Robin Hood (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content.
Length: 140 minutes (156 director’s cut)
Grade: A-CAB=A-
Budget: $200 million
Box Office: $310 million (105 U.S., 205 Intl.)

Written by: Brian Helgeland (Green Zone, Cirque du Freak, Taking of Pelham 123, Man on Fire, The Order, Mystic River, Blood Work, A Knight’s Tale, Payback, The Postman, Conspiracy Theory, and LA Confidential), Ethan Reiff & Cyrus Voris (Kung Fu Panda, Bulletproof Monk).
Directed by: Ridley Scott (Body of Lies, American Gangster, A Good Year, Kingdom of Heaven, Matchstick Men, Blackhawk Down, Hannibal, Gladiator, GI Jane, 1492, Thelma & Louise, Black Rain, Legend, Blade Runner, and Alien)
Starring: Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett
With: Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, and Danny Huston.

In this prequel to the more well-known Robin Hood story which has been made into at least 4 movies already, a relatively minor archer in King Richard’s returning army returns from the crusades masquerading as a noble but finds himself embroiled in trying to save his country from the despotic but incompetent Prince John and the conniving traitor, Sir Godfrey.

Entertainment Value: A-
I did a very unusual thing, I suppose. I deliberately watched the 1938 classic starring Errol Flynn first with my boys and then watched this film with my wife later that same night, so I had the cinematic tradition fresh in my head. And I must say that at first, I wasn’t thrilled because there are some substantial elements tinkered with here compared to what I knew. (Other versions of the story offer more of a basis for this version.) But then as it unfolded, I started to really like what I was seeing. They carried through the hefty criticisms of power being abused by both lords and bishops from the original. And they successfully did what few sequels do, put enough twist on what I already knew to be interesting while somehow still making me feel like they were very faithful to the old. This was especially true with some of the romantic plots and the overall laugh-in-the-face-of-danger lightness of Robin and his men. Ridley Scott is of course a filmmaking genius and there are few writers more adept than Brian Helgeland. Simply put, this is excellent, and an homage surpassed in recent films only by JJ Abrams’s Star Trek.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity B-, Violence C, Language B+
There’s a lot of drinking and carousing. There are a couple of romantic scenes, with some implied nudity and sex. The biggest issue will be violence, which isn’t nearly on the scale of a Braveheart, but still is more than younger children should likely see. I’d go PG-10.

Significant Content: A
Abuse of power toward the defenseless means you lose God’s protection. Churches can be both evil and also decent. Charity is a the core of what Christianity is supposed to be. A corrupt Church is as bad as a corrupt government. The key virtue of a man is a willingness to defy corruption both in word and deed while fighting for justice. It’s important to hold this world loosely enough to laugh at it when it might otherwise make you despair. A man most directly learns character from his father.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
It certainly looks and feels like a Ridley Scott film, plus he really seems to like working with Russell Crowe. What I think I liked the most here was the slightly to significantly adapted homage nature of the whole thing, even down to a twist ending very much in keeping with the original. One small complaint. There is a vivid scene where a noble dies and is burned in effigy, but this seems at odds with the standard Christian practice of burial and with earlier burials in the film.

Discussion Questions:
~Which is worse: a corrupt government or a corrupt church? Why? Which matters more, preserving the safety of a land or preserving the honor and credibility of God?
~Robin Hood is historically a benevolent vigilante. Under what circumstances is vigilantism justified, if ever? How do you decide between active use of arms to fight and other tactics such as civil disobedience? What should be done with a corrupt or negligent government? What do we do with the children of abusive or neglectful parents?
~What do you make of Robin’s impersonation of a noble? What about deserting the army? Do these actions make him seem less of a hero to you?
~John demands loyalty and says that he should not have to ask for it. Where does this authority come from? Is this a Christian way for a king to behave? Does our duty of submission to authority apply even to corrupt leaders? When, if ever, does it stop applying?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Robin confronting John about the charter of liberties. Why does John scoff? Why do people in the upper reaches of society usually scoff at such ideas?
~The sequence with the shell game and King Richard being chastised by Robin. Why is it so important for people to speak the truth to power when it is wrong? What makes it possible for Christians to do this even though it may be dangerous? Why do some people keep quiet when the powerful do wrong?
Overall Grade: A-
A very satisfying homage prequel made by one of the best directors. Thank goodness they didn’t turn Robin Hood into some dark monster the way they have with James Bond and Sherlock Holmes.


Naum said...

Oh, Andrew, you got to turn in your reviewer card after this one… :)


I usually love Ridley Scott, but this was an abomination, especially considering the colossal waste of acting and director talent. Outside of Adam Sandler movies, this was the worst movie I've seen in years… …the ridiculous battle scene with army of kids on ponies, the inanity of the King John character, a script written for 3rd graders…

…that they yanked the "Robin Hood" story onto an entirely different story, I was willing to forgive and go with… …but I swear, I kept thinking the guys from MST3K were going to pop up in the bottom of the screen…

Andrew Tallman said...

I completely agree about the kids in the battle scene. That was painful to watch. But despite many other reviewers finding it dull, I was really enjoying it. And in a way, since I had just (hours before) watched the 1938, I feel like I was in a pretty good position to decide whether this was a successful homage, which I obviously thought it was. Certainly, an uncharitable eye would find a lot to complain about here, and I may have just been in a good mood. But the box office and 42% at Rotten Tomatoes says that there's enough here for the rest of us.

I will clutch even more tightly to my reviewers credentials. =)

BTW, some friends were just astounded that I enjoyed "The Time Traveler's Wife" so much I'm weird. No surprise there.