The legend of Robin Hood is one of those stories that gets a new retelling for each generation. Robin Hood (2010), from director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Brian Helgeland, stars Russell Crowe in a new origin story for the familiar myth.
This one reimagines him not as Robin of Loxley but Robin Longstride, a war-weary soldier home from the crusades. He’s not a nobleman at all but a peasant archer thrust into leadership when King Richard is slain and he’s entrusted to bring the crown back to England and the ancestral sword of Robin of Loxley back to his father.
When he arrives in Nottingham with fellow soldiers Little John (Kevin Durand), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes), and Alan A’dale (Alan Doyle), where taxes are crippling the populace and the Sheriff (Matthew Macfadyen) is pompous tyrant, he’s asked by Loxley’s father (the great Max von Sydow) to pose as the nobleman and save the family estate from going to the crown. Marion (Cate Blanchett), the strong, independent lady of the estate, isn’t thrilled with the arrangement (especially with a peasant posing as her husband) but, as land cannot be passed to wives or daughters in this medieval culture, she reluctantly agrees.
Scott and Helgeland offer an interesting take on both the legend of Robin Hood and the history of 12th century England. This Robin is a working man who has served as a soldier and possibly, in desperate times, as a thief, simply trying to survive a brutal time, but he rises to the occasion when a leader is needed. The band of outlaws that form around Robin see a chance to take back what has been taken from them—not just by the Crown but by the Church as well—and follow his lead with the spirit of men finally fighting back. And the newly crowned King John (Oscar Isaac) is less a villain than simply a lousy king, a vain, decadent aristocrat who wants the privileges of power without the responsibilities.
This Robin Hood is an origin story for the familiar myth with elements of class, royal politics, and the disillusionment of soldiers returning from the Crusades demoralized by a misguided quest. It presents an adult relationship between Robin and Marion and reimagines the bonding of soldiers-in-arms into Robin’s band of Merry Men. And Scott has a muscular approach to action with broadswords and bows and heavy armor. The battles are impressive and finale is beautifully shot, but there is nothing noble or glorious in warfare.
It can get a little ponderous at times and it’s more interesting than thrilling. But in its own way, this Robin Hood offers a romantic narrative of heroism in a time of corruption and hardship, a man of the people who finds that the only path to justice is by becoming an outlaw.
Danny Huston plays King Richard The Lionheart, Mark Addy is Friar Tuck, and William Hurt, Mark Strong, Eileen Atkins, Douglas Hodge, and Léa Seydoux costar.
On Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video (also in a longer, unrated Director’s Cut), iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Robin Hood (2010) [Blu-ray]
Robin Hood (2010) [DVD]
The Blu-ray and DVD feature both the theatrical version and a Director’s Cut that runs 15 minutes longer. The 2-Disc Special Edition DVD has the well-made and very thorough 62-minute “Rise and Rise Again: Making Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood,” plus ten deleted scenes with an introduction and optional commentary by editor Pietro Scalia. Exclusive to the 3-disc Blu-ray Combo Pack is the “Director’s Notebook” mode, with short production featurettes periodically interrupting the film (theatrical cut only) with video commentary and illustrations.