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Peter T Chattaway

Robin Hood

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Part of me wishes Scott had been able to make one of the hundreds of more interesting projects he has or had sitting with him. Projects like WHITE JAZZ or BLOOD MERIDIAN or BRAVE NEW WORLD or even GLADIATOR II (which had an absolutely nutty script from Nick Cave). But the other part of me knows that Scott tends to turn in mediocre versions of great ideas, and has done so for pretty much his whole career. Even this ROBIN HOOD project was more interesting when it was NOTTINGHAM (and having read the script for NOTTINGHAM, it wouldn't have been a bad movie by any stretch), and thus we have to blame Scott for making things worse.

(Now, slightly off-topic, is Scott's 1492: CONQUEST OF PARADISE worth seeing? I know it's not thought of very highly, but does it qualify as an acceptable "rainy day rental," if you will?)

Edited by Ryan H.

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Ryan H. wrote:

: Now, slightly off-topic, is Scott's 1492: CONQUEST OF PARADISE worth seeing? I know it's not thought of very highly, but does it qualify as an acceptable "rainy day rental," if you will?

I dunno. For years, the soundtrack by Vangelis was one of my favorite CDs, but the movie itself is as full of bogus historical conceits as any of Scott's other historical epics. For what it's worth, here's another bit from the blog post I linked to above, noting comparisons between 1492 and Kingdom of Heaven:

I was struck by the fact that both of Scott's films followed such a similar storyline. Both films are set in a world defined by medieval religious prejudices, and both films are about a man who sets sail for a "new world" and briefly finds peace and harmony as he builds a civilization there, until in-fighting among the Christians brings everything he has worked for crashing down around him, and he ends up in obscurity again.

On a more frivolous note, I can remember, before seeing 1492, telling my friends that all of Scott's films seemed to have shots of wet sidewalks, sometimes with bright neon signs reflected therein; and I can remember telling my friends that, in 1492 at least, he wouldn't be able to resort to that visual motif. So what did he do instead? The historical Columbus met the native Americans on a beach, but in Scott's film, the encounter happens when Columbus and his men are walking through a forest... down a very shallow stream... and the water is following the curve of the rocks... as shafts of sunlight poke down through the trees and reflect off the water. He found a way to get that motif in there after all!

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SDG, I read your review before seeing the film and figured I wouldn't have as strong a reaction (and I don't think I disliked it nearly as much as you did), but you're bang on in your review at how many camel backs this film feels like its breaking.

I'm glad to hear you say that. The camel backs broke for me retrospectively as I thought about it the next day, and I wasn't 100 percent sure my souring memory of the film was completely true to my experience of it. In a sense, I didn't dislike it as much as I did either ... that is, I didn't dislike it as much as it might seem from my review. This is one case where the star rating (2 1/2 stars) offers some additional perspective to the review.

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After the so-so reviews, I went into this film with low expectations, primarily seeing it for the film debut of Alan Doyle - his band, Great Big Sea, is a favorite of mine. Surprisingly, I liked the film quite a bit. Ridley Scott is an excellent maker of entertainments (if I want deep philosophical musings, I'll look elsewhere), at his best showing men or women striving to survive, find purpose, and live virtuously in a violent, corrupt, and corrupting world.

While certainly not a perfect film, within this relatively modest scope, I believe Scott & co. succeeded admirably. I do wish he would've fleshed out the characters of the Merry Men moreso, but alas his focus on character development was elsewhere.

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I need to turn in my review so I'll be brief. In short I was sorta entertained by most of it and let a few things but the last half hour was just flippin' awful. I rolled my eyes so many times that if you'd fixed 'em up to a dynamo they could have powered the projector.

Numerous rants postponed but for now I'll limit myself to one, for all of you saying it looks like Nottingham. It doesn't. Nottingham has a great big orange rock outcrop in the middle, that its inhabitants had, for millennia carved out their own little space and lived in. And there's the big River Trent. Some places in England may have looked like this c.1200AD, but not Nottingham.

Matt

PS I don't think Gladiator did re-boot epic films, at least not in the sense that would include Robin Hood epics. Braveheart (set at almost the same time) surely takes that Honour. Scott at least seems to think so there's an awful lot of Braveheart here (plus LoTR).

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Not really a review, but a few comments summing up my take on it.

And if Robin really did mastermind a vital victory over the French, then why do we only remember him redistributing a bit of wealth and winning an archery competition? I’d take Errol Flynn, or Kevin Costner, over this drivel any day of the week.

Spot on, Matt. The anticlimax of building up Robin Hood as this unsung military hero who then ostensibly becomes a folk hero for his postmilitary career in subversive banditry poses a massive problem for the premise of the film, not to mention the film's franchise aspirations.

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MattPage wrote:

: PS I don't think Gladiator did re-boot epic films, at least not in the sense that would include Robin Hood epics. Braveheart (set at almost the same time) surely takes that Honour. Scott at least seems to think so there's an awful lot of Braveheart here (plus LoTR).

Interesting point. I've seen some people bemoan the influence of Saving Private Ryan on Ridley Scott's last few battle epics, but it occurs to me that Mel Gibson himself has taken credit for influencing Spielberg via Braveheart.

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Interesting point. I've seen some people bemoan the influence of Saving Private Ryan on Ridley Scott's last few battle epics, but it occurs to me that Mel Gibson himself has taken credit for influencing Spielberg via Braveheart.

Braveheart may have been influential in terms of its graphic depiction of violence, but stylistically I don't see the comparison to Saving Private Ryan. Spielberg's DP did a lot of unconventional camera rigging, such as eliminating the shutter or playing with shutter speed rates to capture that jerky quality that is seen throughout the film. Those techniques are clearly evident in Scott's Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, but Gibson used none of these techniques. I actually think Braveheart's influences can be traced back to several other films, including some scenes in John Milius' Conan the Barbarian, and especially Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight.

Battle scene from Chimes at Midnight.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cX9-9ae0ymI&feature=player_embedded

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

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FWIW, Robin Hood is estimated to have made $37.1 million this weekend, which is the second-best opening weekend ever for Russell Crowe (behind 2007's American Gangster, where he shared top billing with Denzel Washington) and the third-best opening weekend ever for Ridley Scott (behind American Gangster and 2001's Hannibal, the latter of which had the advantage of being a highly-anticipated sequel to a very popular film).

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Not really a review, but a few comments summing up my take on it.

And if Robin really did mastermind a vital victory over the French, then why do we only remember him redistributing a bit of wealth and winning an archery competition? I’d take Errol Flynn, or Kevin Costner, over this drivel any day of the week.

Spot on, Matt. The anticlimax of building up Robin Hood as this unsung military hero who then ostensibly becomes a folk hero for his postmilitary career in subversive banditry poses a massive problem for the premise of the film, not to mention the film's franchise aspirations.

Thanks for that Steven (and you quoting me made me realise that I'd forgotten an "even" before Kevin Costner"

I struggled to sum up my feeling about the Mark Strong character in comparison to Little John and the Sheriff of Nottingham, but this is a massive weakness. Firstly it's ridiculous to invent a French invasion in a film trying to be more historical. But secondly, by making Godfrey the main baddie largely neutralises the other two. John is, by his own admission, a "runt", easily betrayed (and wasn't their friendship portrayed weakly?), petulant and self-centred yes, but having already lost the support of the barons it's hard to see how he can do much really. The film shows him commanding soldiers to do his bidding for him and keeping the barons at bay, but this is a somewhat anachronistic take on the chain of command as I (badly) understand it. The sheriff is even worse. I could lead a group of men keeping him at bay, let alone some who has just commanded a large army (ahead of all the actual barons and generals). It's hard not to think he's just the slightly-grey sheep of the Clennam family. Is it going to be any fun in the sequels watching a beefed-up Robin take on these watered-down enemies? One can only hope that a new sheriff turns up to cut this one's heart out with a spoon.

Matt

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I've not seen the movie, but working at the concession stand has given me the chance to hear a lot of feedback. Being a small Alabama town, it's been mostly positive; one man told me that it was "good, but I liked the old one better. You know, the one with what's his name--Kevin Costner."

I died a little inside.

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Finally saw this today. Mild spoilers might follow. (Although, given how much of the trailers comes from the final reels, can we really say that there ARE spoilers for this film?)

I must say, I couldn't help laughing when Joan of Arc showed up with the Ewoks, as it were. What a bizarre plot twist.

I am also intrigued by the fact that Scott, after restraining himself with regard to the violence in order to secure a PG-13 rating, fills the end credits with a rather gory bit of animation. I guess if it's a cartoon, it isn't really that "bad", as far as the MPAA is concerned. What makes the end-credits animation even MORE interesting is that it takes the story back to the Crusades, ending with an image of a man in a turban getting beheaded, presumably by one of Richard's knights. Now why is THAT the last image that the film leaves us with?

On a possibly related note, Steve Sailer:

Sir Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood turns out not to be the expected proto-superhero summer blockbuster. Instead, it works best as an intricate political allegory about how the recently defeated New Labourites of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown betrayed England through their stratagems of invade the world, invite the world, and in hock to the world.

It’s 1199, and King Richard the Lionheart has bankrupted England with his military adventuring in Muslim lands alongside other Western leaders. Richard’s brother and rival, King John, in a naïve alliance with rapacious foreigners, sets out to tax the freemen of England dry. The true Englishmen finally rise up, demand a great charter of rights from their ruler, and then fight the Continental invaders on the beaches and on the landing grounds.

In globalist Cool Britannia, this manner of blatant English patriotism is tolerated mostly just during the quadrennial World Cup soccer tournament (which begins in three weeks in South Africa). Yet, xenophobia, especially an irrational loathing of the French, has historically served the offshore islanders well. . . .

Not surprisingly, the film has opened strongly in the U.K. American audiences, however, have been puzzled (not without reason) over why Robin Hood doesn’t have much to do with, well, Robin Hood. . . .

Make of that what you will.

BTW, is this the White Horse that everyone visits at one point, or did the film show another one?

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What makes the end-credits animation even MORE interesting is that it takes the story back to the Crusades, ending with an image of a man in a turban getting beheaded, presumably by one of Richard's knights. Now why is THAT the last image that the film leaves us with?

Hadn't quite clocked that. Interesting.

Steve Sailer']

Sir Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood turns out not to be the expected proto-superhero summer blockbuster. Instead, it works best as an intricate political allegory about how the recently defeated New Labourites of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown betrayed England through their stratagems of invade the world, invite the world, and in hock to the world.

It’s 1199, and King Richard the Lionheart has bankrupted England with his military adventuring in Muslim lands alongside other Western leaders. Richard’s brother and rival, King John, in a naïve alliance with rapacious foreigners, sets out to tax the freemen of England dry. The true Englishmen finally rise up, demand a great charter of rights from their ruler, and then fight the Continental invaders on the beaches and on the landing grounds.

In globalist Cool Britannia, this manner of blatant English patriotism is tolerated mostly just during the quadrennial World Cup soccer tournament (which begins in three weeks in South Africa). Yet, xenophobia, especially an irrational loathing of the French, has historically served the offshore islanders well. . . .

Not surprisingly, the film has opened strongly in the U.K. American audiences, however, have been puzzled (not without reason) over why Robin Hood doesn’t have much to do with, well, Robin Hood. . . .

It's an interesting reading, but as someone who's relatively well read politically and cinematically it seems a bit of a stretch. Or to put it another way if it passed me by I don't think many people would pick up the allegory. And who exactly is the famous redistributer of wealth Robin meant to be in this allegory? Brown? Cameron? Clegg? And Prince John is? Smells a bit iffy to me?

And the last two paragraphs are just ridiculous. The film has opened well in the UK because it's a British story that we hold very dear. It looms large in our mythical make-up. The anti-French sentiment won't do it any harm, but the suggestion that this is what makes people see it is loony. Does the marketing make a big thing of it's anti-Frenchness? Not really, and that's what gets bums on seats. Some film critics might have drawn attention to it, but to assume that the odd comment here or there has encouraged large swathes of people to go and see it attaches a little too much importance to the work of critics (alas). Plus Crowe in a heroic role is still a big pull.

BTW, is this the White Horse that everyone visits at one point, or did the film show another one?

Dunno - there are quite a few in England alone.

Matt

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MattPage wrote:

: Hadn't quite clocked that. Interesting.

Yeah, I wasn't paying very close attention to the animation at first, but then, somewhere along the way, I noticed a giant cross, which seemed very evocative of a certain scene in Kingdom of Heaven, and then it all concluded with that turban-beheading bit. I wouldn't mind taking a closer look at the animation, now, to see what sort of structure it has; i.e., is it ALL about the Crusades? or does it juxtapose certain parts of the Robin Hood story with certain parts of the Crusades? does it perhaps present these images in reverse chronological order? etc.

: And who exactly is the famous redistributer of wealth Robin meant to be in this allegory?

FWIW, I don't think the "allegory" needs to be as fully fleshed-out as that. It could be enough to say that the film's depiction of the English government of the late 12th century (NOT the late 11th century, as the opening titles imply, sigh) has parallels to the English government of the early 21st century; and then, once the scenario has been set up, the film introduces a medieval hero for whom there is no modern equivalent.

Interestingly, BTW, the film doesn't present Robin Hood as a redistributer of wealth but as quite the opposite: It is the tax and tithe collectors who are actually moving wealth around against the wishes of its owners (one of the tax collectors even says something to the effect that it's not "fair" for someone to own so many acres of land), and all Robin does is insist that men should be able to live by the sweat of their own brows, or words to that effect. (Yes, there is some bafflegab at the end -- when Marian's property is confiscated and she suddenly becomes the film's narrator -- about Robin Hood and his men settling for their "fair share", but it's somewhat at odds with everything we've seen up to that point.)

: And Prince John is?

Well, following Sailer's analogy, I would have assumed that Richard was Blair and John was Brown; Richard was the leader who went to the Middle East oh-so-enthusiastically, and John was the successor who complained that he was stuck with the problems that his predecessor had left for him. (I was surprised, actually, at how the film almost made John somewhat sympathetic in this regard; at times, he actually seems to make a good point or two -- but then, of course, the filmmakers have him do something really callous or spiteful to remind us of what a baddie he is.)

But FWIW, Sailer's analogy doesn't really work on Sailer's own terms. "Invade the world, invite the world, in hock to the world" is an old Sailer formulation -- a pithy summary of his critique of the Bush-Blair mode of government -- and "invite the world", in this context, usually refers to what Sailer sees as their incredibly lax approach to immigration. But clearly, there isn't really any "immigration" in this movie. Sailer tries to make the analogy fit by saying that the bad guys have teamed up with "foreigners", but, um, the "foreigners" in question are spies and soldiers, the first wave of a military invasion, and NOT immigrants in any normal sense of the word; plus, the only character who really teams up with these "foreigners" is Godfrey, who has been actively BETRAYING the English kings for whom he ostensibly works -- so you can't really pin the blame for that on Richard or John (unless, I guess, you want to say that John's French wife is an "immigrant", but again, even THAT'S a stretch).

: Does the marketing make a big thing of it's anti-Frenchness? Not really, and that's what gets bums on seats.

For the first weekend, yeah. After that, it's all word-of-mouth. :)

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MattPage wrote:

: Hadn't quite clocked that. Interesting.

Yeah, I wasn't paying very close attention to the animation at first, but then, somewhere along the way, I noticed a giant cross, which seemed very evocative of a certain scene in Kingdom of Heaven, and then it all concluded with that turban-beheading bit. I wouldn't mind taking a closer look at the animation, now, to see what sort of structure it has; i.e., is it ALL about the Crusades? or does it juxtapose certain parts of the Robin Hood story with certain parts of the Crusades? does it perhaps present these images in reverse chronological order? etc.

Sounds like you had the opposite experience to me, and between us we may make some sense of it. I was paying attention to it at the start, and it seemed to me very much that the animation was telling the story in reverse. It starts with that arrow shot (a good way to end the the main body of the film IMO actually), and seemed to be working its way back. I think I tracked it as far back as the siege at the start of the film, but then lost where it was going and so lost interest. But I guess that in some ways this film is the sequel to Kingdom of Heaven so perhaps it made sense to someone to go all the way back an reverse animate that film too.

: And who exactly is the famous redistributer of wealth Robin meant to be in this allegory?

FWIW, I don't think the "allegory" needs to be as fully fleshed-out as that.

Isn't that what an allegory is though?

: Interestingly, BTW, the film doesn't present Robin Hood as a redistributer of wealth but as quite the opposite:

Ah interesting - fair point. I'm still expecting a sequel where Robin will return to this though

: And Prince John is?

Well, following Sailer's analogy, I would have assumed that Richard was Blair and John was Brown; Richard was the leader who went to the Middle East oh-so-enthusiastically, and John was the successor who complained that he was stuck with the problems that his predecessor had left for him.

I get the impression, then, that this isn't so much about the film presenting an analogy as Sailer finding a somewhat tenuous analogy in some of the historical backdrop of the story. I mean I know that the filmmakers can't control when the British general election is, but they will have known that there was almost certainly going to be a new right(ish) government by the time of the film's release, as it proved. Seeing it in that context, as all of us apparently xeno-phobic brits have done, the analogy falls apart a bit. I imagining Sailer saying "if only this year's world cup year wasn't also an early summer election year it would have been perfect"

(I was surprised, actually, at how the film almost made John somewhat sympathetic in this regard; at times, he actually seems to make a good point or two -- but then, of course, the filmmakers have him do something really callous or spiteful to remind us of what a baddie he is.)
It's a bit silly really isn't it.

: Does the marketing make a big thing of it's anti-Frenchness? Not really, and that's what gets bums on seats.

For the first weekend, yeah. After that, it's all word-of-mouth. :)

Oh I dunno. I know that's how it's thought to be, but not everyone is free to get to a movie on the opening weekend. Lots of people I've spoken to are interested in watching it, and many of them will go despite the negative reviews of myself and others.

Matt

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MattPage wrote:

: But I guess that in some ways this film is the sequel to Kingdom of Heaven so perhaps it made sense to someone to go all the way back an reverse animate that film too.

Perhaps. (And thanks for dovetailing your observations with mine!) It's still an odd way to end the movie, though.

: Isn't that what an allegory is though?

Perhaps "subtext" would be a better word for what Sailer is getting at here.

: I mean I know that the filmmakers can't control when the British general election is, but they will have known that there was almost certainly going to be a new right(ish) government by the time of the film's release, as it proved.

FWIW, I'm not sure the terms "left" and "right" apply here, especially since Blair (nominally left) and Bush (nominally right) are equally targets of Sailer's "invade the world, invite the world, in hock to the world" critique.

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So, what's up with the History Channel? That channel seems to plug films from time to time, like Angels and Demons or Kingdom of Heaven, and this past weekend I had the channel on, while it spent three hours promoting this film, with its typical pseudo-history, interspersed with interviews with Crowe and various other cast members. After watching both, I am inclined to say that I liked the History Channel programming better, but neither were very cheery. Alas, I'm a sucker. If it had not been for the History Channel, there is no way I would have spent $10 on a film which got less than 45 percent positive reviews on RT.

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Finally saw Robin Hood. It could have been worse, but there were still plenty of historical howlers. And that's saying a lot, considering that Robin Hood may be even less historical than King Arthur (if possible). The opening battle seemed reasonable authentic, but (as usual) there followed so many more battles that it got lost in the shuffle. Peter mentioned "Joan of Arc arriving with the Ewoks"--that was one completely gratuitous moment that made me laugh out loud because I was thinking "Eowyn!" (Ewoks thrown in free). I know, not the same actress, but the comparison was too close.

Medieval anti-clerical commentary was common enough--though maybe more common later--but there's still no way a 12th/13th century Christian English noble family would cremate their honored dead. Would. Not. Happen.

I was of course fascinated to learn that not only was Robin Hood (or whatever his name was) a political philosopher ahead of his time in promoting democracy, AND a magnificent archer, swordsman, and all-round military strategist, but also actually conceived the Magna Carta. Brilliant. After that, of course, living in the woods was totally worth it.

Eileen Adkins was quite good as Eleanor of Aquitaine, as was Mark Addy as Friar Tuck.

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Finally saw Robin Hood. It could have been worse, but there were still plenty of historical howlers. And that's saying a lot, considering that Robin Hood may be even less historical than King Arthur (if possible). The opening battle seemed reasonable authentic, but (as usual) there followed so many more battles that it got lost in the shuffle. Peter mentioned "Joan of Arc arriving with the Ewoks"--that was one completely gratuitous moment that made me laugh out loud because I was thinking "Eowyn!" (Ewoks thrown in free). I know, not the same actress, but the comparison was too close.

Medieval anti-clerical commentary was common enough--though maybe more common later--but there's still no way a 12th/13th century Christian English noble family would cremate their honored dead. Would. Not. Happen.

I was of course fascinated to learn that not only was Robin Hood (or whatever his name was) a political philosopher ahead of his time in promoting democracy, AND a magnificent archer, swordsman, and all-round military strategist, but also actually conceived the Magna Carta. Brilliant. After that, of course, living in the woods was totally worth it.

Eileen Adkins was quite good as Eleanor of Aquitaine, as was Mark Addy as Friar Tuck.

And the legend has just begun, Beth. We have so much more to learn.

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And the legend has just begun, Beth. We have so much more to learn.

Like the previously unknown mystery of how early 13th c. falconers were able to train owls not only to hunt on demand, but to do it during the day? I can hardly wait!

:blink:

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Beth, I've been meaning to say, excellent comments.

For some reason you reminded me of another criticism I read somewhere else, that in medieval warfare it was only skinny guys who were no use in close combat that were designated as archers, and that it wouldn't matter if a brawny guy like Crowe were the deadliest bowman since Legolas -- they'd still have him on the front lines. Awesome.

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SDG wrote:

: For some reason you reminded me of another criticism I read somewhere else, that in medieval warfare it was only skinny guys who were no use in close combat that were designated as archers, and that it wouldn't matter if a brawny guy like Crowe were the deadliest bowman since Legolas -- they'd still have him on the front lines. Awesome.

I remember writing an essay in my university days that revolved around a book called The End of the Bronze Age, which argued that a key factor in the collapse of the Hittite and Trojan cultures, and in the rise of the Philistines and Israelites etc., was the transition away from archer-and-chariot warfare. As evidence, the author of that book points to the stories in the Old Testament about the Hebrews hamstringing the horses they find, and to passages in The Iliad where bows break and archers curse themselves for being useless in battle.

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