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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » June 17, 2010
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Robin Hood
June 17, 2010   
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The latest big-screen adaptation of the story of Robin Hood is the fifth team-up between Sir Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe. After the romantic comedy A Good Year (2006), police drama American Gangster (2007) and spy thriller Body of Lies (2008), the director-actor duo are revisiting the genre which won them the biggest accolades. Their new offering is a historical epic in the vein of the multiple Academy Award winner Gladiator from 2000.

One of the biggest Hollywood fads of late is to reinvent classic and Medieval legends. There have been a host of releases portraying mass-culture heroes in a new way. The most far-fetched attempt was that by Antoine Fuqua, whose King Arthur from 2004 totally skipped the mystical component of the Arthurian legends. Merlin in the film was a minor character bereft of spell-casting abilities and Morgan Le Fay, the Holy Grail and the mists of Avalon were nowhere to be seen. Instead, the Knights of the Round Table were Sarmatian warriors forced to fight in the Roman army against Saxon invaders on British soil. Admittedly, screenwriter Brian Helgeland, who together with Curtis Hanson won an Oscar in 1998 for L.A. Confidential, does not go that far in Scott’s new film, but his take on Robin Hood is still considerably different to what audiences are familiar with. Robin Longstride (Crowe) is a royal archer in Richard the Lionheart’s army, accompanying the king on his last crusade. When the king is killed in the movie’s opening scenes, Robin and his companions desert the army and head back to England. On their way home, they cross paths with the henchmen of the treacherous Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong—Body of Lies, Sherlock Holmes, Stardust) who instead of assassinating King Richard, as ordered to by the king of France, mistakenly attacks a group of knights led by Robert of Loxley. Before Robert dies from wounds sustained in the clash, he hands two objects to Robin. One is a royal crown to be taken to London and the other is a sword which Robin is supposed to give to Robert’s father, Sir Walter (Max von Sydow—Shutter Island, Minority Report).

Robin realizes he will have to pretend to be Robert for a while, which brings him close to Robert’s widow Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett—The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Lord of the Rings trilogy) and gets him involved in political affairs in a big way. He gets to defend England from a French invasion and negotiate the Magna Carta, no less, with the new king John (Oscar Isaac—Agora, Body of Lies), whom the movie depicts as an amoral megalomaniac of limited intelligence. All of this is quite a task for an ordinary hired archer, even if he proves a natural leader.

Scott has never made a sequel to any of his movies and so it is hardly likely that he will want to continue the story of Robin Hood in the more conventional way, featuring Sherwood Forest, a more elaborate role for the Sheriff of Nottingham and the classic theme of robbing the rich to give to the poor. But then again, before A Good Year neither Scott nor Crowe had ever attempted a romantic comedy and, who knows, perhaps the 73-year-old director will again take his fans by surprise. In interviews leading up to the release of Robin Hood, Crowe said a total of seven hours of footage had been filmed, while the movie itself lasts 140 minutes. A director’s cut might see the light of day in the coming years. After all, Scott is regarded as the forerunner of the trend, having released director’s cut versions of Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven from 2004. Scott’s preferred version of the latter is 50 minutes longer than the cinema release and in some places has a vastly different plot. Who knows, the same fate might await Robin Hood.
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