I don't want to make a big deal about a film's name, but with a title like Robin Hood, and a character with such an iconic shared cultural resonance, it is hard not to make assumptions. It's weird when you end up watching a Braveheart-style call for democracy film about a guy who doesn't even use his bow and arrow, when you clearly went in to see something called Robin Hood.
However, there's no point judging a film against what you thought it should have been, even though they call it Robin Hood and have nothing to do with what Robin Hood stands for. We need to judge the film for what it is, and that's where Ridley Scott's vision completely falters.
Tedious, boring and completely pointless, the film is a waste of time and somebody's money. The only reason it exists is because of the cultural resonance that name has, and that is another one of its shortcomings.
Take the plot - there are 'events', things happen, but none of it is to move anything forward. Events take place in a sequence, and yet there isn't a cogent storyline at all. There are some tedious plot reasons why Robin Longstride, a warrior from Richard The Lionheart's army returns to England and pretends to be Sir Robin of Loxley, and why Loxley's father insists Robin Hood carry on with that charade and pretend to be married to Maid Marion.
And then everybody fights in a big war.
Yep, even after so many years, Ridley Scott is still peddling the swordfights in ye olde times schtick, and we get to watch another one of his self congratulatory tugs. There's no love, no labour, no joy of making a film about a guy as cool as Robin Hood anywhere. There's just the same old tedium, scene after scene; and the war scenes, as epic and magnificent as they may be, are ultimately boring.
The problem is not that this is a different, revisionist take on the legend of Robin Hood. No, it's the same legend; they just wanted to make a prequel movie first. So we spend a lot of time setting up Robin and his merry men, and by the time they set themselves up in Sherwood Forest, the film ends.
You heard that right - the film takes two hours and 20 minutes of your life and nothing that happens is of any consequence because you know that in the end they will all be in Sherwood Forest living together happily.
The sociopolitical stuff that the film tries to force down our throat is meaningless, and simply used to foist some tension between Godfrey (Mark Strong), the main villain of the piece, and Robin. People stand around and talk about consequences and taxes but has no heft, as it isn't particularly interesting. The Sheriff of Nottingham has a role, but only a wee one. In a Robin Hood film, the Sheriff of Nottingham is a glorified extra, yes.
The saving grace is the acting. Cate Blanchett is funny and interesting, though there is zero chemistry between her and Crowe. Mark Strong actually doesn't care for the tone and silly somberness of the film and simply chews the hell out of the scenery. This makes it refreshing to watch, as everyone else is so busy taking themselves too seriously.
Crowe has a weird accent and looks older than a young Robin - who hasn't even started being Robin Hood yet - should be. He also has a seriousness he can't seem to shake - which is detrimental when he tries to be 'roguish'. It just makes him seem like a douche.
It's not all a lost cause - DP John Mathieson earns his salary by showcasing the English countryside beautifully, and the Saving Private Ryan style French invasion is suitably epic. The CGI is tasteful, and the palette beautiful to look at. In short - the film looks fantastic, but is boring to sit through.
Imagine watching a film about Sherlock Holmes, where he meets Watson, Moriarty, Adler, then proceeds to buy his violin and tobacco at a shop. When he comes back to 221B Baker Street, a police inspector is there to ask his advice on his first case, and the film ends. That's what Robin Hood is like.