Saturday, May 15, 2010

Robin Hood, Once More

Yet another version of Robin Hood, and possibly the most different. Robin Hood no kidding is an enduring character and story. Ridley Scott makes a real tangent from the usual Robin Hood arc. Might not work for everyone, but it worked for me.

Of course, I endure movies so I can enjoy the entertainment of the trailers. Not much to look forward to, according to this infallible expert. There’s a Steve Carel movie with Paul Rudd that looks like a two-wheeled trike. I hope I am wrong, but all I saw was Carel  mugging horribly. Angelina Jolie is doing a Matrix-y thing that may be well-served by her feral weirdness. There’s a movie in which nerd meets rock star (Jonah Hill and Russell Brand),  which I predict will offer negative zero surprises.

Finally, children, and deserving its own paragraph, there is another Sex and the City bloodbath. Well, I say another, but I never saw the first one. I saw the show when it was current, and it was okay. The idea of going cinematic with the franchise seems like some sort of illegal entrapment. Sequelling that entrapment is just a bludgeoning of excess, and the trailer proves my point. There seems to be a bit in which one or many of the quartet dress and perform as Liza Minnelli. Another scene shows them implausibly riding camels in the desert. Clearly the screenwriters must have severely pulled their creative muscles. The foursome look taut and worn out, inhumanly fit into magazine vision of everlasting youth. One of the great bad ideas of literary history that I can think of is in a letter from Mark Twain to William Dean Howells. Twain bethunk himself that a play in which Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn meet years later as outworn vagrants should exist. Baddest of ideas, and Carrie and crew cracking before our eyes seems nearly as bad. So anyway.

Russell Crowe plays Robin Hood. I knew from the trailer that this would be a different take on the classic. There’s no sense in trying to replicate the Errol Flynn model. That guy had such swashbucklitude, altho Flynn’s pampered coif takes the edge off, as did the slurpy Hollywood score. Costner’s version wasn’t bad, tho its early grit trailed off into prancing television heroics.

I am a fan of Gladiator. Have I seen other Ridley Scott movies? I never saw Alien in its entirety. I especially like the historical sense in Gladiator. The early battle scene gives what I believe is a decent evocation of Roman warfare. Robin Hood begins with similar bombast, with Richard Lionheart’s Crusaders overwhelming a French castle.

Russell Crowe, yclept Robin Longstride, is just another archer in the army. He’s palling around with Allan a Dale and Will Scarlet in very minor roles. Robin meets Little John without benefit of cudgel battle on a footbridge. Scott eschewed all the expected markers of Robin Hood.

In a hey wait a minute moment, Richard the Lionhearted dies during the attack on the castle. Robin and his friends skip away in the confusion. Meanwhile we have already met Richard’s brother John, who looks like Russell Brand. I missed who the actor is, but the role is similar to Joachim Phoenix’s Commodus in Gladiator, a flaked out king type. I don’t mean to demean either, I like both roles and actors.

Instead of the usurping Normans as bad guys it is the French. I think the Norman angle is more accurate historically, makes more sense as the seed for these tales, but it is not like the Anglo-French dismay isn’t resonant. The story comes across more like Braveheart than you might expect.

Robin and the boys come upon some duplicity in which Guy of Gisbourne attacks the King’s envoys, or something like that. The point is that Guy works for the French. One of the victims is Loxley who, in dying, asks Robin to bring his (Loxley’s) sword to his (Loxley’s) father. Having read the script, Robin decides to do so.

Robin meets Lady Marian, wife of the dead Loxley, and Loxley’s father. For much of the film I kept thinking that father Loxley looked like John Huston. Knowing that it is rough casting dead people, I was mildly puzzled. In sooth, it was Max von Sydow, taking a pretty good turn.

Cate Blanchett, possibly gimlet-eyed, played Lady Marian. She was believably sturdy as the wife of a Crusader trying to hold the estate together. Robin brings the sword to the father. The father decides that Robin should stay and pose as Marian’s husband, to help keep the estate together, to which Robin agrees. Luckily the plot does not dwell on the meet cute of this situation.

The movie then asserts its Braveheart heritage, and there are hints of Robin’s anarcho-syndalist foundation. Now, Monty Python has already cleaned up on Robin Hood’s political cartel (viz Dennis Moore), so we can move on from that. We have a bad guy, Guy de Gisbourne and stuff, the barons of England are all a-dither. Wait a sec, are we talking Magna Carta? Yes, indeed. Some fuzzy business from Robin’s past, in which Robin’s father is executed for insensitively suggesting a Runnymede sort of get together, comes from leftfield. Sorry, I was unprepared for this sort of historical intrusion.

The upshot was a battle of English versus French (including English caitiffs working for the French). It is a reverse D-Day. The English win, but King John aint so very nice. The movie ends with implication of Robin’s outlaw career. You know, the stuff we expected from the start.

Folks may not be satisfied that so few milestones on the Robin Hood path were seen. The Merrie Men of Sherwood are Peter Pannish orphans who hardly have anything to do with Robin. Tuck and Little John are barely exploited. Where’s the arrow splitting the arrow?????

The movie is fabulously lush in its pictorial presentation. It’s a little muddled in plot, with the Robin Hood arc and the Braveheart arc colliding. The visual plushness and the vigourous score put credit on the plus side. This one is a keeper for me.