I haven’t seen “Robin Hood” yet but Kenneth Turan, the senior film critic for the Los Angeles Times, watched it at the Cannes Film Festival…
When you call a movie ” Robin Hood,” you set up expectations: a gallant archer, a maid named Marion, a band of Merry Men, a crusading king and a certain camaraderie in Sherwood Forest. The latest version has those elements, but they don’t play out in a way that’s easy to recognize or respond to, and that’s a problem.
It’s an especially frustrating problem because the key creative people involved in the film are among the best in the business and their work here is for the most part solid. Director Ridley Scott is a contemporary master of wide screen action entertainment, Oscar-winning screenwriter Brian Helgeland is coming off a strong showing in “Green Zone” and costars Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, Australians a long way from home, clearly enjoy each other’s company. So what could be wrong?
The difficulty is that this “Robin Hood” has been misconceived twice over. The first misstep, albeit a defensible one, was the decision to make this an origins story, a kind of “Robin Before the Hood.” While there is no lack of action and intrigue here, those expecting traditional Robin Hood satisfactions will be left wondering if it’d be asking too much to have the guys kicking back in Sherwood the way we remember them.
Still, origins stories are all the rage these days and with a property like the Robin Hood legends, filmed literally dozens of times with actors such as Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn and Kevin Costner in the title role, doing things differently (as Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn did in “Robin and Marian“) is a justifiable way to go.
What is harder to forgive is the cumbersome, too-complicated story credited to Helgeland (who shares story credit with the “Kung Fu Panda” team of Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris). Simultaneously simplistic and over-plotted, revisionist and predictable, this “Robin Hood” has trouble getting untracked and, once it does, proves an awkward mix of international geopolitics, repressed memory, old-fashioned villainy, human rights advocacy, the Magna Carta and pigeons that send secret messages…
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– Kenneth Turan
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Top, “Robin Hood” in battle (Paramount Pictures); bottom, Russell Crowe at Cannes (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images )