The story of Robin Hood is one that most generations have known very well. Whether it be from one of the many films, such as the 1991 Kevin Costner version, the Disney cartoon, the Mel Brooks’ comedy “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”, or just hearing the myth of Robin Hood who stole from the rich and gave to the poor with his Merry Men in Sherwood forest. The story is so familiar to us that making another film about the same subject would be redundant. So, director Ridley Scott, and lead actor Russell Crowe decided they wanted to tell a different story.
Robin Hood tells the story of Robin Longstride, played by Russell Crowe, before he becomes Robin Hood. He is a common archer in the army of King Richard The Lionheart of England, played by Danny Huston. The year is 1199 during the Third Crusade in France. Robin does not start out as the noble man of the myth who wants to give back to the poor, as we know him today.
The film begins with the gruesome war of the Middle Ages, hand to hand combat with heavy armor, large metal clanking swords that you can hear go whooshing by you, and arrows from every direction. Robin and his men end up being put in the stocks for a fight that happened in a moment when the king was passing through, and after the king’s death in battle, decide to escape.
They then find themselves watching the French ambush a group of Englishmen bringing back the king’s crown to England. Robin and his men try to stop the French and kill most of them, but all the English knights were dead, except one. Robin goes over to the man who is dying from his wounds, his name is Sir Robert Loxley, and he asks Robin to bring his father’s sword back to him in Nottingham. Robin says he will. The men then decide that to get back to England they are going to pretend to be the knights bringing back the crown. They put on the knight’s clothes and meet the ship waiting to bring them home.
Once they get back to England, they bring the news of the king’s death. A new king is crowned, King John, played by Oscar Isaac, and he is much more interested in money than his brother. This leads to even more taxation by Godfrey, played by Mark Strong. What the king does not know is that the person he makes his closest ally is actually the one who planned the French ambush in the forest, and is planning to cause unrest in England so that they turn against the king leaving room for a French invasion.
Keeping to his word, Robin and his men brings back the sword to Sir Walter Loxley, played by Max von Sydow, in Nottingham. There he meets Lady Marion, played by Cate Blanchett. He returns the sword its owner. Together they decide that Robin will pretend to be Sir Robert so that they can keep their land, and he agrees.
The north of England was being taxed for everything it had in this time, causing unrest. This unrest is what Godfrey used to turn the people against the king. The Northern parts of England decided to band together against the king. The rest of the story is the beginning of how Robin Hood as we know him, living in Sherwood forest with his Merry Men fighting the Sheriff, came to be.
It is a different look at a very old story, with some very new elements. The authenticity that they try to achieve is remarkable. You can tell that the costumes are heavy not only by the look, but by they way they sound, and the way the actors move, there are no tights here! The clinking of the metal swords, and the screams of men in battle shows what war was like before missiles and machines guns, when men looked each other in the eye as they killed one another. The beauty of the land was also showcased extremely well.
The lead characters give good performances, except Crowe sometimes took his deep, brooding, mumbling voice too far to the point where you could not hear him properly. Blanchett played a Marion that the world has never seen before. She is most definitely not the damsel in distress that we have known her to be. She holds her ground and takes care of her land. The other characters like the Merry Men members Little John, played by Kevin Durand, Will Scarlet, played by Scott Grimes, and Allan A’Dayle, played by Alan Doyle the front-man of Great Big Sea, Friar Tuck, played by Mark Andy, and all the others added comedy, character, and depth to Robin Hood.
The film gives us a look into another time, another way of life, and gives background to a character that most people feel they know.
- Director’s Notebook
- Deleted Scenes with Introduction & Commentary by Editor Pietro Scalia
- Rise and Rise Again: Making Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood
- The Art of Nottingham
- Marketing Archive