Once upon a time, many years ago, I worked with most of my best friends. We all taught at the same school, just a few lockers between us. Now, one is retired, I have resigned, one still slugs it out, and two have moved two towns over. So, we try to schedule regular dates at an in-between location. Just a quick check-in. Lunch at Mamacitas where we each get our favorite half-order of nachos, and a movie. It's a date we put on the calendar, pre-booked before we part. Sometimes the movies are great (The Blindside), sometimes they're awful (The Invention of Lying). Last Saturday we saw Robin Hood, and it falls somewhere in the middle.
My friend Raquel referred to the film as "Robin Who?" on her facebook update, and I think that kind of sums up everything. Now, first of all, I have to say that when I first heard that Russell Crowe was set to play the iconic character, I had two distinct reactions: "Russell Crowe...yummmmmmm" and "Russell Crowe? Really?" To me, casting RC to play RH is kind of like casting a beefsteak to play a green bean. I've always thought of Robin Hood as being light, lithe, sneaky and quick. Russel Crowe is muscle and power. I just couldn't get the image of green tights out of my head, and somehow the thought of that big hairy gorgeous man in green tights wasn't appealing. Go figure.
But there were no green tights in this rendition. Lots of leather, armor, chainmail, more leather, maybe some linen. No tights. Anywhere. This film focuses on creating the origins of the man who would become the myth. An archer in the king's army--tough and disgruntled. A rebel with one cause: his own skin. Disillusioned by the brutality of the Crusades, a trickster in a three-cup hide-and-switch game, noble and honest, but not fun. This is not Errol Flynn winking and swinging through the trees; this is not a red-faced fox with a feather in his cap. This is not a 12th century Bon Jovi video in which our hero sports a perfectly blow-dried mullet. It's raw and gritty, bloody and dark. Great action, good acting, the perfect touch of romance...
So what sat wrong with me? Much the same as what other reviewers have noted. I don't know if I need Robin Hood to so steeped in politics that there's no room for merry men. I don't need him to be the spokesperson for religious tolerance, democracy, socialized medicine, and what--to those not in the know--could be the very first "don't ask, don't tell" military moment. I think I might have enjoyed the movie more had it not been "Robin Hood" ... like, if this were just some other guy. I guess that's my fault for coming in with such expectations, but, really, those expectations come from nearly 800 years of telling and re-telling. I sat waiting for Little John to lift him over his shoulder and drop him in the river. (I don't think this Little John could...), waiting for a show-down between him and the Sherrif of Nottingham (a totally underused character...), waiting for him to triumph in disguise.
Oddly enough, what I'm really waiting for is...the next movie. This one totally sets up for a sequel--but then, maybe we're supposed to look at the plethora of tellings and re-tellings to be the sequel.
All in all, though, it's totally worth robbing your piggy bank to give to the poor guy at the ticket counter. Perfect date movie, safe for the kiddos who won't be freaked out by the violence, (there's actually more blood in the final credits animation than in the film), or even a nice, solitary get-away in the afternoon. Just go and have fun...no need to take this film as seriously as it takes itself.