Saturday, May 22, 2010
'Robin Hood': This One's Ridley Scott's
There has been some grumbling among reviewers and Robin Hood devotees that Ridley Scott's new treatment (with Russell Crowe and Kate Blanchett as Robin and Marian) is dark, unfamiliar and not in the tradition of Erroll Flynn and many who followed.
I saw it tonight and will begin by suggesting you view it on the biggest screen you can find. It's a spectacle and it needs room to breathe.
Fact is that there is no one Robin Hood in the legends, stories and books that preceded the mid-20th Century movies about him. He is a series of men with a variety of names (the Earl of Huntington, Robin of Locksley, Robin Fitzooth, et. al.) and many adventures. Robin Hood showed up--if only briefly--in Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (The Death of Arthur, the legend of King Arthur) and was the subject of eight rhymes in the 15th Century. He was from the village of Locksley (or Loxley) in the county of Yorkshire or Notinghamshire. He evolved into a full-blown character with many faces (including that of a forest pixie) over time and was in full flower by the time Errol Flynn put on the green cap and pulled back the bow string in 1938 (poster right).
Ridley Scott's telling of "Robin Hood" is set in the "late 12th Century," according to its lead-in, and time frames seem all over the place and as confused as anything else about the Robin Hood legend. The Magna Carta was signed in 1215 and could have resulted--in theory--from this specific story, but then we have a King Richard the Lionheart (who spoke little English and was rarely in England) being killed in France and never returning the conquering hero, as we are accustomed to seeing, as well. And in this telling, there's nothing particularly heroic about Richard. He is--and probably was--a brutal, ambitious, murdering expansionist with little thought of the country he ostensibly ruled.
Scott's version gets little use from the Sheriff of Notingham, but plays well with some of the usual characters: Will Scarlett, Friar Tuck and John Little (Little John), all of whom have bad teeth. In fact, general hygiene in this version is lacking to a significant degree and if you're looking for Olivia de Havilland or Audrey Hepburn swishing around as Marian, forget it. She's as tough and dirty as anybody else in the movie.
I liked it, frankly, at least partly because it was fresh (if a bit smelly) and because the story was not a tired retelling. Thing about legends is that they can be told to suit the teller and this one is very much Ridley Scott's version.