The film opens late in the 12th Century, with King Richard's Third Crusade. Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is an archer, fighting abroad with Richard for ten years. When Richard is killed in battle, Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong) and his French allegiance ambush a troupe traveling to the coast to return Richard's crown to England. Robin, joined by Little John, Will Scarlett and Alan A'Dale fight off the ambush and in an attempt to draw fame on arrival back in England, pose as noblemen and notify the Royal Family of the Kings' death. At this point, Richard's younger brother John is crowned King and makes Godfrey his closest adviser, demanding owed tax from villages across his realm. Robin, assuming the identity of Robert Loxley (a knight killed in the ambush) travels to Loxley's village of Nottingham to return to his father a sword given in passing. Robin meets Marion (Cate Blanchett), Loxley's widow, and her father-in-law Sir Walter Loxley (Max Von Sydow), who proclaims that Robin should continue posing as his son so that they can retain the family's land, to the point of marrying Marion. This relationship totally lacked chemistry and Crowe and Blanchett, who are normally fantastic individual performers, just couldn't transform the swift romantic progression into something that was capable of belief. I also found this marriage to be very lazy, convenient plotting. It just seemed too outrageous that after such a short period of posing as Marion's returned war hero husband, Robin expresses his love for her when he leaves again on an endeavor. The films conclusion recounts a pending attack by the French Army on the shores of England, orchestrated by Godfrey, who has strayed from his role as tax enforcer. Robin, having already defended Nottingham, leads an assault on the arriving troops on the beach, orchestrating a dual archer and cavalry attack, bringing temporary peace to England. However the land is still governed by John, who out of jealously at the people's revolt against him in favor of Robin's heroics, declares Robin an outlaw and a bounty is placed on his head and those of his associates.
The action sequences were entertaining and well constructed but the influence of films like Braveheart (1995), and the opening sequences of Gladiator (2000) are obvious. They lacked any real imagination or originality but were often quite brutal. The first twenty minutes or so were full of exciting battles, and I expected the film to maintain a consistent amount of action. The camera energetically entered the heart of the conflict, captured the fighting from multiple angles and it was all quite impressive. But, in particular the final sequence, there were too many moments that were made for use in a trailer. Was it really necessary to see Robin rise from the water in slow motion with his sword raised? There were also disappointingly few examples of Robin's bow skills. The earlier sequences when he was enlisted as a bowman were featured, but he predominantly uses his sword on horseback.
Little John, Will Scarlett and Friar Tuck were the sources of comic relief throughout the film but really had very little to do. While the performances weren't bad, I question whether these actors are interesting enough to take on major roles and skilled enough to provide solid support in the inevitable sequel. Their development throughout was completely ignored and even their joining as a party was decided by fate. The appeared to have no special bond beyond accepting one another as soldiers faced with the same situation.The casting was uniformly poor. Russell Crowe's gruff demeanor and age failed to rouse the likable figure common to earlier representations of the legend. Cate Blanchett looked plain, and was simply required to look awkward around Russell. But Marion was strong-willed and proved she was able to handle a bow and sword just as well as the men, and Cate did a good job. Mark Strong, typically typecast as a villain these days, wasn't overwhelming and William Hurt, who was given nothing to do, just looked bored. Danny Huston was another choice I didn't agree with, mostly because I associate him with an antagonist or betrayer, as he usually is in most of his films. His brief role was far from astonishing either. It's great to still see wily legend Max Von Sydow, still acting.
I think that Scott's Robin Hood is a film capable of being enjoyed but only when you ignore previous representations of the Robin Hood legend. While it is fascinating to explore the origins of this man, it essentially could have been a story about anyone from King Richard's army, and it is a moving, heroic tale for an unknown, but with the preconception of the Robin Hood legend, it really isn't all that impressive. His existence as an outlaw and his nomadic quests accompanied by his troupe are only introduced in the final minutes and he primarily exists as a military leader and fueller of revolt. Many of the plot choices unintentionally cheated audiences, and were lazy attempts to heighten the drama. I didn't find Robin Hood particularly interesting, and overall I thought it was a lackluster action film that just failed to live up to expectations or provide a worthy compliment to an already established legend of the screen.
Overall: 2 1/2 Stars