Since the 1970s, director-producer Ridley Scott has entertained and amazed us with trailblazing films that have helped to establish both the essential elements and some of the longest-running franchises of the sci-fi genre. Such works include “Alien” and “Blade Runner,” the latter even giving us one of our first introductions to the post-apocalyptic philosophy that drove countless films that followed it, including “WALL-E” and “The Matrix” and “Terminator” franchises.
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Those familiar with Scott’s filmography should expect to meet his new take on the story of Robin Hood with an equal degree of amazement.
For example, you’ll be amazed at how a movie with a budget tantamount to the GDP of a small country could have required all that funding for flaming arrows, horses, chainmail and a hodgepodge of characters that — albeit allegedly English — showcase a mixed dialect of Irish, Scottish and God knows what else. Sure, it’s a shallow criticism, but you’d think that $237 million could at least buy a proper accent.
More importantly, you’ll be astonished at how such lazy character development and so sparse a plot could merit a 140-minute runtime. The movie had no more than four autonomous events to drive its plot an inch forward.
“Robin Hood” also features an epic introduction with a feigned Ye Olde English storybook motif that reads more like a Universal Studios disclaimer. It might as well just say, “This film was made by Ridley Scott, it cost a lot of money and you’d better like it.”
Movies in the vein of “Robin Hood” shed light on a troubling trend that parallels sequelitis — or, the tendency of a sequel to be far less calculated and interesting than the original. Over years of exceptional filmmaking, it seems as if acclaimed directors build franchises around themselves and begin to neglect workmanship, instead choosing to lean upon their pre-existing reputations and millions of dollars of marketing funds to surround their new releases with a false sense of mystique.
Indeed, “Robin Hood” doesn’t represent the same depth of character as Scott’s earlier works. But, to an extent, it is redeemed by the presence of Russell Crowe (“Body of Lies”). His dedication to his roles is evident in his near-perfect character performances: Even if many of his roles have been similar and one-dimensional in recent years, his execution is damn good. There’s something inexplicable that endears him to the viewer regardless of the movie he’s in, and the fact that some critics consider him to be among the best in his craft isn’t for nothing.
On that note, Crowe fans may want to check this one out for the screen time it dedicates to a skilled actor, but it’s too boring to be the epic it proclaims itself to be. Ridley Scott fans should stay at home and cross their fingers for the director’s upcoming adaptation of the Joe Haldaman novel “The Forever War.”