Richard in harm’s way. The film, written by Brian Helgeland of Mystic River, focuses on Robin’s ascension from the ranks of men to a man worthy of challenging the kingdoms of England and France. England’s downfall is coming by way of their taxation on their own people. Kingdom needs money so they take from the less powerful (an alternate take on Robin’s famous “steal from the rich and give to the poor” saying). This injustice is taken even further when King Richard dies and his brother John (Oscar Isaac) takes over, serving the country as a tyrannical king with close friends, Godfrey (Mark Strong), in all the wrong places. Robin, along with his merry men and the aid of William Marshall (John Hurt), takes it into his own hands to reconstruct England’s laws and taxations, determined to overthrow the established values at all cost.
This brings about a topic that involves democracy — how an everyman (Robin) can excite the authorities to the point of them breaking. It is a democratic notion indeed, where a man can change an entire land only by his strong will and determination to supply justice to the wrongfully accused. It doesn’t harm to have an impeccable ego and an impenetrable demeanor as well. His confidence and brutish charm is a magnet of some sort that has the ability to attract men and women who want to participate in his rebellion against authorities. Crowe captures the overall significance of what it takes to be an everyman character and a rugged warrior of insatiable desires. When Robin arrives back home in the quaint village of Nottingham, where he encounters Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett) and her father (Max von Sydow), we see his personality alter and that is because he is trying to recruit men to back him up and gain the respect of those who are being neglected by the establishment. His fatherless past or his title doesn’t affect him. He is insensitive to these potential setbacks and denies to be held down by them or by the increasingly outlandish demands ignited by King John.
Scott shows us here that he is capable of maintaining a wide perspective, never ceasing in his expedition to uncover action, humor and humanity. A vast array of characters doesn’t prove to be a roadblock; instead it adds fuel to his arsenal as he finds useful ways to integrate each character into the picture. Never once does his film show fascination in a topic that is irrelevant to the broader scope (only once does he rush King John’s rise to power). His peripheral vision seizes all that is around him and he attacks it with a creative force that is used to capture everything he sees. When King John along with Robin mounts their men on a mountainous valley above the sands of the ocean one just feels the need to applaud such a perfectly crafted scene, undoubtedly more gallantly than anything depicted in “Gladiator.” When this action is bravely and ingeniously mixed with uncompromising humanity the result is an impulsive mixture that when wielded together what becomes of it is a substance that rattles the bones and pierces the soul.