Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Review: Robin Hood

Russell Crowe pondering what retirement home would be good for Old Man Scott.
Ridley Scott is getting senile. Case in point: his latest directorial gig, Robin Hood, starring frequent muse Russell Crowe as the eponymous English folk hero. The film might be Scott's worst to date; it is laden with tired action adventure cliches, populated by one-dimensional characters, and meanders directionless for most of its running time. The story is so confusing and muddled that just 24 hours after seeing it, I cannot for the life of me relate what it is; the goals and motivations of each character change so frequently that, not only are we unreasonably challenged to figure out what they are doing and where they're going, but the actors themselves seem to have little if any idea.
In addition to the director's apparent senility, another factor that likely contributes to the film's jumbled story is the fact that the script went through a number of labored iterations in Development Hell, and was even being severely rewritten during filming. This explains a great many things, from lazy character development to jarringly uneven narrative momentum to a number of painful violations of story logic and continuity. Perhaps the constant script modifications are also to blame for numerous, inexplicable moments of extremely ill-advised attempts at sit-com level comic relief, shoe-horned in with no regard for tonal appropriateness. 
As far as I can decipher, the original intent of this film was to give Robin Hood a believable and gritty origin story, Batman Begins style. I can appreciate this, and there are brief glimmers of this premise shinning through at certain moments, but when the rest of the ordeal is such an embarrassing mess, it only makes the film an even greater tragedy. 
Considering the people involved, this realist interpretation of the Robin Hood myth could have been really great. With previous historical epics like Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven (the director's cut), Ridley Scott has shown the capacity to be the David Lean of his day; it is all the more painful when a giant of cinema trips and falls so far. It might seem low to blame Robin Hood's terribleness on Scott's advanced age, but the audience gets the distinct feeling that the director's failing mind, coupled with the ever-changing and confused script, created a perfect storm of screen hackery.

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