With his last two major releases—2008’s “Body of Lies” and 2009’s “State of Play”—Russell Crowe has fallen on hard times—at least, as hard a times as a $20-million-per-picture movie star can fall on. Many are speculating that the failure of big-name stars like Crowe to dominate box-off numbers in the last few years signals an A-list-apocalypse. People no longer select movies, the reasoning goes, based on marquee names, but rather, based on a film’s overall concept. Is it a sequel? Is it based on a beloved novel or TV series? Is it a special effects bonanza with a big-name director? Is it family friendly? Is it—heaven help us—shot in 3D?
While there may be some truth in the “concept theory,” in regards to Crowe, it doesn’t take into account that “Body of Lies” wasn’t very good and that “State of Play,” although critically well received, was sluggishly paced, overly cerebral and a far-cry from Crowe’s past crowd pleasers
“Robin Hood” reteams Crowe with director Ridley Scott. Crowe and Scott and have made two highly successful movies together in 2000’s “Gladiator" and 2007’s “American Gangster.” Admittedly, they also made “Body of Lies” and the critically butchered “A Good Year” (2006). “Robin Hood,” however, returns the pair to grand period cinema—a genre where Crowe has been especially successful.
Will “Robin Hood” mark Crowe’s return to the top, then, throwing the “concept theory” into doubt? It looks sufficiently epic in scope, easily rivaling Crowe’s other period extravaganzas in that respect. It’s got the magnetic Kate Blanchett playing Maid Marion, too, which, for my money, gives the film an instant shot of credibility and grandeur. Per Scott’s usual MO, it looks well paced and breathtakingly shot, with Scott’s trademark flair for action on full display. It looks sufficiently well-acted too. It’s also a prequel to the traditional Robin Hood story, possibly breathing fresh life into an old legend, while setting up a ready-made sequel.
On the downside, there were a couple of spots here where it felt like I was watching a rehash of “Gladiator,” possibly indicating a derivative script. Also, according to a recent report from the The Telegraph, the film’s current screening at The Cannes Film Festival is being met with lukewarm response. Moreover, although “Robin Hood” doesn’t release stateside until May 14, it received limited European release on May 12. To date, critical response has been split, with review aggregator rottentomatoes.com scoring the film 52% positive with an average rating of 5.3/10.
Those are underwhelming numbers to be sure, and yet, still I find myself drawn to this trailer. Certainly, I’ll be watching domestic reviews roll in when “Robin Hood” releases May 14, but as of now, I’m leaning toward seeing this in theaters.