Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor—utter madness! Such ideas must infuriate director Ridley Scott; he and his star, Russell Crowe, regift you Gladiator instead. (Forget about the tights.) This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for those of us who enjoy skull-clonking battles in the mud, a ridiculously whiny villain (Isaac, as vainglorious Prince John), and fuzzy underpinnings about liberty and freedom. Come to think of it, today’s Robin Hood doesn’t have much use for Sherwood Forest or a band of Merry Men, either; at the same time, the legend’s been inflated by a creative team that thinks it can bear the somber weight of geopolitical intrigue. It can’t. But the attempt is half-alluring in its wrongheadedness.
Robin Longstride (Crowe), an archer, returns to England from Richard the Lionheart’s Crusades. The dude is spent, lacking even a dog of hell to unleash. Luckily, he happens upon a wounded nobleman who wants him to tote his family’s sword back home to Nottingham. There, Robin is urged by the aging dad (a twinkly Max von Sydow), fearful of encroachers, to publicly assume his dead son’s identity, woo the headstrong widow, Marion (Blanchett), and articulate what would eventually become the Magna Carta, thus staving off the invading French. It’s not exactly retirement.
Crowe and Blanchett have an easy, anachronistic rapport; you can feel the movie pepping up in its domestic moments. But overall, the tone is stranded in a middle ground: more historically curious than a Tea Party antitaxation screed, yet not quite dumb enough to soar like Gladiator. Can they really be setting up a sequel at the end, with Robin as an outlaw? Let’s hope so—that’s the movie you actually wanted.—Joshua Rothkopf
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