• Film Reviews: which Robin Hood?

    Lately, I've been in a kind of Robin Hood frenzy, watching several films and TV series based on this character. It's always been one of my favorite heros, and Maid Marianne is, I believe, one of the characters I've ever most wanted to impersonate.

    So, here's my personal top 4 (+ special awards) and reviews! Film reviews: which Robin Hood? (keep in mind that I didn't watch all the Robin Hood films, far from it, so it really is a very personal ranking...)

    /!\ spoiler alert /!\




    N°4: Robin Hood (2010, by Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett)Film reviews: which Robin Hood?

    Well, I don't mean that this is a very bad film altogether, but at least, I don't understand its title... Had it been called The Making of Robin Hood, or perhaps Robin Hood: a Beginning, it would have been much more accurate! Don't expect to see Robin and his famous merry men in the forest, the film ends when Robin (finally) gets outlawed!

    And what a complex story to get there... Because you see, Robin Hood is not Robin/Robert of Locksley here. No! He is Robin Longstride, an archer taking part in the king's crusade. But after the king dies - this is the ONLY movie which gets this historical fact right: Richard DID NOT come back from the crusade, he died from a crossbow arrow in France - he finds himself impersonating sir Robert Locksley for some time, until Robert's father, Walter Locksley, asks him to go on with the impersonation to prevent his daughter-in-law, Marianne Locksley, from being kicked out of the property when Walter dies. Now, do you see anything Robin-Hoody in there? Oh yes! The names Locksley, Robin, Robert, Marianne, Allan O'Dale, Will Scarlet, John, Friar Tuck, sheriff of Nottingham, etc, thrown in a big salad bowl for a brand new plot!

    Talking about the sheriff, Robin's universal nemesis... Well, he doesn't play any part in the plot. Almost the same goes for Allan, Will and John. So much for the merry men.

    Then, if the film tries to be more accurate about 1199 England - with Richard's death, the horror of people's situation, people actually not loooooving Richard but blaming him either for overtaxing to get his ransom or for ordering a massacre of innnocent people during the crusade - why Magna Carta?? This happened 15 years after John was crowned, and although the film doesn't allow us to really see how much time passes, it's clearly a few months at most. And since when is Robin Hood's story about repelling a French invasion? This is not bloody Joan of Arc, fighting the ennemies of her country, this is Robin Hood, the hero that fights injustice AMONG his country! (well, to be fair, he does that too in the film, but why did they need to over-complexify the story with the French and all?...)

    Next comes Robin's character. He is not noble by birth (why not, after all), but at the beginning of the film, he is not particularly characterised in the traditional way (ie generous, feeling...). He is an opportunist, and although his decisions are understandable under such circumstances, this does not make a leader or a good man of him. Which is why I really don't understand why he takes on so hastily the responsibility of becoming the lord of Locksley (I mean, he does it for the home and money, yet he immediately genuinely warms up to the place and the people), and more importantly, why he becomes the leader in the big battle. Hello, he's a nobody!!

    Well, not exactly, because of course, they also needed to add special features for a father he doesn't remember who happened to be the engineer of the biggest change in human law (ie Magna Carta)... Again, using the already existing material didn't seem to be enough, they had to make an extra-hero of him, and I don't see why (and I don't like it).

    Plus, when we got out of the theatre, my husband was like "What bullshit! Who attacks a castle with bows and arrows??" I'm not an expert so I'll believe him on this one.

    Overall, I don't really care whether this is a good or bad film when it comes to history or adventure, what I care about is that this is clearly NOT a Robin Hood film, whatever the title says. In my opinion, it's waaay too serious and yet not accurate enough, and throws in too many subplots - or doesn't the making of Robin as an outlaw become a subplot of the French invasion story? I can't really decide.




    N°3: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991, by Kevin Reynolds, starring Kevin Costner and Film reviews: which Robin Hood?Morgan Freeman)

    Here again, my overall comment is: what the hell??! What happened to just Robin Hood robbing the taxes from of the sheriff? Isn't that a simple enough plot to understand and work on? Nope, they needed to add a satanist society, and a witch (complete with the ugly face, her lab in a sewer in the dungeons, the toads, the crows... couldn't she have been a tiny bit MORE cliché??).

    Again, the film tries to show an 11th century England which is not merry at all. People starve, get attacked. It sucks, we get it. But then, why add all this godforsaken mystical nonsense? Plus, why is it the sheriff trying to outking Richard? There's absolutely no mention of prince John. I don't really see how Nottingham could take the throne, even if he got the king's cousin pregnant...

    Then, Robin himself. Well, Kevin Costner is rather handsome, and can play very nice characters, but I somehow find him too nice sometimes, always smiling, always with a good word (yes, I'm being picky on this one). What I do like is the evolution of his character, from the proud rich kid who comes back from the crusade a new humble man.

    Which is also the point of Azeem, his Moorish friend. This is an interesting addition to the tale, which brings many a trait of humour. But what I like most about this character, and the film in general, is that his main function is to speak for tolerance. Azeem keeps being discriminated until he proves he is worthy of the others' company, while constantly pointing out how barbarious or strange 11th century England is to him. This is backed up by Robin's talk of atrocities he saw in Jerusalem.

    Overall, I guess my main complaint about this film is that it is both too serious and not serious enough. In such a realistic setting (at least it looks medieval), the village in the trees seems a little too fairytalish to me, while the sheriff is really tooooo dark a vilain for such a setting.




    N°2: Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993, by Mel Brooks, starring Cary Elwes)Film reviews: which Robin Hood?

    Well, this is a parody, so it doesn't really fit in this "serious" top, but I really enjoyed watching it. Of course, it is humourous, but that's kind of something I expect of a Robin Hood film!

    Overall, besides the humour, you have all the usual Robin Hood elements: Robin and his merry men in the forest, the lady Marianne and her lady in waiting, Will Scarlet, Little John, the sheriff of Not/Rottingham, prince John, the robbing rich people to feed the poor, the archery tournament...

    The film was made 2 years after Kevin Costner's and was clearly a parody of it, but it also takes elements from other Robin Hood films, such as Errol Flynn's.

    Overall, I found it was a good parody AND a good Robin Hood film Film reviews: which Robin Hood?

    Plus, it features a few musical-type songs, what's not to love!





    Special award n°1: The New Adventures of Robin Hood (1997-1998, TV series)Film reviews: which Robin Hood?

    Now, this series is absolute crap, but I love it! Film reviews: which Robin Hood? And there is a good reason for that: I grew up with it ^^

    Everything on this show looks cheap and reaaaaally kitschy, but that's the spirit! In the first 2 series, Robin Hood is played by Matthew Porretta - who played Will Scarlet O'Hara in Mel Brooks parody - , who is the cheesiest Robin Hood I've never seen! I so feel like a teenager whenever he's on the screen... What more could I want??



    Film reviews: which Robin Hood?

    As for the characters, you find Robin Hood (formerly Robert of Locksley, at last someone got it right!!), Lady Marion, Friar Tuck, Little John, and an entire village living hidden in the forest. The vilain in prince John, but there is no sheriff of Nottingham. Now, when I say "the vilain is prince John", that's for the setting... We rarely see him or hear of him, and we get plenty of totally unrelated vilains to fill in the episodes...

    ... most of which are magic-related. Because, again, robbing the rich to feed the poor (which they do a lot in the show, to be honest), was not enough. So we get plenty of magic, and a brand new character, played by no less that Christopher Lee: Olwyn, descendent of Merlin himself. And again, is it so much to ask for basic storytelling that works? At the beginning of most episodes, I'm like "wow, so many plots", but they actually gather to become just one big plot, and I'm like "they could have come to this exact same point in such an easier way"...

    And then, of course, there's Marion's outfit... Could it be more obvious that this is a cheap attempt to make a show a bit Xena-like? (Xena aired from 1995 to 1999)

    Film reviews: which Robin Hood?

    'You sure you really don't see the resemblance? lol

    Now I only watched series 1 for several reasons: it's the only one that you can find easily on the internet, they changed Marion's actress and I really liked the first one better, Robin let his hair grow a bit too long, and I could only find it in French (which lowers even more the overall quality). They also changed Robin's actor after series 2, so I'm not sure what's interesting in the last 2 series anyway... Perhaps I'll try to watch it till the end some day, if I can find the courage!

    Just watch the opening of series 1: don't you die of love for him already? hihi




    Special award n°2: Robin Hood (1973, Walt Disney Studio's motion picture)Film reviews: which Robin Hood? 

    Of course, I'm not going to write a film review of the film we all grew up with, but I had to mention it somewhere!

    Here, we have everything! Robin Hood living in the woods with Little John, Friar Tuck, Maid Marianne and her lady in waiting, the sheriff of Nottingham and prince John as villains... Perhaps we're short of a few merry men, but then, there is this song ^^




    N°1: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938, by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, starring Errol Film reviews: which Robin Hood?Flynn)

    Although this is my coup de coeur, meaning one I really enjoyed watching, I don't have a lot of things to say about it (probably because criticism is much easier).

    All the characters are there: Robin Hood/Locksley, Little John, Will Scarlet (in scarlet), friar Tuck, Lady Marianne Fitzwalter, her lady in waiting, the sheriff of Nottingham, sir Guy of Guisbourne, prince John, and lots and lots of merry men in the forest. They all wear very bright tights, the settings are clearly made of plaster, the colours are very bright and the lighting (especially for night scenes) is very artificial (it was shot in technicolor, perhaps it's related), but who cares? I mean, this is not a bit realistic, and yet, you just buy it. The characters are well played, just where you expect them to be, not too serious; the plot is rather simple but explores the different aspects of traditional Robin Hood storytelling (robbing the rich, the archery tournament, falling in love with Lady Marianne, prince John diverting tax money from king Richard's ransom for his own coup d'état...). There's a lot of fighting and horseback riding and laughing. And in addition, there is a psychological development of Marianne's character that I wasn't expecting and liked pretty well (nothing awfully new, but still).

    Honestly, I was expecting to watch this film with a 21st century benevolent eye, but I really got caught in the action and the characters, and it really lived up to my personal expectations of a Robin Hood film Film reviews: which Robin Hood?





    So, here's my personal top, for now anyway. What's yours?

    And now, to stay in a mood for archery, I'm going to catch up with the series Arrow and go on with my reading of Ivanhoe ^^


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