Just a quick note before I get started:

Sometimes your enjoyment of a movie is influenced by the kind of people you go to see it with. The people I saw Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood with are apparently historical accuracy purists, racist against fiction, who can’t get it up unless they see a knight in the most authentic armour they can find. As such I almost (stress “almost”) feel sorry for Robin Hood, and every other film they see for that matter. It’s a movie, not a history lesson. Robin Hood wasn’t even a real person. Anyway, I guess I should probably move on to what I actually thought of the film before this turns into a review of my friends.

The Robin Hood script has gone through numerous re-writes over the last few years until little, if any, hint of the original concept remains. The result of which is often a film that isn’t sure what it wants to be and stumbles through the plot like a lost, drunk child desperate to find it’s way home but dreading the beating it’ll get when it does, before eventually throwing up, pissing itself and finally dying in the middle of nowhere after having made very little progress. Robin Hood, on the other hand, plays out like a much more experienced drunk. It’s a middle aged man who can comfortably make it home after the pub’s closed only to find out his wife has left him and a giant rock has fallen on his shiny new sports car, before throwing up, pissing himself and finally dying in a familiar and comfortable place.

The plot itself is an origin story, supposedly depicting the series of events that lead up to Robin becoming an outlaw hell bent on justice. Fair enough. Nothing wrong with that. However, I say “supposedly” because it doesn’t really feel like that’s where it’s going at all. Everything seems to be building up to the final battle on the beach to fight off the French invaders and when it’s over, the story feels satisfactorily concluded. It’s as if the writer (Brian Helgeland, for those who care) forgot he was writing a Robin Hood movie half way through, then remembered again right at the last minute, so had to quickly tack on the final scenes of Robin being declared an outlaw, like a student doing an essay the night before the deadline. I couldn’t help thinking it was missing a great degree of Robin Hoodness (no, I couldn’t think of a better way to put it), which is kind of a major problem for a film called Robin Hood. Obviously, if you don’t know/care about the legends of Robin Hood much, then this won’t be a problem for you. However, if that’s the case then you’re probably not going to see a film called Robin Hood in the first place.

I’d like to point out now, before anyone thinks they’re being clever, that I’m not talking about historical inaccuracies here, I’m talking about staying true to the legend. Making a movie about an already famous character is all well and good, but to pull it off, you have to meet certain expectations of the audience. There are things every Robin Hood movie needs to have for it to be a Robin Hood movie, and if you don’t include them, people are going to wonder what you’ve been smoking. The Sheriff of Nottingham, for example, has a mere fifteen to twenty minutes of total screen time at best. The Merry Men, whilst present in the movie, are rather pointless and annoying. Helgeland doesn’t seem to know what to do with them. They don’t appear to have any motivation to follow Robin anywhere. They’re more like a loyal dog than a band of his most trusted friends and comrades.

Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Forget Robin Hood. Make the film about a man who defends England from a French invasion with just his dog and change the title to The Adventures of Captain Gruffballs and his Questionable Accent. That way:

1) People won’t think the title lied to them.
2) People might give a damn if the dog died, whereas I couldn’t imagine anyone raising an eyebrow at the thought of one of the Merry Men getting a sword in the face.
3) The romance storyline may actually be a source of suspense as people would be curious as to whether Captain Gruffballs gets the girl. Everyone already knows how this is going to end in any Robin Hood story.

However, while these are all relatively small problems and never really add up to any major disappointment, Robin Hood doesn’t do a lot to make up for them, despite ample opportunity. The plot isn’t strung together particularly well, but it is a fairly entertaining journey through it. The battle scenes are decent enough, you get the odd pleasing bit of comic relief and some nice cinematography. And apart from Russell Crowe’s voice, to who it was never made clear what part of the country it was supposed to be from, and the Merry Men, to who it was never made clear they weren’t supposed to be such a huge group of unlikeable twats, Ridley Scott does a fairly good job of directing a fairly good cast. And that’s pretty much all I have to say about what I liked about the film. Oh yeah, and the Godfrey character. He was cool. OK, now that’s everything. Seriously.

All in all, it’s by no means a terrible film, but it could have been so much better. And from the people involved, you should expect a whole lot better. If you’re an average, simple minded human being then there’s plenty of noise and pretty colours to keep you distracted for two hours. If you consider yourself to be at least mildly intelligent then you will find this movie meh-tastic. If you’re a proud history teacher who’s determined their kids are going to follow in their footsteps, stay well clear of this one.