Robin Hood (PG-13)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Hollywood Interquest, Kimball's Peak Three, Tinseltown
How can it be that my film-loving little heart has been ripped from my chest and crushed underfoot like so much spilled popcorn on a theater floor? Robin Hood was supposed to be awesome. Did not Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott implicitly promise me awesome with their Gladiator-in-Sherwood-Forest trailer? Did they not promise something potently masculine, powerfully engaging and at least a little pertinent amid the blood and guts and medieval glory?
Fans of the traditional story will be disappointed to find almost none of it here: This is a superhero origin tale, the backstory of the mere mortal who became the legend. That's not what disappoints me. I'm on board with the idea of a "realistic," "historically accurate" telling of the man before the hood.
But this ain't what we get, either. It may be mostly historically accurate, but emotionally accurate it is not. There is no passion here, in what may be one of the best love stories ever told; no anger, in a tale about injustices righted and tyrants tamed; no longing, no regret, not even more than the tiniest rumor of humor. No nothing.
It starts off promising, with hints that this hero may be a more complicated man than expected. Robin Longstride (Crowe) is a "common archer" in the army of King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston), on his way home to England from the Crusades. After an unfortunate encounter with the king himself one evening in camp, Robin deserts the army, ends up impersonating a knight, and engages in a few other acts that seem more expedient than noble and legend-worthy.
Even early on, however, there are other, less promising hints of what's to come: An English soldier (Mark Strong) is in cahoots with the French king (Jonathan Zaccai) to further divide England; King Richard's brother (Oscar Isaac) is storming around in a perpetual snit over matters of succession; the monarchy's money guy (William Hurt) is popping up with concerns over taxation; Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett) is contending with a roving band of feral-child thieves who hide in Sherwood Forest.
Yes, there's a lot going on. Scriptwriter Brian Helgeland has crammed a TV season's worth of plot and character into one comparatively small movie. And the film suffers for it. My minor quibble about historical accuracy — would a "common archer" such as Robin be literate? — gets "resolved" in a wildly improbable shortcut that is ridiculously coincidental and unexplored.
Perhaps the worst instance of the rush to tell this overly stuffed story is how it slides right over the romance: Robin, impersonating the dead Sir Robert Loxley with the complicity of his father (Max von Sydow), for the sake of the continuity of manor life, is suddenly in love with Marion, Loxley's widow, and she with him, when the moment calls for it.
I don't think it's too much to expect that I should fall for Robin and Marion as a couple, too. It's not the fault of Crowe and Blanchett that we can't. They both have moments, separately and together, that suggest the power and passion they always bring as actors to their performances. But they're not allowed to create living characters here. There's simply no room.
Robin Hood looks great, shot in English locations with a handsome cast and spectacular battle sequences. But it's all in aid of nothing — nothing to say, nothing to feel.
Did I mention how crushed I am?