Review: Robin Hood Not About Robin Hood at All

The interesting thing is the way in which Robin Hood fails: by being too long, too illogical, too silly, and most damningly by not really being about Robin Hood, at least not the one you're familiar with. It's a shocking turn of events given the pedigree of everyone involved. I predicted great things. I was treated to a largely aimless and irrelevant reimagining.

This version of Robin Hood centers around Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe). He's an archer in Richard the Lionheart's marauding army. The opening scenes are quite lovely; Ridley Scott remains a visual master. The film jumps around from Longstride's travels to Marion's Nottingham and back to matters of state in London. It's an ambitious script in that Robin isn't really the main character (there isn't one), and they never really get into that whole "robs the rich to feed the poor" angle -- which is sort of like a biopic on Michael Jordan figuring, "Eh, let's just focus on this AA baseball thing." Robin Hood is supposed to be about him running around in the forest, isn't it? This story isn't. It's about politics, and war, and Anglo-Franco relations. It's almost purposefully not about anything you've ever seen attributed to Robin Hood.

All of which would be forgivable if the film got to the point already. At about the 90-minute mark you genuinely worry that the folks involved don't know what the point is going to be, and that they are just winging it to see what develops. This hapless fumbling disconnects the audience. Are we watching a film about a guy named Robin? Or about the divine right of kings? Perhaps this is all just about Mark Strong's excellent ability to play a rogue? Women's rights are considered (because why not?), and little nameless and faceless orphan children run around on the fringes of the film with no exposition at all. We just get a glimpse of them with the film itself nudging us and winking, "Hey, it could be about these kids! Keep an open mind!"

By the time the culmination comes we've already sat through one too many odd story arcs. I can't tell if the film is about the subjugated, or the lives of rulers, or a father's love for his son. It may have something to do with men who head off to war, leaving their wives at home. It's impossible to tell. But here's the thing: If I can't tell, after sussing out the plot to a few thousand films, how can I in good faith send you out to pound your head against the wall? The film is pretty, and there are a few solid moments every hour. But considered as a work of cinema, with paid professionals involved, it's an extremely lackluster story.

Grade: D+


VMAs 2017