Robin Hood is a potentially great film let down by one single factor – Robin Hood. Whilst that may seem a little odd, Ridley Scott’s new imagining of the legend would have been far stronger if it had forgotten the legend entirely and merely been about an English archer in the 12th Century and his role in the war against the French – but then that might have been a little too like Kingdom of Heaven in a different century.
As it is it’s saddled with a lot of unnecessary baggage that gets in the way of what could have been a great story. This isn’t to say it’s a bad film, just that this is a big problem for it to overcome – we think we’re getting one story and feel a little short changed when we get another.
Elsewhere this is pretty much Scott in historical mode and damn fine entertainment. Whilst it isn’t quite as entertaining (or, and this seems odd to say, as intelligent) as Gladiator it’s still a good nights cinema and worth seeing for the spectacle of the battle scenes (ironically toned down for a 12 rating – justified – when they would have had room to breath at a more commercially dangerous 15) and the frankly gorgeous photography, this is Scott’s best looking film for a long time. Russel Crowe makes a fine Robin, but frankly isn’t as interesting as either Oscar Issac as a terrifically weasley John or Mark Strong (adding another fine villain to his growing roster) as Godfrey, the key to the plot. Elsewhere there are simply too many familiar names to even begin to make a full list of everyone you’ll recognise in the film, some with better accents than others.
Away from this the film is well directed, well written with those increasingly odd concepts in summer movies of plot & character development, a smattering of well realised and restrained CGI and old fashioned storytelling values.
The advert prompted fears of Saving Private Sherwood, but the film quite clearly makes a case of the final edit for the advert being done by someone other than the director – lets just say that the film follows a different path than what was hinted at in the avert.
Is Robin Hood worth seeing – yes (enough that I’m seeing it a second time later in the week) but it would be far better if it ditched a lot of its baggage and focussed its attention elsewhere.