Shouting its way into theaters like a medieval music video, Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood confuses noise with art, not to mention folklore with history. A kind of everything you always didn’t want to know about Robin Hood, the tedious and brash bow and arrow epic unspools painfully from start to finish like a grating yet somehow snooze inducing high school history lesson.
Russell Crowe as the brawling barbarian perfects grouchy, turning up anything but merry as the actual military marvel he never was, in this convoluted medieval war movie. Arriving downcast and despondent back from the Crusades, this Hood chews out his superiors for the wholesale slaughter of Muslims in the holy land, while being received back home like an object of scorn, as in Vietnam veteran.
But there’s barely time for sulking, as a monarchy that’s lost credibility rips off a raucous population. And a treacherous double agent with an archery facial scar, conspires to expedite a French invasion of England, along with the usual period village pillaging of the poor. Though Robin takes time out to locate Marion (Cate Blanchett) and inform the no-nonsense feminist peasant that her long absentee warrior spouse was killed in yonder wars. And Marion’s elderly blind father-in-law (the never disappointing Max von Sydow, making the most of a bad situation) is soon nudging the initially reluctant pair an offer they can’t refuse, to pretend wedded bliss so that the government won’t seize his land from a mere woman and sole heir after his death.
Seemingly as much a chore for viewers as are the back to back 12th century multiple skirmishes for the characters, Robin Hood struts its unearned self-seriousness like a Wagnerian opera. And as if to cover up bland dialogue, Scott drowns out the very occasional conversations with an earsplitting soundtrack from start to finish. Which at times competes with the tavern strumming, serf singalongs, church bells, trumpets and kettle drums. And, with perhaps the ill-advised intention of substituting a musical score that assaults the senses, in the absence of the usual machine guns and car chases.
Muddy-hued merrymaking at the local dark ages party animal pub does materialize occasionally. Along with reticent romance between Crowe and Blanchett summed up in a single fleeting PG kiss, in the midst of lots of R-ish stabbing, slaughtering and arrow piercing. But hold on to your hoods, the biggest shocker is the epilogue, announcing that what you’ve just endured has likely been a prequel to the legend that’s just begun. And so with little robbing and even less hoods in this outlaws and inlaws saga, the primary plundering and reverse robbing of the poor to give to the rich, is taking place with this movie at the box office cash register.