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After the death of Richard the Lionheart in the Crusades, Sir Robin of Loxley returns from war to his home in the north of England. There, he comes up against the oppressive regime imposed by the tyrannical new Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin summons up a group of supporters and puts his formidable archery skills to use in an effort to free the people from corruption and political injustice.
For more about Robin Hood and the Robin Hood Blu-ray release, see Robin Hood Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 15, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Russell Crowe, Matthew Macfadyen, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong
Director: Ridley Scott
» See full cast & crew
Robin Hood Blu-ray Review
Paging Errol Flynn. Or even Kevin Costner.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 15, 2010
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Filmgoers have had a glut of Robin Hoods through the years, everything from the 1922 silent with Douglas Fairbanks to the 1973 Disney animated version to, heaven forfend, a softcore porn outing made in the Free Love era's perfect year, 1969, called The Erotic Adventures of Robin Hood. Television audiences have also had their share of Robins, from the 1950s series starring Richard Greene to the British series Robin of Sherwood which featured the evocative music of Clannad. And yet, which version is almost universally cited as the perfect amalgamation of charm, wit, romance, adventure and action? No, it's not Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It is, of course, the spectacular 1938 version starring Errol Flynn as Robin and Olivia de Havilland as Marian, with a supporting cast the likes of which will probably never be seen again, people like Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale and Una O'Connor. This Warner Brothers classic had everything in abundance: a dashing hero played perfectly by Flynn, a lovely and demure, yet feisty, heroine in de Havilland, rousing action scenes, a classic score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and effectively unobtrusive direction by Michael Curtiz. More than 70 years after its release, The Adventures of Robin Hood remains a model of freshness, élan, and sumptuous fun. Obviously, people have tried, over and over and over again, to either recapture that magic or to recast the Robin legend in a different light, usually to no avail. Enter Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, who evidently started with what might have been a completely original and unexpected take on Robin's story. This film was originally titled Nottingham and posited the Sheriff as the good guy (to be played by Crowe) and Robin as the baddie. That at least might have made for a fascinating new take on the subject matter. Crowe insists in one of the extras on this Blu-ray that the first version of the screenplay read like CSI: Sherwood Forest, but after having seen the finished version of Robin Hood, even that take might have been preferable to what we're ultimately given here. This is yet another film with everything that money can buy, gorgeously produced, shot, and, for the most part, splendidly performed, and yet there's that ineffable missing element. You might call it magic, if you're inclined toward the ephemeral. Or, you might simply call it fun, that sense of wonder that permeates virtually every frame of the Flynn Robin Hood and which is sadly missing from this gargantuan attempt to reinvent Robin of Loxley.
Scott and Crowe proved quite conclusively that they are able to reinvigorate a hoary genre with new energy in Gladiator, but unfortunately they seem to both be on auto-pilot throughout much of Robin Hood, and even worse, they attempt to bring a Gladiator ethos to a film that requires a different approach. Any reworking of Robin Hood which kills off the "good" king, Richard the Lionhearted, in the opening few minutes, obviously is casting its fate to the wind and not relying on expected tropes to carry it through. For that Scott and screenwriter Brian Helgeland are to be commended. And in fact this entire film is constructed as the sort of flipside to Richard Lester's lovely Robin and Marian, a film which depicted the couple in their later years. Here, instead, we're given the "prequel" as it were, the events supposedly leading up to Robin Longstride becoming Robin Hood. That involves a mad ruse whereby Robin assumes the identity, Martin Guerre style, of Marian's (Cate Blanchett) husband who is killed in an ambush while attempting to return the deceased King Richard's crown to England. We therefore get an almost screwball comedy ambience at times as Marian and Robin pretend to be husband and wife, so as to insure Marian's property rights after her father-in-law, Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow) dies. (It was the feudal era, after all, when real estate could only be vested in males).
Parts of this fanciful reimagining work quite well, specifically the glorious production design by Arthur Max, which beautifully recreates a late 12th-early 13th century world. (A lot of the film was shot on existing ruins, giving the film added verisimilitude). While Crowe is perhaps too stoic for the role, Blanchett invests Marian with a proto-grrrl power modernism that, while completely at odds with the historical veracity of the piece, makes the character quite interesting and extremely watchable. Von Sydow and William Hurt, as old cohorts in a decades-long freedom fight, bring suitable gravitas to their roles, though von Sydow seems more tic-laden than he usually is. Oscar Isaac as Prince (later King) John seems to be channeling Joaquin Phoenix from Gladiator, perhaps on Scott's direct orders. It's a hyperbolic performance, but too reminiscent of the previous film to be completely effective.
Robin Hood simply suffers from too much bloat, and too many extraneous elements. Part of what made the 1938 film so breezily entertaining is that it cut to the bone, cinematically speaking, with virtually nothing unnecessary having made the final cut. Here, even the theatrical version runs well over two hours, and the extended director's cut adds some 15 minutes to that total. When we have more or less useless subplots like a coterie of orphans running around Lord of the Flies style, one increasingly begins to wish for a more focused, direct approach to the story, no matter what revisionism the filmmakers have opted to take.
Scott seems especially off his game here. He has always been one of the most extraordinarily gifted visual minds in film, even when he fails to reign in the excesses of the storylines of any given project. Here, though, we get completely odd uses of zoom lenses, inept framings, and, most surprisingly, some really oddly shot battle scenes. When you have Scott aping Prince of Thieves director Kevin Reynolds' iconic "arrow's eye view" with the camera, not once, but several times, you have to wonder if this director's director simply didn't have a requisite amount of inspiration to bring to this project. A lot of this film actually plays (and is shot) like, to paraphrase Crowe, Gladiator: Sherwood Forest, and it's an oddly disconcerting case of déjà vu confronting the viewer here, both because of the oft-told subject matter, but also Scott's reliance on his previous blockbuster for some of the ideas here as well.
The somewhat frightening prospect about all of this is the film ends with a "And so the legend begins" subtitle, obviously preparing the audience for a sequel where the real Robin Hood story can finally take place. Considering this film's large haul at the box office, that's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility. Let's hope if that comes to pass that everyone associated with the project spends some time in the screening room reacquainting themselves with 1938's The Adventures of Robin Hood. It may be over 70 years old now, but it still hasn't been topped.
Robin Hood Blu-ray, Video Quality
Robin Hood scuffles onto Blu-ray with a good, though at times problematic, AVC encoded transfer in 1080p and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. When this transfer works well, it works very well indeed. Notice the gorgeous crosshatching pattern, where the viewer can almost feel the texture of the parchment, on the opening scroll scenes. The entire opening segment, bathed in gorgeous blue tones and with admirable black levels and contrast, look brilliantly sharp and well detailed. Close-ups give us abundant detail, from Crowe's increasingly weathered face to Blanchett's unkempt auburn hair. Robin Hood is a deliberately dark, and at times desaturated, film, tending toward yellows and browns for large swaths of its two and a half hour-plus running time. While some may wish for a more deeply saturated palette, the blanched and almost monochromatic look of the film help to recreate its time period quite admirably. As seems to be the case with many films set in this same time period, the Blu-ray can't quite resolve the chainmail completely, and some minor, but noticeable, shimmer creeps into the image when Robin and his cohorts are in that kind of costume. More troubling, and really rather odd, were one or two moments of shimmer on completely unexpected scenes. Watch, for example, in the first showdown scene between Robin and Godfrey, in the hall outside of King John's throne room, and you will notice some frankly odd shimmer on the gray walls behind the actors. Overall, though, despite this film's inherent bleakness and darkness, this is a respectably solid looking effort with only a few minor anomalies keeping it from a better score.
Robin Hood Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Much, much better is Robin Hood's exceptionally immersive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. In fact, this is where this film finally erupts into some of the fun and imagination that the rest of the movie seems to lack. The battle scenes here are incredibly impressive, with zinging arrows flying in from the surrounds, and the bone crunching sound of men and horses colliding providing some very robust LFE. But even in ostensibly simpler moments, the sound design is exceptional. In the "carnival" scene, where Robin is plying his "shell game" trade, listen to how the ambient crowd noises spill effectively into the surrounds, while the very "small" noise of Robin moving the shells about the table still come through very clearly, and completely aptly from a directional standpoint. Dialogue is very cleanly presented here, and the quasi-Celtic underscore also works very well in the overall mix. There's really a fantastic use of dynamic range here; scenes cut from very loud and boisterous sound effects to whispers quite frequently, and it's very, very effectively rendered on this DTS track.
Robin Hood Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Robin Hood has a nice array of extras supplementing the feature, which is available both in the original theatrical version (running 2:20:26) or the extended director's cut (running 2:35:48).
Robin Hood Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Robin Hood has eluded a variety of filmmakers through the years, despite its seemingly timeless appeal. Watching this humongous and often bloated version, I couldn't help but wonder what the original Nottingham concept might have been like. Post-modern revisionism is fine, but Scott stuffs this turkey with too many extraneous ideas, everything from anti-Muslim bigotry to women's rights to children with colds (and, no, I'm not kidding). The production design here is the real star, and it looks mostly fantastic on Blu-ray. If you don't mind the muddle of the screenplay, there are dribs and drabs of an exciting action feature here. What could have elevated this film is a less relentlessly dour take on its subject. The medieval era may in fact have actually been like this, but that doesn't mean filmgoers are going to want to spend two and a half hours experiencing it, however vicariously.
Robin Hood: Other Editions
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Robin Hood Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Sales, September 20-26: Robin Hood Steals Gold from Princ... - September 30, 2010
Robin Hood was the top-selling Blu-ray title during the week ended September 26, according to Nielsen VideoScan. Disney's latest direct-to-video feature, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, was second. The previous week's number one, Prince of Persia: The Sands ...
• This Week on Blu-ray - September 21-27 - September 21, 2010
Director Ridley Scott is no stranger to the historic film genre. After dazzling audiences with Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut, of course) and the modern classic Gladiator, Scott decided to tackle the legendary story of Robin Hood – a tale that has been told ...
• Robin Hood Blu-ray Announced for September - July 29, 2010
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced Robin Hood for Blu-ray release on September 21. The movie reuniting Russell Crowe with Ridley Scott will be presented in a three-disc Blu-ray Hi-Def Combo Pack (BD/DVD/digital copy), including the theatrical film, ...
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