There is probably a lot to be pissed off about in Robin Hood; a plot that is needlessly confusing, revisionist history and gawky mishmash of political intrigue. It's all a bit much. However, suffice it say, the fifth collaboration between director Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe is a movie lover's movie. There's action, notable heroes, archery and even a dose of ye olde Magna Carta magic. Robin Hood is actually, dare I say it, a little fun from purely an entertainment standpoint. Just don't expect right answers to your history test, swinging from trees, green tights or a Bryan Adams song.
Yet for all the swords, horseback riding and D-Day-style battles, Robin Hood is predictable a half-baked rehash of Ridley Scott's older, better, films. True, Gladiator tones are all over this thing with one exception: it's over-complicated and never does Robin Hood evoke feelings for any character. It's a bit of a letdown considering the cast and crew of this film. Crowe is typical Crowe: few words, looks tough, can wield a blade and a bow. Cate Blachett is great as Lady Marion who is much more than a maid; she's an arse kicker and Mark Strong as the treacherous Godfrey is, as always, solid.
Robin Hood places the notorious outlaw in a siege on a French castle. The king gets killed in action, so Robin Longshire (Crowe) and his band of Merry Men, sees his death as an exit from his army. Just as well, they haven't been paid for awhile. After witnessing an ambush on a group escorting the crown back to London by the film's big traitor Godrey, Robin and his troupe intervene and kill/scare them off, leaving Godfrey with a wound on his smug mug. Robin finds a dying knight, Robert Loxley, who guilt’s Robin into returning his sword to his father in Nottingham. Robin agrees and takes his identity and the crown back to London.
Enter the new king, King John (Oscar Isaac). He likes the ladies, is totally into his newfound power and has a chip on his shoulder. The realm is near bankruptcy thanks to his brother Richard's escapades in the Middle East and France. Left with few choices, the good king decides to force the North to pay back taxes and more to keep the realm afloat. Godfrey leads the effort with French troops posing as English solders.
Godfrey and France's King Philip hope that this will stir England into a civil war, which will leave them in a weakened position allowing a French attack.
Robin, now Robert, visits Sir Waleter Loxley and his Robert's recently widowed wife Marion. The news of Robert's death hits them hard briefly. Cut to the next scene and Walter wants Robin to keep masquerading as Robert, a task which includes being the husband to Marion (chamber sleeping!), so the their land can stay in the family and not go back to the Crown.
The elder, blinder Loxley helps Robin restore some repressed memories of his father, a progressive with dangerous ideas of democracy which led to having his head removed. Robin, now a moon-bat liberal with wacky ideas of "rights" for the people and a say in government, heads toward a meeting between the King and Northern forces so he can espouse his views and nix a civil war. After all, the French are coming and they have big swords and tons of grapes.
Robin's speech works and everybody is happy. That is until the people view Robin as the big hero and bathe him in respect. King John doesn't like that sort of business so at the signing ceremony to enact the new laws, John reneges. God put him in that throne and God wouldn't be happy if they started limiting his power willy-nilly. Oh, and Robin of the Hood is now an outlaw.
Wall-to-wall action doesn't exist in Robin Hood. Drama plays a heavy hand and battles are small. Instead of a grand epic, Ridley Scott and company decided to go for realism and in that respect the film works. It's England, not Mordor. The film also acts as a throwback to movies that were made with actual human beings rather than CG effects. Yes, the CG is there but it's sparsely used and there is something comforting about seeing a massive amount (by today's standards) of extras pummeling each other.
Robin Hood may be misleading when looking at the title. After all, "Robin Hood" conjures up images of adventure, not gray, depressing, over-dialogued drama. Still, it's adequate entertainment...and entertainment only.