Monday, February 21, 2011

In Which I Rant About the 2010 Robin Hood Film

Reasons for seeing this film:

1. It has a beautiful soundtrack.

2. I like that it ends with Robin going into the woods instead of coming out of them. The traditional outlaw becoming an Earl is supposed to be a 'Happy ever after' ending but it is much more satisfying to see the legend begin than to see it end.

Reasons for not seeing the film:

1. Robin is too serious. And too old. In all the ballads Robin Hood is young and spritely. An impudent youth who gets the better of “the man”. A poor man's incantation of the Trickster God. Of all the films I've seen this is the one in which his character stays most true to the spirit of the legend:

2.Maid Marian is married. Before she was attached to the Robin Hood legends Maid Marian was the Queen of the May Games. It is odd, I suppose, that fertility was celebrated with the glorification of virginity. That would be an interesting theme to explore in a retelling of Robin Hood but she is meant to be Robin's “virgin bride”, waiting until he is no longer outlawed to be with him. Can that be changed? Of course. Unaddressed? No.

3. King Richard is dead. I understand that this is the “historical version”. I have my theories on that since history can become as much a collaboration of various traditions as legends. Nonetheless it has come to the recent attention of history books that king Richard I wasn't quite so heroic as Sir Walter Scott made him out to be. I'll grant that this is true. I'll also grant that if the film makers were to place the story during the Coer de Lion's absence to the “Holy Wars”, as is tradition, Robin would only have reign of the woods for three or four years, his 'happy ever after' with Richard actually ruling England would last less than one year, and before Robin had a chance to die John would be legally on the thrown where nothing could be done about it. My question then is if the film makers wished to go through so much trouble to break away from tradition and keep things “historical” why set the story in the 1200s at all? Documentation of the Robin Hood legends didn't turn up until the mid 1300s. That was also when the English Long Bow was invented, the term –and really class of –yoeman took form, and the poaching of deer and danger of outlaws became a major issue in Sherwood and Barnesdale. The only mention of a king's name in any of the ballads was a King Edward and Edward IV made a trip to Sherwood and Barnesdale during that time.

4. The plot itself. Awkward is the word I will use here. Or maybe undirected. I never got the sense of a real climax or even much of a journey. Robin begins fighting in France for King Richard in which there is a long battle scene with no particular character development and ends with a long battle against French soldiers in England with no particular character development. The difference, I think, is supposed to be that he believes in this fight because he is protecting his home instead of invading someone else's. I just don't feel like the events in between adequately lead up to that idea. There are a couple scenes involving him realizing that he was born in Barnesdale and remembering some things his father told him about not giving up but its not enough. He hasn't changed enough to have grown into the legend he is about to become.

One day someone will make a really good Robin Hood movie. Until then I will watch DVDs of this entirely unhistorical fiftiesified Richard Greene show

and whistle this tune


  1. I can't be critical of this movie - I don't think I've ever met a version of Robin Hood that I didn't like. From some British-made TV version I watched as a kid in the 90's, to the cartoon version, to the Kevin Costner version to Men In Tights to Gladia - err, I mean this latest Robin Hood - I like them all.

  2. I can understand that. I'll go way out of my way to watch anything to do with Robin Hood --and then proceed to point everything that should be changed about it. Alas, I just don't understand why these film makers don't consult me before making their decisions.

  3. I can handle the historical and mythical changes, although I didn't like all of them. What irritated me the most is that this movie was basically a prologue. The vast majority of it felt unnecessary, except for the last twenty minutes or so.

  4. prologue is a good way of describing it.