Not the Robin Hood you were thinking of
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.