Blu-Ray Review: ‘Robin Hood’ Takes Serious Approach to the Legend

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionE-mail page to friendE-mail page to friendPDF versionPDF version
No votes yet

CHICAGO – Erase from your mind every preconception you may have about a film entitled, “Robin Hood,” and you may find yourself enjoying, or at the very east admiring, Ridley Scott’s loose yet literalistic depiction of the legendary outlaw. No film will ever top Michael Curtiz and William Keighley’s 1938 classic starring Errol Flynn, which remains one of the all time great screen entertainments.

This “Robin Hood” takes place in a universe entirely separate from the one Flynn inhabited. It’s a hard-edged prequel in the modern sense, centering on an English warrior fresh from the Crusades named Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe, re-teaming with Scott a decade after their last action blockbuster, “Gladiator”), who joins the fight against King Philip of France. Scott seems intent on doing for Robin Hood what “Batman Begins” did for the Caped Crusader, yet this film is too melancholy and deliberately paced to truly take flight. It’s dull and gloomy in places, but strong in others. For all of its flaws, there’s plenty here to recommend. Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0

The film opens in 1199 A.D., as Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) falls to his death in battle (so much for saving the day). Longstride takes to the road with his Merry Men, and encounters an English traitor, Godfrey (Mark Strong, Hollywood’s go-to man for leering villainy), whom the expert archer marks with an appropriately evil scar. Making good on a slain knight’s dying wish to return his sword to his elderly father, Robin poses as the man, and ends up falling for the his widow, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett), who proves to be the polar opposite of a damsel in distress. Meanwhile, Godfrey’s scheme to sabotage England is going according to plan, as he succeeds in manipulating the newly crowned King John (Oscar Isaac), a tax-loving tyrant driven by greed and self-interest. He inspires Robin to deliver several lines that could easily be used in the campaigns for tea party candidates, such as, “If it’s illegal for a man to fend for himself, how can he be a man of his own right?” Later, Robin interrogates an enemy by resorting to tactics that could easily be seen as the equivalent of medieval waterboarding.

Russell Crowe, Alan Doyle, Scott Grimes and Kevin Durand star in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood.
Russell Crowe, Alan Doyle, Scott Grimes and Kevin Durand star in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood.
Photo credit: Universal Home Entertainment

The climax takes place during France’s invasion of England’s southern coast, in a sequence that bears an eerie resemblance to the storming of the beach at Normandy. This isn’t a tale of the beloved merry bandit. This is “Saving Private Robin.” Though the film’s battle sequences are familiar and oddly bloodless (hence the PG-13 rating), they sure look stirring in high definition. It also helps that the entire ensemble is top-notch, particularly William Hurt, Eileen Atkins, Matthew Macfadyen, and the great Max von Sydow (both funny and heartbreaking as Marion’s blind father-in-law). Isaac is effectively sniveling as King John, but he isn’t allowed to have nearly as much fun as Joaquin Phoenix in “Gladiator.” Yet the key weak link in “Robin Hood” is Robin himself. Delivering his dialogue quickly and often under his breath, Crowe seems to be phoning in his performance, and spends much of the time looking bored. Here’s one of the best actors in modern cinema, headlining an epic star vehicle, and he barely looks awake. When Crowe leaves his Merry Men after yet another uninspired line reading, one the men blurts out, “That’s it? After ten years?” My sentiments exactly.

Robin Hood was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on Sept. 21, 2010.
Robin Hood was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on Sept. 21, 2010.
Photo credit: Universal Home Entertainment

“Robin Hood” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio), accompanied by English, French and Spanish audio tracks, and includes a Blu-Ray, DVD and digital copy of the film, as well as pocket BLU and social BLU apps. The BD-Live-enabled disc includes a wealth of features, notably an unrated director’s cut that runs 15 minutes longer, though it doesn’t differ greatly from the theatrical cut. A “director’s notebook” visual commentary track accompanies the original version with extended interviews (mostly involving Scott), behind the scenes footage and hand-drawn “Ridleygrams” (a.k.a. storyboards by the filmmaker himself). There’s also an in-depth art gallery chockfull of information about the film’s elaborate sets and set-pieces. Costume designer Janty Jay explains why she aimed for a monochrome look that could be juxtaposed with the more colorful, fashionable attire worn by the rich. Editor Pietro Scalia provides optional commentary for the disc’s 13 minutes of deleted footage, which include several moments of humor that would’ve offered welcome relief in the midst of the film’s lumbering drama.

Best of all is the terrific hour-long documentary, “Rise and Rise Again,” which follows the project from its conception to its troubled postproduction. Crowe says that while “Gladiator” was a metaphor for death, “Robin Hood” is meant to symbolize a rebirth of sorts. He also admits that Robin’s Maximus-like haircut was no coincidence. When the filmmakers were presented with Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris’s initial script, Crowe says that it read like, “CSI: Sherwood Forest” (what he doesn’t mention is that the script portrayed the Sheriff of Nottingham as the hero). Brian Helgeland was brought on to make a film entrenched in historical accuracy, capturing the sort of malcontent culture that a hero like Robin would emerge from. Seen up close, the meticulous detail of Scott’s sets truly are staggering. This extended featurette captures various formidable challenges posed by the production, from learning fight choreography while being weighed down by chainmail, to cutting an entire third of the film out in the editing room (the film originally ran three and a half hours).

‘Robin Hood’ is released by Universal Home Entertainment and stars Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Oscar Isaac, Mark Strong, William Hurt, Max Von Sydow, Eileen Atkins, Mary Addy, Danny Huston and Matthew Macfadyen. It was written by Brian Helgeland and directed by Ridley Scott. It was released on Sept. 21st, 2010. The theatrical cut is rated PG-13. staff writer Matt Fagerholm

Staff Writer

User Login

Free Giveaway Mailing


  • Innocence of Seduction, The

    CHICAGO – Society, or at least certain elements of society, are always looking for scapegoats to hide the sins of themselves and authority. In the so-called “great America” of the 1950s, the scapegoat target was comic books … specifically through a sociological study called “The Seduction of the Innocent.” City Lit Theater Company, in part two of a trilogy on comic culture by Mark Pracht, presents “The Innocence of Seduction … now through October 8th, 2023. For details and tickets, click COMIC BOOK.

  • Sarah Slight Raven Theatre 2023

    CHICAGO – On July 1st, 2023, Sarah Slight was named Artistic Director of the Raven Theatre, beginning with the 41st Season, which begins October 5th with Lucille Fletcher’s from-Broadway thriller “Night Watch.” In 2024, the season will continue with two original commissioned stage plays, Paul Michael Thomson’s ‘brother sister cyborg space’ in February and the final installment of the Grand Boulevard Trilogy, “The Prodigal Daughter,” by Joshua Allen. For all information and tickets, click RAVEN.

Advertisement on Twitter

archive Top Ten Discussions