Robin Hood is a mistake and should be stricken from Scott’s record. This is by no means the movie that people wanted to see when thinking about Robin Hood and his Merry Men. In good Ridley Scott style there are a lot of muted colors, gory fight sequences and a lot of characters to keep track of, but Robin Hood feels like Universal Pictures took the screenplay from Gladiator, threw it in Scott’s lap and shouted, “Make us another one of these!”
Scott wanted to make a movie that explained to us where Robin of the Hood came from, what he did before he arrived in Sherwood Forest, why he wanted wealth to be distributed more equally. That is all well and good, but it is also very uninteresting. We start our journey in France where King Richard is laying siege to one last castle before heading home. Among his men is an archer name Robin Longstride, a honorable man who returns to England after King Richard dies in battle. He confronts corruption in his homeland by challenging the selfish King John. If you think this will all lead to the quintessential scenes where Robin steals money from the rich and gives that to the poor, then you are sorely mistaken.
This is everything but that. Scott, and screenwriter Brian Helgeland, are not really interested in telling the stories that we all know and love. The funny, merry stories that can alleviate the heart, while instilling a notion of equality in the viewer. There is no reason whatsoever why Robin Hood should be featured in the title, none at all. Adding to this sentiment is a certain amount of fatigue when it comes to gritty historical drama. From Scott we have already gotten the excellent large-scale dramas Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, and to be honest we have seen all these battle-scenes, story-beats and compositions before. This is all nothing new. Maybe if another director had made this with another protagonist, this could have been a fairly good movie. Now not so much.
The casting of Russell Crowe as Robin Longstride (his fifth collaboration with Scott) doesn’t really help the case for Robin Hood. While always good in whatever he does, Crowe does go into Maximus-mode much of the movie. Even down to his hairdo. It is time for Mr. Scott and Mr. Crowe to part ways for the time being. As always, the entire cast is fine. Scott knows how to direct his cast in a way that makes them all look good. With actors like Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac and Danny Huston in the cast it is of course not really that hard to get good performances.
While Robin Hood looks beautiful as always, the distinct feeling that Scott made this movie on autopilot creeps all through the movie. The same ominous forests, the same muddy battlefields, the same castles and cityscapes. It all feels like we have seen in before exactly like that. There is enough here to be gawked at, but it is never surprising at all.
In 1977 Scott wanted to make the period drama Tristan and Isolde, but after seeing Star Wars he said, “Why make a medieval period drama when this is what people want to see?” He should have asked himself this question again before making Robin Hood. Why make another medieval action drama, when the audience wants to see another Ridley Scott science fiction movie. Let’s hope Scott has had enough of this type of movie for a while and that he focuses on bringing us what we want for a change.