Hmmm. On which side of the fence to fall. There have been a mixture of opinions placed before me since this film’s 2010 release. My brother, sadly, is only one of the few I have encountered to stand by this film as a good, Saturday night spent with family and friends. And I agree with him; too much has been made of Crowe’s apparent English inaccuracies and not enough of the family entertainment it provides.
But as the story started to get going I felt as if I had stumbled into a poor ‘Englishman, Irishman and a Scotsman’ joke, with the exception being the Scotsman was actually Welsh. It was as if a huge point was being made – not everyone will be aware of the transient nature of people in the 13th Century, particularly of men returning from Crusades or indeed attempting to invade from France, and in such a film I don’t really think this point needs to be made. But every character seemed to have some deep rooted need to have a strong regional accent to prove what a mixing pot post-Hastings Britain was, and how it is still relevant today blah blah blah. The trouble was that this did cause Crowe a little difficulty in that he couldn’t pick which region to emulate. But this wasn’t as traumatic as I had been led to believe. You can manage to follow his random colloquial mutterings as the accents fade into insignificance by the end.
The only man without anything obviously geographical about him was the evil Godfrey, played by the suavely menacing Mark Strong who I will always love as ITV’s Mr Knightly in Emma, although the removal of hair was necessary I think. He is the typical blockbuster villain with a particularly untraceable English accent which makes all enemies quake in their boots. A little Alan Rickman but by no way as cool or terrible or wonderful. However, Mark Strong is a good back up. He and Cate Blanchett, for me, held up the film.
Crowe did a good job of not simply falling into the Robin Hood stereotype and along with Blanchette’s slightly altered Marion, they pieced together a background story for our legendary Hero; a story we all know but with enough twists and variations to make the changes engaging and not infuriatingly similar to every churned out myth of this nature. I have no concept of historical accuracy or otherwise at this point as there is so little evidence to even suggest this man actually existed, let alone his role in the reigns of Richard and John. But it did feel fairly believable, the terrible raids on the villages and towns; the slightly resigned and battered Richard the Lion Heart; the treachery and sea-sawing of allegiances and promises; its a good action film set in a decent amount of reality.
I think my main issue was with King John played by Oscar Isaac – no, not a name I knew either. There was nothing wrong with him per se, he was entirely plausible as far as this screen play went, but I just felt like I was watching a cheap imitation of Joaquin Phoenix as Gladiator’s Emperor or even A Knight’s Tale‘s bad guy, Rufus Sewell. He didn’t really seem in possession of his own talent but some how inadequately channelling that of those who have done ‘bad guy’ well in the past. Isaac was indeed playing a runt, but his acting and characterisation felt thin – possibly not his fault though, it could entirely be the writing which was also not entirely splendid throughout.
There was also a moment I thought the Hood had come over all Peter Pan as a tribe of lost boys in terrifying masks stalked the forest – a little surreal and possibly unnecessary unless they are to be utilised in further Crowe incarnations.
It just wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped. I was willing to ignore all the criticism for Russell Crowe – so what if the man can’t do an accent?! At least he tried (but then again so did Nick Cage in Captain Corelli – How that man has not been shot for crimes against humanity I shall never know!) which is more than Kevin Costner did! Costner simply played Hood as the all out American Hero – er no, I don’t think so. I did like the adaptation and enjoyed many of the battle sequences as they did seem more historically viable – not so much the Speilberg or Tolkein-esq battles we have come to admire/detest (delete as applicable) over the past decade.
Like I say, it had more faults than I expected but I refuse to take it for more than its worth. It is a good Saturday night film to watch curled on the sofa with a beer. You won’t watch it often or particularly pay attention to it when on repeat, but as adventures go, it’ll do.
It does sadden me that such an epic legend as this is always done without fulfilling potential. I love the legends we have woven into our cultural fabric; chivalrous, romantic and mystical fantasies which deserve precedence and power in our story telling. But none of this, for me, transpires on the screen. It could be because they become Americanised and the focus shifted onto making it a ‘true’ story. Robin Hood’s tale is a legend for a reason, it was a story told with so much excitement and awe for centuries, that it became part of our English heritage. Why can’t this same awe, same excitement and wonder be funnelled into our screen re-births? Perhaps they should try to stop placing it exactly in time, stop trying to shatter our illusions by being ‘real’ and return to the fantasy and make believe.
That’s it isn’t it? That’s my side of the fence; the girl side. The one where hero’s did their brave deeds for the love of a beautiful maiden who he had to rescue en route to saving the world. The other side of the fence must be the boy side, where the weapons and fighting hold more relevance. Maybe if they make a sequel we might see a little more of this pink, romantic element creeping in – don’t have me wrong here, I don’t want smushy, just a little bit more of the legendary intrigue that currently feels lost.