Posts tagged Russell Crowe
Before my review of Tom Hooper’s film “Les Miserables,” I just want to preempt a few nastygrams by saying that I have tremendous respect for this musical. I studied it in school growing up, I’ve watched several performances of it over the years, and I know some of the songs well enough to sing along. Although I’m not exactly a diehard “Les Mis” devotee, I can appreciate the skill with which the story and the music are crafted. Both are woven together in a way that is compelling and enthralling.
That being said, Hooper’s adaptation is a disappointing cinematic regurgitation of the stage show that is downright boring. The only interesting moments come from specific performances and the small deviations the film makes from tradition.
As a narrative “Robin Hood” operates more like a prequel, covering the events leading to Robin’s branding as an outlaw. We are first introduced to Robin, who is a soldier in King Richard’s army, which is looting Europe on its way back from The Crusades. This Robin is not Robin of Loxley, but rather Robin Longstride, an archer and a commoner. After King Richard is killed in battle, Robin and his friends Little John (Kevin Durand) and Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes) capitalize on the chance to return home to England. Other accounts have Robin finding these friends after his arrival back in England.
Killing King Richard is another bold move on the part of screenwriters Brian Helgeland, Ethan Reiff, and Cyrus Voris since other versions of the legend characterize the king as a noble ruler, who puts an end to his brother John’s tyranny upon his return from The Crusades. Making their escape from the battlefield, Robin, Little John, and Will stumble upon a group of knights that have fallen in a French ambush. The leader of the knights is the nobleman Robert of Loxley who asks Robin with his dying breaths to bring his sword home to his father in England. Robin assumes the identity of Loxley to ensure safe passage of his men back to their homeland.
Upon their return, Prince John is crowned King John (Oscar Issac), and a new reign is born. John allows his trusted advisor Godfrey (Mark Strong) to terrorize the countryside in order to collect taxes, however he does not know that Godfrey is in league with the French. The French hope to provoke a rebellion through Godfrey’s aggression and to conquer England in its weakened state. This film’s most interesting deviation from the standard legend is that Robin learns of the plot and offers his assistance to King John to fight the French, something the Robin of common lore would have never done considering John was one of his enemies.
Russell Crowe makes this Robin more serious like a solider commanding his friends in battle, than the lighthearted thief whose archery and skills with a sword are so well-known. While he believes in equal rights for men under the crown, he’s not an outright champion of the poor at first. Over time, he becomes an outlaw out of circumstance more so than principle.
In many ways the character of Marion, Robin’s love interest, greatly departs from the usual which is fascinating. Cate Blanchett portrays her as a strong woman, just as willing as Robin to take up the sword to fight for her people. This makes her less of a damsel in distress and more like his equal. What’s disappointing though is that the film builds her up in several instances only to demean her in others which almost defeats the purpose of making her such a powerful character.
This film falters in its slow pacing and some of its frenetic action sequences, which ultimately detract from the new angles it tries to create with the story, although not enough to derail the whole production. Probably the most unsatisfying aspect of “Robin Hood” though is its ending. As the film draws comes to a close you feel rather unfulfilled as the viewer, wanting to see more conflict between King John and Robin’s league of outlaws. Much like watching a television show’s pilot you find yourself anxious to see what happens on next week’s episode, but unfortunately there’s nothing coming to placate that desire.
My grade: B+