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May. 12 2010 - 6:11 pm | 236 views | 0 recommendations | 7 comments

Not the Robin Hood you were thinking of

robin_hood_poster_01-690x1024 Roger Ebert’s review of Robin Hood is not the one I wanted to read. I wanted a thumbs up, four stars, 99% fresh – and instead I learn that this is in fact a prequel to the actual Robin Hood story – much like Alice in Wonderland turned out to be a really boring sequel to that much better tale. And not a very interesting prequel, either.

“Robin Hood” is a high-tech and well made violent action picture using the name of Robin Hood for no better reason than that it’s an established brand not protected by copyright. I cannot discover any sincere interest on the part of Scott, Crowe or the writer Brian Helgeland in any previous version of Robin Hood. Their Robin is another weary retread of the muscular macho slaughterers who with interchangeable names stand at the center of one overwrought bloodbath after another.

Have we grown weary of the delightful aspects of the Robin Hood legend? Is witty dialogue no longer permitted? Are Robin and Marion no longer allowed to engage in a spirited flirtation? Must their relationship seem like high-level sexual negotiations? How many people need to be covered in boiling oil for Robin Hood’s story to be told these days? How many parents will be misled by the film’s PG-13 rating? Must children go directly from animated dragons to skewering and decapitation, with no interval of cheerful storytelling?

I enjoy Ebert’s curmudgeonly side. His film-buff conservatism comes out in reviews like this one and I find myself nodding in agreement – though, to be fair, I haven’t seen the film myself so I can only speculate. Still – not the real Robin Hood story? Massive battle scenes? Have we lost the art of telling a good story – even when that story is all there written out for us beforehand?

I love the Robin Hood legend for its banditry and its lack of grandiosity. The rebels ambushing caravans in the woods; the archery and daring escapes. I’ve enjoyed every single Robin Hood film I’ve ever seen, and I’d really hate to be disappointed by this one. I fear I will be – since this doesn’t sound anything like Robin Hood at all.

How to Train Your Dragon, however, has a 98% at Rotten Tomatoes. Maybe I’ll go see that instead.


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  1. collapse expand

    I remember reading crazy stories about the early ideas for this movie, about how the story was going to be told from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s perspective, how he would be the “good guy”, and so forth. It really seemed like they were going to do something interesting here, even if, as you say, the story really doesn’t need much work. But it really seems like this movie has little to do with the actual Robin Hood story, and it sounds more like a riff on the prior Scott/Crow venture Gladiator, just a few centuries later. Hey, at least Sherlock Holmes actually had that character using logic and deduction to solve crimes, which was kind of the point of him, even if it didn’t work too hard to capture the spirit of the original stories.

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    Mr. Kain,

    The one problem I have always had with all of the Robin Hood movies was that he was turned into;

    1) A nobleman or at least a knight

    2) He is fighting for some big noble cause.

    In the oldest versions of the Robin Hood tale, he just a bandit who robs from the rich and not from the poor. There was never any question of him giving his booty to anyone other than his band, the poor or otherwise. He did not help the poor but neither did he rob them. In those days, that was plenty enough to make him popular with “the commons”. He made no effort to “secure justice” or “overcome tyranny”, he was just an insolent rascal with charm, verve, and talent, the most common of commoners who infuriated the wealthy and powerful. Isn’t that enough to make a good movie?

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    I just recently watched a program on the History Channel called “The Real Life of Robin Hood”. The documentary was based on this new Ridley Scott version of the legend.

    It goes to state that the movie was based not on the current romanticized version of the legend, but on historic details that MAY of lead to the CREATION of that legend.

    The program also goes to show that much of what we now accept as the Legend of Robin Hood was pretty much added to the original story through the centuries. Even Maid Marian’s story had changed throughout the years.

    The legend we grew up with, the Errol Flynn version and most recently accepted view, was refined during the Victorian era early in the 1900’s.

    Rigley Scott did away with all that fluff, and decided to do a Robin Hood based on Historical Fact during that time. He touches on the true role of King Richard, Prince John, and their relation to Robin Hood.

    So not to make this a long winded post, go see the movie and remind yourself that this isn’t your daddy’s Robin Hood, this is history’s.

    AND ENJOY!

    • collapse expand

      Hello allamerican,

      Well this is indeed not the Errol Flynn “men in tights” version, however neither is it “history”. The oldest written version, “The Gest of Robyn Hode”, which is nothing more than a collection of short Robin Hood ballads strung together, creating the appearance of novel length story, make no reference to King Richard or Prince John. Rather the king mentioned in Line 1412 is “Edwarde, our comly kynge” who “came to Notynghame” to deal with Robyn Hode himself. Whether this is Edward I (1239 – 1307) or his son Edward II(1284 – 1327) or Edward III (1312 – 1377) is not clear although Edward III famously came to Nottingham Castle in in October 1330, through a subterranean passage, and took Roger Mortimer prisoner. On the other hand, the Sheriff of Nottingham did have jurisdiction over south Yorkshire for a short time after 1322, when the King was Edward II. The casting of the story during the reign of Richard I and Prince John was a much later addition and isan anachronism because the long bow (a Welsh weapon), Robin’s defining weapon, was not introduced into England until Edward I (whose army in Wales suffered greatly from Welsh guerrillas using the long bow).

      Further Gest reports that “Robyn stode in Bernesdale…nd walke up to the Saylis,
      And so to Watlinge Strete (line 70) which clearly in south Yorkshire, just north of Nottingham. “Watlinge Strete (Waiting Street) is an old Roman road that still to this day passes by Sayles (Plantation) in south Yorkshire. It is the same road that Chaucer’s pilgrims use in “Canterbury Tales”.

      Further, the story of Robin, Marion, and Friar Tuck was originally an entirely separate story. It was a 13th-century French “pastourelle” called “Jeu de Robin et Marion” of which there is a written version about 1280 (almost 200 years before the first written Robin Hood story). This was performed at May festivities, as were the Robin Hood stories. Eventually the two were combined.

      However entertaining the latest version of Robin Hood may be, it is no more “history” than Mel Brooks “Men in Tights”.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    How to train your dragon blows, if you must know.

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