Russell Crowe, this generation’s man in arms, is back at the work he does best. Events again force him into murder, war, & politics. He must unhesitatingly lead men who hesitate; he must tell them what to believe to fight; & he must endure everything leading to victory. Maybe he should take his skills & circumstances seriously & become a public man, but his features are not quite Roman – he lacks ambition & pride. Never did man set himself so crossly against his destiny. He broods too much.
Ridley Scott made Crowe’s career directing him in Gladiator. He attempts again the epic, this time with the story of Robin Hood. He makes the merry men gloomy; Sherwood forest lifeless; & kills Richard Lionheart. – Maid Marian a harsh cynical woman; & Robin an impostor. – The true medieval Robin Hood, he teaches, is not what we think: He must have been a man of war; & the war came, & enshrouded England in murder.
Robin Hood is a soldier in heartless king Richard’s murderous armies, rendered soulless by cynicism, perhaps not without justice, who runs from the promised land & from serving God & country. Of course, nobody except the audience cares about this. But a series of dreadful accidents has him become a country gentleman, caring for the land as if he owned it. Now, he is home.
Unfortunately, in the world surrounding his estate, armies appear & disappear, leaders of the hosts, trumpets & all. We never know whose armies they are or for what they fight. The motions of the cities seem incomprehensible. Reluctantly, Robin must join these armies & become a medieval knight.
War’s injustice & horror apparently taught Robin that he should return to it, with better armor, a horse, & prestige. Now he faces the problem of the plot: Honor & demanding to be honored by those who lack honor themselves, but think themselves for that reason better rulers. The former king fought & fought well; his regnant brother compensates with intrigue, deception, & treachery. The world seen in the motions of war never taught Robin to watch his back & never trust people with long daggers. We sympathize with him, & wish him great good luck.
King John Lackland betrays Robin, who saved England from the French invasion. Robin is such a decent fellow that he is surprised. It is remarkable to what extent innocence blinds him. That the powerful are jealous of their power; that a king’s legitimacy is a serious concern, especially if he is not the firstborn; & that alliances are mere creatures of circumstances – these things never dawn on Robin. His retreat into the forest in the end is the act of a bewildered, defeated man. Why were the dynastic wars with France his problem?
For fans of Russell Crowe & Ridley Scott