3 Stars – Challenging
A story well-told need not necessarily fit historical fact or preconceived expectations. That seems to be the opinion of Ridley Scott in his direction of Brian Heigeland’s “Robin Hood”. Similar to his previous film, “Gladiator”, in which Russell Crowe also had the title role, Scott creates a story in which the leading character must take on a corrupt government in order to fight for his and others’ freedom.
Telling the story of Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) in the months before he became the legendary Robin Hood, the film explains why he became an outlaw in the woods of Nottingham. Returning from the crusade in which King Richard the Lionhearted (Danny Huston) has died in battle, Robin becomes the courier of the royal crown back to the King’s brother, Prince John (Oscar Isaac). A naïve, self-indulgent and ambitious youngest brother, newly crowned King John has come under the spell of the traitorous Godfrey (Mark Strong) who uses the new King’s arrogance and inexperience against him and begins to exploit and weaken England to prepare for a French invasion.
Within this larger plot moving toward the inevitable battle with France is the introduction of the various members we expect to find in Robin’s legendary band. Not nearly as merry as expected, Little John (Kevin Durand) is a sinister warrior, Friar Tuck (Mark Addy) is a bee-keeper, and Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett) is a capable widow rather than a young maiden.
In a twist that is difficult to accept, Robin is invited by Marion’s father-in-law, Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow), to impersonate his son who died in the crusade and pose as his son and Marion’s husband to protect his land from being confiscated. This gives Robin a voice in a climactic moment that changes the course of English history in several dramatic and dynamic ways.
As a story that attempts to explain how Robin Longstride became a master archer as well as an outlaw, this prequel is a story well told. Full of intrigue and suspense, betrayal and manipulations, injustice and outrage, it is unexpected but appreciated. The message remains relevant, that government can overtax and abuse its own people unless someone stands up for them. That is the Robin Hood story we all recognize and cherish.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. As an explanation for the legend of Robin Hood, do you think this story does it justice?
2. The invitation to impersonate Sir Loxley’s son seems unlikely. Do you think this would be possible in a small village that has known him for decades? Why or why not?
3. Giving the people a charter of rights is necessary for any government to be kept from abusing the populace. Why do you think government needs such checks and balances?