DVD Review: Robin Hood – The Director’s Cut

Plot Synopsis

In 13th century England, Robin (Crowe) and his band of marauders confront corruption in a local village and lead an uprising against the crown that will forever alter the balance of world power. ROBIN HOOD chronicles the life of an expert archer from his service in King Richard’s army against the French. Upon Richard’s death, Robin travels to Nottingham, a town suffering from the corruption of a despotic sheriff and crippling taxation, where he falls for the spirited widow Lady Marian (Blanchett), a woman sceptical of the identity and motivations of this crusader from the forest. Hoping to earn the hand of Maid Marian and salvage the village, Robin and his comrades from the crusades begin preying on the indulgent upper class to correct injustices under the sheriff. This is the telling of how Robin became the outlaw we know today.

When I think of Robin Hood the image of Errol Flynn striding into the great hall of Nottingham Castle (which lets face it was right up there with Mos Eisley as a hive of scum and villainy) with a deer on his shoulders and hurling the carcass onto the table before Prince John is scorched in my mind. It’s just a perfect moment of heroism, recklessness, arrogance and pure swashbuckling fun. It also cemented in my mind that no one is ever going to top that telling of Robin Hood for me so why bother?

This time around it’s Ridley Scott who takes his turn at adapting the story of Robin Hood. Scott had said that the legend of Robin Hood deserved a more gritty and ‘realistic’ telling and so armed with his go to ‘epic film guy’ Russell Crowe taking centre stage as the famous outlaw the cameras rolled on the latest adaptation.

Pretty early on in the film it’s clear  that this is  not the Robin Hood of old and Crowe shows us a Robin who, despite having a lot of the qualities we associate with Hood, is more out for himself than anything. All he wants to do is to keep himself and his friends and make it home, preferably with some gold in his pocket.  It’s those choices that land him into playing the role of the recently deceased Robin of Loxley which I thought was a nice twist.

There is a lot in the film that fans of the legend will find unchanged. Maid Maidan, is still feisty and more than a match for Robin, Little John is still a big bloke you wouldn’t want to miss with, Friar Tuck is the most unconventional holy man going, Allan A’Dayle still sings and Prince John is still a weasel. In other areas the story is completely different. There is no Golden Arrow tournament, no glorious return of King Richard to save the day, No epic quaterstaff battle between Robin and Little John…I could go on. What Scott tries to do is make the situations more believable and the characters more grounded. One of the dangers with this notion is  that when retelling  a legend which has existed for centuries do fans of the story really want that realism at the risk of damaging the heart of the legend?

One of the advantages I had watching this film was that I did so after all the hype and criticism, both negative and positive had died down to the whisper  and I could watch it without any preconceived ideas (well not counting all the other adaptations of course). What I saw was a highly entertaining action adventure epic that felt more like a prequel or a ‘Robin Hood Begins’ then the legend most of us know and love. Sure Crowe’s accent is all over the place and at times he even sounded slightly Scottish then Welsh within a few sentences. I know he’s been giving a roasting for that but at least he gave the accent a go compared to certain other Robin’s (yes Mr Costner I’m looking at you) and to be honest didn’t really bother me.  Where his accent falters his performance picks up the slack as Crowe pulls off the intensity of the role and makes you believe that this is a man people will follow. Speaking of following I enjoyed Robin’s band of merry men but despite the long running time these guys have little to do and I would have liked to have see more of them.

Cate Blancett’s performance as Maid Marian  was one of the highpoints of the film. Blancett plays Marion as she should be played, a strong and independent woman trying to carve out that independence in a world governed by men. However at the climax of the film she takes on an almost Joan of Arc role which seems to come a little too out of left field for me. In some ways it’s not out of character but I think it was one step too far in trying to establish her as a woman to be reckoned with. There a several scenes earlier in the film that show us what kind of woman Marion is when backed into a corner (one scene set in a barn in particular) so I felt the last scenes were just overplaying the hand.

Both Prince John and Mark Strong as Sir Godfrey who are the film’s main baddies (though for different reasons) fill the role of ‘proper villains’ nicely in that you leave the film not wondering why they are so slimy and evil but rather spend your time more wisely in waiting for them to get a well place arrow through the eye.

Robin Hood is a classic british legend that has survived many retellings and interpretations both good and bad. This latest attempt, although a  mixed bag in places, was an enjoyable romp which may not set the world on fire but kept me entertained for the entire viewing.

DVD Extras:

I know this was the director’s cut but as I’d never seen the original I can’t comment on how the two versions compare. There were also some deleted scenes, on the DVD, which were pretty forgettable to be honest and didn’t really add anything to the overall package.

One of the things that did annoy me is that I noticed that the DVD version has hardly any extras where as the Blu-Ray has stacks. Now that’s great from someone like me who has a Blu-Ray player but there are a lot of folks out there who don’t.

I’ve been seeing this trend of pushing all the good stuff onto the Blu-ray with the DVD  regarded as the poor relation for a while now. If this is some plan to push more people towards buying Blu-Rays then it’s working as in years to come more people are going to be less bothered about buying DVD’s and settling for renting them instead or waiting for the films to come on Sky or Cable.

GS Reviewer: Nuge

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