Remember in my review of Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood where I attempted to guess how the character would be adapted to our time? When I said that they would attempt to examine his every motive? Where it would turn into some sort of modern day political discussion using politics that would appear laughably anachronistic?
Well, I was wrong. As Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood demonstrates, the modern interpretation of Robin Hood does not feature the character.
I suspect that Scott was trying to make some sort of follow up to his Kingdom of Heaven. This film feels a lot more like a sequel from the perspective of those who remained behind during the Crusades. With a few rewrites, such an approach could have been passable. But taking one of the
Remember how I said everyone knows the plot of Robin Hood? Same thing here – except this time it’s a prequel. Oh, and instead of defending Richard the Lionhearted, Robin is trying to pressure King John into signing the Magna Carta. That is all.
Part of the problem is that the film takes far to many liberties with the source material to the point where nothing is addressed. There is nothing wrong with interpretation. What is a far more egregious sin is to interpret something to the point where what made it unique to begin with is lost. Robin Hood in this film is not a master archer who is loyal to a fault but simply a foot soldier who masquerades as a noble and delivers the crown of the dead king back home. He meets Marion – who is no longer a Maid at all but a widow who took a few pointers from Abagail Adams. Robin Hood never become the figure of legend. He is just a normal soldier who changes on a whim to react to the social ideals around him.
And it’s not just Robin Hood. Everyone suffers this – none of the characters of yore are recognizable. There is, for example, someone who goes by the name Friar Tuck. He does absolutely nothing. I think there is a Little John. I could not name the actor who plays him or what the character does. The history the film portrays is wildly incorrect; the legendary figure obscured.
This gives the impression that I am somehow faulting the film for it’s realism, or lack of realism. Not at all; Robin Hood belongs firmly in legend. What I dislike is the fact that they tried to make the film realistic to begin with. There is a quote often used – when stuck between fact and legend, stick to the legend. Scott stuck to the “fact” and the film suffers for it. I could discuss the film’s politics (which tries to apply 21st century ideals to the 13th century) the performances (mostly just the actors going through the motions) or the cinematography and production design (…..ok this was actually quite nice). But the end result is nothing because it fails to address what makes Robin Hood a legend.
In addition, what happened to the cleanliness of Errol Flynn’s version? It was strong because we knew exactly what everyone stood for. Robin Hood sought to wrong injustice. Marion existed to love Robin Hood as the ultimate hero. King John existed to be evil and abuse the kingship and the lower classes. Ridley Scott turns it all into a muddled mess of half baked politics and a scant understanding of history.
I know there have been many interpretations of the character throughout history. Yet it honestly peaked in 1938. Maybe when seven decades go by and no improvement is brought to the source material, it is time to call it quits.