Robin Hood, starring New Zealand-born Aussie bad boy, Russell Crowe, and his Down Under colleague, Cate Blanchett is a riddle of history, original Robin Hood ballads, and Hollywood mythology. William Hurt as William Marshall and Mark Addy as Friar Tuck round out the starry-eyed cast. Ridley Scott was, of course, the director as well as one of the producers (as was Crowe). Why does that last statement require an "of course"? Because the entirety of Scott's Robin Hood is a 12th century version of Gladiator set in the 21st century forests of London.
We open with sweeping battle scenes where an aging king is faced with the folly of bloodshed; Crowe as Robin Longstride aka Robin of the Hood, is valiant in battle, saving young squires from certain death; his men love him...and so do his enemies. After he serves England twice, he becomes an outcast, betrayed by a spoiled Prince John, played by Oscar Isaac. Oddly familiar, isn't it???
Crowe and Blanchett share the beginnings of a tender love story when Crowe replaces Blachett's husband at her father-in-law's request. Taking on the mantle of "Robin of Loxley," Crowe's Longstride begins to unite the hamlet of Nottingham, allows a father to reclaim a son, gives a widow a husband, plants barren fields with stolen seed, befriends the town friar, and ultimately, becomes the voice of an entire region...all in the span of a few days. Yawn. Like a 12th century yeoman would know how to formally dance!!! Anyhoo, back at the reality ranch....
Blanchett plays a TERRIFIC Lady Marion--tough, smart, strong, spirited...heck, she even gears up for battle! Max von Sydow, Marion's father-in-law (and Sir Walter Loxley) plays his part well, a pragmatic country knight of the old guard who respects and cares for his son's wife like a daughter. Alan Doyle, Scott Grimes and Kevin Durand play the "merry men," Alan A'Dale, Will Scarlet and Little John...in that order. I would have enjoyed seeing more of those rascals in action. Too much focus was placed on the 46-year old Crowe, who nailed a Welsh accent in the film (his "real" paternal grandfather was Welsh).
Eileen Atkins replaced Vanessa Redgrave as Eleanor of Aquitain after Redgrave pulled out following the tragic loss of daughter, Natasha Richardson, in a skiing accident with husband, Liam Neelson (who appears as Hannibal in the upcoming A-Team adaptation...). If you know your history, Eleanor of Aquitain became a deeply religious woman later in her life; she actually favored John for the throne, but Richard, who had freed her from imprisonment by her second husband, King Henry II, obtained the throne first before dying in the second crusade...a battle Eleanor herself launched dressed as an Amazon, along with her ladies in waiting...at least, that's the rumor. Eleanor of Aquitain was one of the most powerful women in the high middle ages, not only serving as Queen of France in her first marriage, but ruling as Queen of England for 35 years before Richard took the throne.
On the Housel-scale, Robin Hood gets a 7.5/10. Though it was a reworked version of Gladiator, Cate Blanchett and actors like Mark Addy, Max von Sydow, and the "merry men" give the piece it's personality. The trained film-eye can detect the rewrites in the script during the dialogue and with things like Crowe's too-easy transition from lowly archer to lord of the manor. I'd call it big screen worthy for the battle scenes but if you're looking for originality, save your green for another greenwood.
PS: Hollywood? Any day now....