Friday, May 21, 2010

I don’t remember the history books telling me about extreme tans and plastic surgery in merry old England...

***may contain spoilers***

I promise this is a review of Robin Hood (2010) but first let me have a little rant. About 45 minutes or so into the film, Russel Crowe’s Character, Robin Longstride, presents something to the Queen of England. There are members of the court present and to our left of the Queen, there is what can only be described as a plastic surgery horror show standing there seemingly oblivious to the fact that she just ruined the scene for me. Her face has the early appearance of a vintage Joan Rivers about 1/3 of the way through her “transformation”. She had so much fake tan on that her colour could be described as diarrhoea. To complete her insultingly unauthentic look, she had about a pound of makeup caked on her man-made face. I know this look has become a symptom of Hollywood and it actually fits in some films or television shows (usually something that has “wives” in the title). However, in this case an orangey-brown reject from the Isle of Dr Moreau didn’t really fit amongst the fresh faced, lily white English who surrounded her. Most people know that in the old days, tans signified poverty, and no member of the court would have had one.

Not only did Director Ridley Scott let casting get away with this odd decision, he also cast Scott Grimes of Party of Five/ER fame as Will Scarlett. Don’t get me wrong, I’m on Team Grimes all the way, but I can’t help but wonder if it was so difficult that in the entire world they couldn’t find one Englishman, Irishman or Scotsman who could play that small part authentically. Same with William Hurt, one of my favourite actors of all time. He pulled a Costner and exchanged an English accent for a weak American one. I’m quite sure there are some pretty damn fine English actors who would have torn that role up. The only other American actor I could really accept in his role as an Englishman was Kevin Durand who plays Little John and I give him high praise for his version of the roguish sidekick.
In any movie I see, the one thing that pulls me straight out of it is a lack of authenticity. They can never be spot on as often the stories they’re telling are bastardisations of history or complete fiction. But casting Mrs Plastic Surgery 2010 as a member of the court was like getting Frodo to wear a Swatch. It just doesn’t work.
For those of you who don’t know the tale of Robin Hood, shame on you. Read a book! For those who don’t know the plot of this film, it’s an origin story. Kind of like Batman Begins, but in this case Robin Hood. According to it is: “The story of an archer in the army of Richard Coeur de Lion who fights against the Norman invaders and becomes the legendary hero known as Robin Hood.” There is so much more to it than that however, as writer Brian Helgeland (Mystic River, A Knight’s Tale) weaves many subplots and characters together.
It’s not the scope of the film that bothers me at all however, it’s the depth. Or lack thereof. The trailer implied that the story would be dark and affecting. That it would take the legend to the next level. Not only did this version fail to elevate the cinematic version of the tale, it served to detract from it. Cheesy lines, ripped off scenes from Saving Private Ryan and A Knight’s Tale, casting that was all over the place and a terribly messy delivery were amongst some of the worst problems here.
Believe it or not, I didn’t hate Robin Hood (2010), despite this “glowing” review. As far as common Hollywood blockbusters go, it was ok. Crowe was fantastic in the part as a tougher, older and simpler version of Robin. His chemistry with Blanchett was believable. Max von Sydow commanded the screen in his part as the blind Sir Walter and it was a joy to watch him. I liked the back-story they gave Robin in this one. The overall look, feel and basic premise of the film were pleasing to me. I just felt that the pace of the story, the dialog and directorial decisions were at times downright ridiculous. I just could not seem to care about the characters, no matter how much I wanted to. It annoyed me that Mark Strong was cast as Godfrey, the big bad in the movie. He’s a fine actor but does he have to be the bad guy in every movie this year (Kick Ass, Sherlock Holmes)? Again, this was a casting issue. But hey, he’s English, at least that’s SOMETHING right?
Overall, I liked Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) far more than this over-budgeted, overplayed version. In that film, at least, the only issue was Robin Hood’s accent. I look forward to the next attempt to bring the famous/notorious thief to the big screen. 
Robin Hood (2010) gets 2.5/5 from me. I enjoyed it but not enough to care about it. Makes me wish they stuck with the original idea of making Robin Hood the bad guy and the Sheriff the good guy. At least that would have been brave.

Update: The plastic surgery mess is Ridley's girlfriend. Thanks to a twitter user who pointed it out and I can't find the tweet so if it's you, pipe up! :)


Jonathan Fisher said...

The ONLY ISSUE with "Prince of Thieves" was Costner's accent??? Jen, Jen, Jen... That entire movie is a big joke!

Fair points on Robin Hood. I was rather unimpressed with it as well, although I disagree with you about the authenticity, particularly in the performances. I was rather surprised at how much effort Scott and the actors applied to recreate how 12th Century Britons looked and talked.

I particularly liked it that the characters did not speak in modern British accents, but a kind of strange twist on the northern accent -- which, evidence from the time suggests, was just how they sounded.

Jonathan Fisher said...

Oh, and the original script had Russell Crowe playing both the Sheriff of Nottingham AND Robin Hood. The premise was apparently that Hood kills the Sheriff in the opening scene, then assumes his identity for the rest of the picture.

Now THAT script should have been made... and directed by Mel Brooks. Why do directors fail to accept that giving Russell Crowe any creative control over anything is a bad idea?

Jen said...

Hah! Great comments Jon but I honestly loved the Costner Robin Hood. In what way is it a joke? It certainly isn't anything but a Hollywood blockbuster, but all movies don't have to be pieces of art. It was entertaining, had a good flow and wonderful acting. It was what it was. A far greater mess was this new telling of the tale. I'm quite surprised you didn't find some of those accents a joke though. Oh and you know Crowe just had to play Robin Hood. Too bad (and most likely because of him) it won't be memorable in any way.

Dan Stephens said...

Very mixed reviews for this film. I've yet to see it but I'm hoping Ridley takes some form into the new Alien movie.