Radio 05.21.10
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” and here’s my commentary on “Robin Hood,” opening this week at The Majestic Theater in Greenville :
            “Robin Hood” is Ridley Scott’s adaptation of the legendary medieval English archer.  The great thing about adapting a mythical figure to the screen is that you can pretty much re-fashion it any way you want, and you can’t really be wrong.  You can be debated, but then, the debate itself becomes part of the hype for the flick.  Pretty clever, eh?
            In the 2010 version, Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is a longbowman in the army of King Richard the Lionhearted (Danny Huston), fighting their way through France after an unsuccessful 10-year Crusade to the Holy Land .  The good news is that these are battle-tested veterans.  The bad news is that they have known defeat, and impending doom hangs over them like a dark pall.  The English troops successfully storm the last castle necessary to break through to the coast of France , but King Richard dies at the hands of an enemy archer.  In the predictable power vacuum that follows, Richard’s only surviving brother, John (Oscar Isaac), seems a poor choice to reign.  He has shamelessly ignored his loyal English wife and squired his French tart around the court, so disdaining his mother that he appears naked in front of her just to intimidate her.  His personal political advisor betrays him, arranging for the French soldiers under King Philip to land unopposed on English soil.
            Meanwhile, our battle-weary Robin, with a few old archer buddies, decides to journey first to Nottingham , because he’d promised a dying soldier that he would return his sword to his blind old father, Sir Walter (Max Von Sydow).  The soldier’s grieving widow, Marion (Cate Blanchett), doesn’t have much use for Robin the Hood, until he figures out a way to rescue some valuable seed corn from the greedy new king’s suddenly-overbearing tax collectors.  The trouble with beginning a romance where the couple having nothing in common is that at the end of the day, they still have nothing in common.  Except now their hormones are screaming at each other, which may not cure all, but at least the smiling charade of togetherness lends the Nottingham shire a semblance of stability and normalcy.
            But we all knew that wasn’t going to last.  Self-indulgent King John, newly crowned and full of hubris, decides to rally his troops against the French invaders, who are allied with his own palace guard.  What follows is a pitched battle on the shoreline that bears a striking resemblance to the D-Day invasion, complete with amphibious landing craft.
            The English prevail, the French retreat, and all would seem to be well in Camelot, er, Sherwood Forest, except that King John, now a battle-scarred veteran himself, seemingly backs away from his pledge to deliver the serfs from their economic oppression and sign the Magna Charta of yeoman’s rights (this is closer to the “real” story, but there’s still the filmmaker’s prerogative to bend narrative toward good theater).  Robin from the Hood (no, really), a protector of the common man (himself not to the manor born, either), slinks into the deep forest in exile, along with his little band of merry men, orphan boys, and drunken friars.  Oh, and of course his fair Marion .  Here’s a veritable forest utopia, where all live off the plentiful game and abundant vegetation, and the children are all educated on tree stumps---an idyllic setting which perfectly sets us up for the sequel to this prequel.
And now, altogether, the jingle from the old television show:
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen,
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of men.
Feared by the bad, loved by the good,
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood.
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” for 93.5 KICK-FM