Ridley Scott’s ambitious Robin Hood hits the target

May 13, 2010
Rachel Helyer-Donaldson

Film of the week: Russell Crowe swaps tights and the redistribution of wealth for epic, revisionist tale

Ridley Scott's Robin Hood was an epic in the making, with pre-production beset by script rewrites and high-profile cast changes while an argument between Scott and his leading man Russell Crowe threatened to not only kill off the project but also bring to an end a successful five-film relationship between the pair.

Thankfully the finished work, finally on the big-screen some two years later, appears to be an equally dramatic and sweeping saga as Scott puts a new spin on the story of the eponymous folk legend.  
Scott's revisionist Robin Hood, whose world premiere opened the Cannes film festival last night, is what comic writers would call an origin myth. The film ends where most versions of Robin Hood begin, telling the story of how archer Robin Longstride (as he's called here) became an outlaw.

Crowe's Robin Hood shows little interest in robbing the rich to give to the poor and eschews tights for trousers. Meanwhile Cate Blanchett's Marion (in this instance Lady Marion, not a mere 'Maid') is a feminist hero in the mould of Scott's Alien protagonist Ripley as she fights alongside Robin and challenges the male authority figures around her.
Many early reviews have applauded the grand vision scale of Scott's Robin Hood: in a four-star review the Guardian's Andrew Pulver calls the film "ambitious, serious and unashamedly populist" while Time Out hailed it as "genuinely epic".
Some critics, however, have criticised Scott for a convoluted story and for favouring 13th-century political history over the love story between Robin and Marion. Former Variety critic Todd McCarthy, now writing for film blog indiewire, bemoans the "underplayed romance" which, he feels, fails to emotionally engage the audience.

Tom Huddleston, Time Out: "Best of all, the film just feels huge: genuinely epic in a way few movies have since Lord of the Rings. The endless plot twists may be perplexing, but they work to make the movie feel eventful and involving: after 140 minutes, audiences will feel like they've been somewhere, lived through something." (3/5 stars)

Andrew Pulver, the Guardian: "Whether this will quite do the same for Crowe as Gladiator remains to be seen; it's hard for a film that is painted in such sombre browns and dull greens to be especially inspirational. But there's no doubting the strength and excellence of the film-making on display." (4/5 stars)
Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter: "The film's hodgepodge approach suggests many rewrites to forge a new angle on Robin Hood plus a desire for the movie to play to many constituencies. So, understandably some things work better than others." (2/5 stars)

Justin Chang, Variety: "The film's leisurely build-up rarely translates into a sense of intellectual vigour and pays few emotional dividends. Essentially 139 minutes' worth of back story, Robin Hood feels too long yet incomplete, and the events it leaves off-screen (for what, the sequel?) are precisely those that make the tale worth retelling."


Sign up for our daily newsletter