Robin Hood: ** (out of 4)

The most striking part about Robin Hood is that it wasn't actually that bad a movie. The movie was marketed as Gladiator 2: Sherwood Forest; this managed to offend me personally on several levels (I have a deep-seated hatred for the movie Gladiator; long story), and was almost as much of a turn-off for the rest of America - or, at least, those that aren't completely obsessed with Russell Crowe. But, while I'm not sure I can argue that this was any good, I can at least say that at least got an interesting movie this time.

Or at least we got part of an interesting movie.

This most recent version of the Robin Hood story is a "gritty" take on the legend, where a nobleman stands up to King John in defense of the people of Nottingham. It starts with 'Robin Longstride' participating in the siege of a French castle, and ends with Robin setting up shop in Sherwood Forest as an outlaw. (Mind, this was originally envisioned as being told from the perspective of the Sheriff of Nottingham; but I supposed that Crowe didn't want to be thought of as a "villain".) But in between, the story takes some fairly interesting paths, starting with the siege warfare itself, including some fairly plausible court politics, and headlined by the heading-towards-realistic portrayal of the horrible life of medieval peasants.

The acting was pretty good, all-told; Cate Blanchett was the movie's stand-out actor, portraying Maid Marion as a much more active person than the legends have generally offered to date (though I must admit, the riding-into-battle bit was a bit over the top). The action was well-done, well-choreographed, and seemed to be pretty true to the time frame. The soundtrack, the costumes, the casting - all were pretty good, as good as you could expect. All-in-all, I was pretty happy...

..or at least I was pretty fairly happy with the first half or two-thirds of the movie. But that all got ruined by a few obvious problems. Some of them were simply a bit ill-advised - a lot of time was spent setting up the "child's army" around Nottingham, for instance, which was barely utilized. But when it comes down to it, there were two things that dragged the movie down from a "pretty good" movie into "really pretty bad":

  1. Everything surrounding the Magna Carta. Yes, the timing works out alright; but Robin Hood should not be associated with the nobility asserting their rights over the King.

  2. The final battle and everything associated with it, especially the military tactics. It's bad enough that the French decided to invade at all; it was worse that they chose to land at the cliffs of Dover, and land in World War 2-style personnel deployment vehicles. But, frankly, the English shouldn't have had to even try hard to win that kind of battle. They had longbows and the high ground! Why would they send any of their troops down to do battle in that kind of situation?

Between those two points, the movie moved from being a fairly interesting, better-than-expected movie into something kindof embarrassing. Ridley Scott may have beaten my expectations, but that doesn't make it a good movie.