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Blu-ray Review: Robin Hood
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The Movie God   |  @   |  
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Robin Hood
DVD | Blu-ray
DIRECTED BY: Ridley Scott
STARRING: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Scott Grimes, Oscar Isaac, Max von Sydow, Kevin Durand, Mark Strong, Alan Doyle, Danny Huston, Mark Addy, Matthew MacFadyen
Universal Pictures
RELEASE DATE: September 21, 2010

Ever since the very first news that famed director Ridley Scott would be making a realistic and historically accurate new take on the fabled tale of Robin of Loxsley, I’ve been about as excited as you can be. Hearing that a story that I and many, many others have grown up knowing being recreated in the same vein as Scott’s Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven is beautiful music to the ears of those with a love for epic period pieces, and Robin Hood just couldn’t come quickly enough for me.

Instead of using the traditional story — focusing on Robin and his Merry Men feuding with the interim king and the Sheriff of Nottingham as they steal from the wealthy and help the less fortunate — the filmmakers decided to go in a different path. This movie is about Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe), an archer in Richard the the Lionheart’s (Danny Huston) army in the year 1199. While off fighting the French, things take a turn for the worst and Robin and three of his fellow soldiers, Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes), Little John (Kevin Durand), and Alan A’Dale (Alan Doyle, in the musician’s film debut), decide to get out while they still can.

Not long after the group sets off on their own, they discover the scene of a recent ambush. This gives them the chance to get home they’ve been looking for, but with it comes the request of a dying man named Robert Loxsley. Robin feels led to fulfill the wishes of this man, so he takes on the identity of the man and ends up in Nottingham, a small village where he shares the bad news with the man’s father, Sir Walter (Max von Sydow), and his wife, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett). In an attempt to save his land and people, Sir Walter asks Robin to stay and continue pretending to be his son.

With current ruling King John (Oscar Isaac) ordering major taxes, Robin steps into the community and begins to help in many ways, including by standing up to the taxes and getting the village back to its old ways. But when an imminent French attack is upon them, England must put aside its current scandalous setbacks and unite against the coming danger.

As long as that description was, it is fitting; Robin Hood is a really long movie. This is something that won’t sit well with all movie goers, but what else would you expect from a Ridley Scott epic? Thankfully, the Blu-ray comes with about as many viewing options as you could wish for. In this one little package, you get the theatrical and unrated director’s cut versions of the film, and you get them on both Blu-ray or DVD, and also get a digital copy as well. This is how to sell a product. Getting the DVD as an added bonus is always something to celebrate; you never know when you’ll have limited access. In fact, I ended up having to watch the last 10 minutes of the movie on DVD, so it worked out perfectly.

Going back to the length, yes it’s true: this movie can be slow at times. If this is something that distances you from watching a movie, just make sure you watch the theatrical version. I, for one, am a total sucker for anything like this movie, set in a time long ago with major battles being fought with swords and arrows and horses. For this fact, I loved almost everything about Robin Hood. It wasn’t quite the Gladiator I hoped for, but still an epic on all levels.

The thing that really stood out to me was the production elements themselves. I was really blown away by the sets, the locations, and all of the wonderful detail that went into creating this world. The team that worked on it even went as far as building entire sections of castles to film with. The amount of effort that went into making this movie is such a refreshing reminder of how films should be made in a world being dominated by computer animation technologies. Yes, sometimes the CGI works well, but when it all boils down, you have to respect a film that’s build with blood, sweat, and two hands instead of a computer program.

All of the actors delivered fantastic performances. I was especially excited to see Crowe reunited with his Mystery Alaska team of Grimes and Durand, and Doyle notably did a really great job for his first acting job ever. The music by Marc Streitenfeld was fitting to the scale of the film, and the story was very interesting overall, even with the aforementioned slow points.

This is a movie you would never ever expect a sequel from, but it’s also one of those rare occasions where it would actually call for one, should everyone choose to return and make it. Again, this story is an origins story, presenting a historically accurate background for Robin to come from on his way to meeting the characters and arriving at the locations we all know from the tales. At the movie’s end — without giving anything away — things are beginning to look like the Robin Hood we’re all familiar with, and a Ridley Scott version of that story would be just as appealing, if not more so.

All-in-all, Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood is not his best film, but yet another strong offering from the director. It’s such a technically well-shot and beautiful film, that it’s hard not to fall for the setting, the characters, and all of its 12th century charm.

SPECIAL FEATURES

There’s not a ton of extras on here — you’ll find the deleted scenes and concept artwork and commentaries and BD Live stuffs. But there is one feature that more than compensates.

The feature is called Rise and Rise Again (part of a phrase used far too often in the movie, like they really wanted to make sure you noticed it), and it runs a good hour or so long. The featurette covers all areas of the production, and gives you an excellent look into a massive scale movie being built from the ground up.

I’m fascinated by most making of features and seeing what goes into a movie, but there’s something about seeing all of the work and people that help with something this size, and the days and days of dedication and determination that go into a flick you spend just a couple of short hours watching. This is the kind of featurette that helps to put the movies you see into perspective.

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