Saturday, May 22, 2010

Robin Hood: Robbing the middle class and paying rich Hollywood producers

Should a critic (like your humble schlub) comment on a movie he didn't sit all the way through?

Hell yes.

At least, it's my blog, so I can do what I likes.

Today I walked out of Ridley Scott's dreary, convoluted, boring and hopelessly unmerry version of Robin Hood. And I don't mind advising my readers that they should learn from my experience and not waste their time (and money) in the first place.

I can't quite believe it, but this version of Robin Hood actually made the 1991 Kevin Costner version look decent!

At least the Kevin Costner version had Alan Rickman as the evil sheriff of Nottingham, who was still riding high off his turn as Hans Gruber in the first Die Hard movie, and who seemed to take at least some measure of joy in his villainy.

And even though the Costner version was a little dull (as 90 percent of Costner pictures are), there seemed to be some joy in Sherwood Forest. As much as in the old Errol Flynn movies? Not even close. But there was at least some pretense that we were some place enchanted; Robin Hood's confederates were merry men (supposedly); Maid Marian wasn't a prig; the Sheriff was to be booed like a silent movie villain.

And there was an abiding ethos that Robin Hood was a man who stole from the rich and gave to the poor.

This new RH has a weirder subtext -- namely, it seems to be about the evils of taxation on an already heavily taxed 11th century England. Which, I suppose, offers some sort of potent message for the teabaggers and their ilk in Middle America, and that must have been on the minds of the producers. (If they wanted to change the "steal from the rich and give to the poor" ethos, they could have at least taken a page from Mel Brooks' 2000 Year Old Man who described Robin Hood, as a fellow who "stole from everybody and kept everything.")

But the politics isn't really what bothers me (and, besides, I had read enough about the film to be prepared for that kind of political message). What bothered me was the fact that I kept looking at my watch. What bothered me was the fact that I could barely follow the plot (which wasn't really about taxation or the plundering of the poor, anyway -- it was much more about war between France and England).

What bothered me most, however, was the complete absence of joy. Since when does anyone go to a Robin Hood picture to see a bleak, colorless war epic?

I suppose that was how the idea came up in some story pitch meeting. "We should do a realistic Robin Hood," some writer or producer said. And they set about trying to do it in the most ham handed (and badly written) way they could have.

Spare yourselves -- rent the Errol Flynn version instead.