No men in tights here. No borrowing from the rich to give to the poor either. This new Robin Hood is Ridley Scott’s prequel to all that. We first meet Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) in France on his way back to England after years crusading with King Richard the Lionheart. Robin and his band of not-so-merry men are tired of war and ready to get home, only getting across the channel seems to be a problem. Fortunately they happen upon some knights who had been ambushed by the evil Godfrey (Mark Strong again as the bad guy) while trying to take the recently deceased King Richard’s crown back to England. One of the knights is still alive. He is Robert of Locksley and asks that Robin return his sword to his father in Nottingham. And so Robin and his crew impersonate the knights, take the boat to England, return the crown, and in doing so Robin is forced to keep the ruse of actually being Robert of Locksley going. When he gets to Nottingham, the old, blind father of the knight asks him to keep pretending to be Robert so that the crown will not confiscate his lands when he dies. Robin agrees and calls him father. (And the old guy actually knew Robin’s father, who turns out to have been a revolutionary who was killed in front of the young boy.)
Oh, and then there is the wife of the dead knight to contend with, too. Enter Cate Blanchett as Marian Loxley. She has been waiting for her husband to return for a loooong time and doesn’t take to Robin at first, but guess what? He grows on her. Shocking, I know.
So Robin settles in and then notices that the people are not being treated fairly by the crown. He and his boys steal grain from the church so that Marian can feed her people. England under the new King John is just way too much taxing and things are bleak all around. The next thing you know, the French are invading with lots of help from the evil Godfrey. And meanwhile, the nobles are up in arms and ready to revolt. Robin steps up at just the right time, has the temperament to rally the troops behind King John, and ultimately through an amazing sense of leadership on the battlefield, keeps England safe. But King John really wanted to be the hero and resents Robin, making him an outlaw and beginning the real legend of Robin Hood what with all the robbing the rich, living in the woods, merry men of it all.
Robin Hood isn’t bad. It just isn’t rousing. And Russell isn’t bad to look at. He just isn’t given the script or the costumes from Gladiator which it definitely feels a lot like, though it lacks its dramatic power. If you really have a hankering for a movie that shows extremely realistic 12th century military tactics, then run, don’t walk to your nearest Cineplex. Otherwise, wait for the DVD. It is worth a watch, just maybe not in a theater.