The StoryRobin Longstride is just one of thousands of soldiers serving in King Richard the Lionheart's army when we first catch up with him in Robin Hood. The army's on its way home, but has one more castle to overtake before they can set sail for London. Unfortunately, Robin and a few of his cohorts are forced to sit that final battle out after Robin speaks his mind to King Richard, telling the truth and earning time in the stocks for his honesty. As they can only watch from afar, the King is killed during battle and Robin and his buddies quickly deduce that they must beat a hasty retreat from the area (after being released by a friend) in order to secure transportation back to England before the rest of their fellow soldiers can come to the same conclusion.
But as fate would have it, on their journey to the shore Robin and his men come upon the King's men being ambushed. The group had been charged with transporting the fallen King's crown back to London, and after one of the dying men begs Robin to return his sword to his father (Sir Walter Loxley of Nottingham), Robin and his men forge a plan that will get them home quickly and in style. Trading in their battle worn apparel for the classier outfits of the King's guards, Robin's group masquerades as Sir Robert Loxley and the royal guard, hopping aboard the ship meant to transport the King home.
So now we've got Robin and his men set up in Nottingham, Friar Tuck introduced as the new religious leader of the area, and a flirtation going on between the recently widowed Marion and Robin. And while Robin's been running around returning items and setting up house, the newly crowned King John has let his right-hand man Godfrey tear apart the country, opening the gates for an invasion by King Philip of France.
The Bottom LineRussell Crowe's best scenes in Robin Hood aren't when he's showing off his physical prowess, but come during the quieter scenes he shares with Cate Blanchett as Lady Marion and with Max von Sydow as Sir Walter Loxley. Blanchett and Crowe make for a formidable pair (these two should team up again in something contemporary), and von Sydow's simply brilliant. Kevin Durand, Scott Grimes, and Alan Doyle are terrific as Merry Men, providing most of the film's more lighthearted moments. Mark Strong is, once again, playing a bad guy (just once I'd like to see him used as the hero of a piece) and Strong's Godfrey is so deliciously evil, he's one of the characters who deserved more screen time. But the story's scattered amongst so many players, there's not enough time spent developing anyone other than Robin Hood. And in this incarnation of the classic tale, he's just not all that fascinating.
In fact, if you go into Robin Hood not knowing the title - and if you don't pay close attention to a couple of the characters' names - it's possible to not even realize this is a Robin Hood movie. The story's complicated, politics is front and center without the key players being well defined, and most of what we've come to want from a Robin Hood film is entirely left out. Human rights issues, class wars, and the signing of the Magna Carta come into play during the 140 minute running time - 140 minutes which don't pass nearly swiftly enough.
Robin Hood tries to be so much - an epic action film, a romantic tale, a complex analysis of father/son relationships, a political drama - that it's almost set up to fail. That it doesn't fall completely flat is almost entirely due to the strength of Crowe, Blanchett, von Sydow, Strong, and Durand's performances.
Robin Hood was directed by Ridley Scott and is rated PG-13 for violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content.
Theatrical Release: May 14, 2010