When we went to see Robin Hood yesterday, I wasn’t expecting a lot. Ridley Scott may be Ridley Scott and I do adore Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett but after the disappointment over Iron Man 2, I learned not to set high expectations with these big-budget movies.
The curious thing is how Robin Hood far exceeded my expectations. True, there were obvious historical inaccuracies. For starters, based on what I learned in history, in school and from my own readings, Richard I of England, or Richard the Lionheart as he is more popularly known, was in fact able to return home from the Third Crusade. He was not killed by a cook’s arrow during a siege as portrayed in Ridley Scott’s film. Never mind the confusion surrounding Robin Hood’s identity — as far as history is concerned, there’s really no proof that he ever existed in the first place.
Never mind too the brouhaha over Crowe’s accent. Like I could tell if he sounded Irish or Scottish. And never mind criticisms that both Crowe and Blanchett were too old for their roles — how old should Robin Hood and Marion be portrayed anyway when they never really existed?
Yes, I enjoyed Robin Hood. Although some critics claim that the heavier and darker mood of the film took the fun out of Robin Hood’s adventures, I like the idea of a hero who got hurt and bled — unlike Kevin Costner’s portrayal in the 1991 version as well as the older swashbucklers before him including the alleged Nazi spy, Errol Flynn. You know, in the same mold as Daniel Craig’s James Bond vis a vis his predecessors who never seemed to perspire or got their hair messed up despite all the action. I like it too that the characters were not made out as caricatures.
I like it even more that the issue of abusive collection of taxes was not heaped on the shoulders of the Sheriff of Nottingham but on the king himself. Richard the Lionheart bled England to death to finance his wars and that was made very clear. The Sheriff of Nottingham was only implementing orders of the Crown. That, for me, was very important. In any story with historical references, the story teller has no license rewriting facts to turn a monster into a saint. I’ve always felt that those who went on those holy crusades were being lauded as beloved heroes only because our history lessons have been written by those who actually instigated and benefitted from those wars.
Finally, I like Robin Hood for the same reason that I loved Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island. In a generation when most people seem to equate a movie’s worth and superiority with the level of computer technology involved in its making, it is absolutely great to see a film without all the modern overkill. It’s not that I don’t appreciate what modern technology can contribute to filmmaking. I do, actually, and I loved my most recent computer animation experiences — Rainy With A Chance of Meatballs and How To Train Your Dragon. Still, there are times when there’s nothing like human presence onscreen to breathe life to a story. Although they belong to different genres, and Shutter Island for me is a far more superior cinematic achievement than Robin Hood, they share that common bond of not relying too much on computer generated effects to capture the viewer’s attention and imagination.
When a film is bad, I only recommend it to people I don’t like. Robin Hood is one film I’d recommend to friends.