Ridley Scott and Russel Crowe teamed up again for this oddly flat and muted adaptation of the fanciful and jolly legend of Robin Hood. It feels like “Gladiator: Redux” in many ways – not just the fact it’s another Ridley and Russel collaboration, but the grim vibe and staging of the many battle sequences, the structure of the story, and the quasi-”realistic” tone.
Perhaps more interesting than the film itself, which has a few thrills and a strong cast but never really amounts to anything worthwhile, is the story of its development. It began with a bidding war over what sounds like a properly compelling script – “Nottingham”, a sort of crime story from the Sheriff of Notthingham’s sympathetic perspective, as he attempts to track down Robin Hood. To cut a long story short (it’s worth looking it up to read the whole story, as it is an interesting one), all the elements that made that script compelling and worth bidding millions on, were either completely watered-down or outright excised, in what became this by-the-numbers origin story for a surprisingly aged Robin Hood and his not-so-merry band of men.
The cast is so full of great actors (Matthew Macfayden’s woefully short amount of screentime as the Sheriff of Nottingham is such a shame, Oscar Isaac is nice and menacing as Prince John, Max von Sydow is endearing, Cate Blanchett charming, Mark Addy one of the few properly jolly parts of the film, Léa Seydoux managing to add some depth to a character that barely has any as scripted, and so on), but the story is so utterly devoid of any forward momentum that it’s difficult to sustain interest. The battle sequences vary. They all certainly look expensive. Some do manage to be thrilling, others are just odd, and hard to hook into. The score is forgettable, but the visuals are quite nice, and the locations are utterly gorgeous.
I don’t actually dislike the film at all, I quite like it to be perfectly honest, but I don’t entertain any notions that it’s a properly good film at all. It’s not. It’s an exceedingly dull adaptation of a hugely exciting legend. Still, enough of its disparate elements work that even though the film itself isn’t really good, parts of it taken in isolation are. I give it two and a half arrows, and a raw oyster.