Did Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett strike romantic gold? Should Robin Hood be a date night movie?
After Tarzan and Romeo & Juliet, Robin Hood is likely the most-remade movie in the history of cinema. Every decade or so, a director or television show-runner gets his shot at telling the story and only needs to include the following: an archer, a tax-crazed monarch, some merry men, a lil' slice of heaven called Nottingham and romance with an earnest noblewoman. Everything else is up to the auteur's vision. Therefore, I was pretty amped when I saw that Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett were teaming up for the latest retelling.
The story was originally written with Russell Crowe as a sympathetic Sheriff of Nottingham (possibly moonlighting as Robin Hood) and Sienna Miller as a quite-young Maid Marion. The brass decided to hew closer to the standard yarn and cast a more age-compatible Lady Marion with Cate Blanchett. Both actors give great performances as Crowe's slightly Scottish accent out-does Kevin Costner's Iowan Robin Hood handily.
The movie perhaps should have been called Robin Hood Begins as it starts, like Prince Of Thieves, with the pre-bandit making his way back to Merry Olde from the Crusades and features a bleaker, dirtier, rat-infested Nottingham like you may have seen from a Christopher Nolan 12th century Europe. The derring-do was fairly realistic (with two notable exceptions), chandeliers are safe from would-be swingers and nary a swash was legitimately buckled. The movie makes use of some historical elements (King Richard's demise, French intrigue and the Magna Carta Charta [sic]), modern issues (an expensive war in the Middle East) and a speech that was probably made using a transcript from Braveheart and a thesaurus. And I'm not giving much away in saying that, in the end, the good guys rule and the bad guys drool.
In terms of romance, the film is a little flat. Marion, a lady rather than a maiden, lives as a virtual widow since her husband has been at war for 10 years. In Blanchett-is-the-new-Hepburn fashion, Marion and Robin start very tense, though not sexually so, but grow to respect then love each other though it's in no way Hollywood or moon-eyed in terms of it's approach to romance. Looking back at Russell Crowe's mainstream career, passionate romance isn't his strong suit. The tender moments are few and concentrated. Costner's Robin Hood and the animated foxes of the 1973 Disney Robin Hood delivered more chemistry and more in the way of an according-to-the-dictionary love story.
The characters are not spectacularly memorable. It's fair to say that Crowe and Blanchett are two of the finest actors of their generation and certainly put in the work to make Robin and Marion their own. But Robin's blue-collar egalitarianism is less-on-target than one of his legendary bowshots and Marion's mountainous will and inner-strength almost work against her and the conceit of the story. Frankly, none of the characters are particularly sympathetic. Maybe they have too much to do, are too perfect or too caricatured. Mark Strong delivers a great, scowling villain as the treacherous Sir Godfrey (expect a MTV Movie Award nom for that one) and he seemed to draw the most audience reaction.
The movie is not particularly funny, though obviously that wasn't their intent. There are two tension-bursting moments of levity, however; one of which may be in the trailer. Both jokes were delivered with impeccable timing and perfect placement within the greater context of the story.
Finally, and most importantly, was the movie entertaining? That depends if you like medieval action, period-specific costuming and solid but not overwhelming performances. The fighting seems realistic with one exception. The drama is fairly compelling. But perhaps the most telling sign of entertaining is that the movie seemed short despite being 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Though three of the four of the "is it a date movie" criteria were not met, it is a flick that could very easily come before or after a movie without throwing a wrench into the works. Maybe you can listen to Bryan Adams on the way to or from dinner to get the romance flowing. Overall, it deserves a B-.
Check out our favorite versions of Robin Hood:
Robin Hood (the Disney animation)
The Adventures Of Robin Hood (Errol Flynn, what-what)
Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (I'll die for YOUUUUUUU!)
Robin Hood - Men In Tights (Cary Elwes, Richard Lewis, Dave Chappelle, Mel Brooks!)