Yep, that’s right I’m going to talk about a movie. Not only a movie, but a movie I saw twice IN ONE DAY! Okay, that totally wasn’t on purpose, but when you suddenly have a babysitter you just go with it. Having little to no recollection of the Disney version I can say I was surprised to see clips of it now and see how all encompassing they made their view. Robin Hood was not merely a champion of the poor, but a champion of those beggared by taxation. While I know that is the basic concept of the tale, it’s a facet that seems to have been missed in many other tellings.
Of course there was also the Kevin Costner version of the film which, strangely, I recall to be much better than what I see in clips now. Honestly, where is the British accent? And while we’re talking about that where the heck is the good acting? Well, aside from Morgan Freeman that is. But, truth be told, those two tales left politics out of much of the conversation when it came to taxation. King Richard was a savior in both of the above versions, not culpable in the astronomical burden levied against a citizenry (okay, I have to make mention of Sean Connery as a good actor in that odious film as well – but he really wasn’t in it all that long). The truth is each telling has spoken of taxation at the behest of a villainous, power mongering individual that is only ever relieved at the behest of a benevolent monarch. Both stories would lead us to believe that power is good and something all people should be subject to despite its failings as shown in the actions of that villain.
Fast forward to 2010 and ‘lo and behold we are now greeted with this:
You must know, up front, that I adore Ridley Scott (even if I didn’t care for “Gladiator”) as he always does something interesting with his works. This is no exception to that at all. For all intents and purposes this film is about how the legend came to be, all the events that led up to Robin being declared an outlaw, and all the necessary politics that went into maintaining the monarchy. The issues of freedom were given some vent if not at least good fodder for philosophical conversation if you feel so inclined, but overwhelmingly it spoke of the issues of taxation in a society where war was something demanded of the people by the monarch. Make no mistake – this movie has some relatively gritty battle sequences – but this is war as a statement in reverence of and detestation of war. Reverence for war when it came to a people’s need to defend themselves, their country, and in detestation against the foreign battles of the Crusades that brought many of them to their knees with poverty.
The acting, the cinematography were splendid with nary only one person who seemed to have issues with creating and maintaining an appropriate accent (luckily that person was not a lead) with only a few little issues to my mind. First: I’m so sick of that choppy way of filming these days that makes things seem to move faster. Seriously? Stop that. It’s over done and it makes me dizzy. Even still – it did not aggravate me all that much even when I saw it that second time. Second: That slow motion, kind of muted effect used when the hero/heroine screams? Yeah, stop that too. It’s just awkward and in the thick of battle that is the literary equivalent of sticking in a detailed account of what the characters are wearing while they’re trying to kill each other. Battle cry? Yes, please. Slow motion battle cry, not once but twice? Um, no. Really. No.
This film reminded me more of Braveheart in ideology than it did any previously told film version of Robin Hood. To take this new spin on an old tale, to make it accessible to a PG-13 crowd was both a wonderful and formidable endeavor. Even if one decided to not ponder the thoughts behind the story shown it still stood it’s own as a film. Cate Blanchette was a far more believable heroine to me than even Miranda Otto’s Eowyn was in Lord of the Rings and this still says nothing of the lovely humorous elements the actress brought to the film. Friar Tuck also aided in some much needed levity with his love of bees and Meade without ever once making the humor seem too adolescent or stilted. There is, of course, Russell Crowe to contend with and, quite frankly, I adored him in this. To this day I think his weakest performance since making a name for himself was in “Gladiator”. While this was hardly an amazing stretch for him, unlike “Cinderella Man” or “A Beautiful Mind”, he still did an excellent job embodying an honest man forced into the life of a criminal.
I can not recommend this film enough. Honestly, even after seeing it twice on Sunday I already want to see it again. I leave this review with a quote from the estimable Martin Luther King, Jr which so wonderfully sums up this incarnation of Robin Hood:
An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.
Have you seen this movie? What did you think?