Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Robin Hood

I finally got round to seeing the new Robin Hood film last night, being a sucker for anything connected to Nottingham's favourite hoodie.

And the verdict? Well, it's certainly an enjoyable enough couple of hours, I suppose, although it suffers from two of Hollywood's current major vices - using a film for little more than setting up what it hopes will be a series of lucrative sequels, and applying more and more layers of sound and fury in place of a decent plot or dialogue.

Still, the performances are generally good. Russell Crowe is as watchable as usual, Cate Blanchett is a safe pair of hands as Marian, and there are some decent turns from the supporting cast, notably Max von Sydow and William Hurt.

But, and it's a big but, I came away rather unsatisfied. For a start, director Ridley Scott makes a big point of making sure we see a blood-and-horseshit version of the Middle Ages, with gritty realism the order of the day. Trouble is, where the plot's concerned, he doesn't bother paying too much attention to the actual history of the times, the original content of the ballads, or the legend as it has developed. Instead there's the usual thing of trying to rewrite the story to suit Hollywood, except that it's done without any real agenda or purpose. Why is Nottingham shown as little more than a hamlet? Why do the invading French storm ashore from what appear to be landing craft (and why do they land at the bottom of steep cliffs, for that matter?)? Things like these are annoying rather than being in any way definitive, but they're also pointless. Why not just try to get things right, if you're trumpeting the film's 'authenticity' elsewhere?

Crowe's been quoted as saying that he thinks the film gets as close to the 'truth' of the matter as ever, but in fact he and Scott seem to have cast aside almost all traces of the legend, or possible historical models and archetypes. They may emerge in the sequels, but I won't hold my breath.

The characters of Robin's fellow outlaws are left largely undeveloped (although Mark Addy makes a decent fist of injecting some of the legend's spirit into Tuck, despite looking disconcertingly like Terry Scott), as is that of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Presumably they'll come into their own in any sequels, too, although in the latter role there's zero chance of Matthew Macfadyen coming anywhere near Nickolas Grace's great turn in the 1980s TV series. Here he's so wooden it's a wonder he doesn't get lobbed onto the outlaws' campfire.

Finally, there's the accents. I didn't find them particularly distracting (and it wouldn't honestly have bothered me if Crowe had played RH in his own accent), but they are wildly uneven. Both Blanchett and Crowe often sound more Irish than anything else, while the rest of the time Crowe commutes between Middlesbrough and Merseyside, only occasionally stopping anywhere near Mansfield.

So, probably about 6 out of 10. Not bad, but could do better, and could do better without too much effort.


Dale Forbes said...

okay, kinda glad I didnt go see it then. watched "when in Rome" instead. very very silly film, but it did get me laughing, which is exactly what I needed to start the week off well!

Matt Merritt said...

You chose the right way, I think!