Robin Hood

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man.”

Heckuva line. And, when spoken by an 81-and-at-the-top-of-his-prodigious-game Max von Sydow to Russell Crowe’s broody archer in Robin Hood, it resounds with giddy portent and nudges open the coyest of adrenal valves. (I don’t think adrenal valves exist, but you know what I mean.)

The question, of course — if one wants to wax more-than-a-touch dramatic — is whether that hour be now, and that man be Crowe.

On a limb: Yeah, kinda.

The film, at 140 minutes, aims at “epic,” and hits the mark. It’s a large story, executed solidly on all fronts. Scott and Helgeland, of course, are experts, and, though I vastly prefer his character work to his stoic, straight-action leads, Crowe knows how to carry a picture. The supporting cast is remarkable; a number of performances (von Sydow/Isaac/Durand) border brilliance. Does the film feel, at times, a bit like Gladiator with a different paint job? Well, sure. More than a bit, probably. A fair percentage of audiences, though, I’d wager, would be accepting-to-welcoming of that news. (I happen to prefer Robin Hood to Gladiator — though I’m not as crazy as most about the latter.) Also, just try not to think of Saving Private Ryan during the climactic French-invasion beach battle. G’head. Try.

“Now, wait a second,” you think. “A French invasion is the climax? I thought this was Robin Hood.” Well, yes. But also: very much no. See, Scott’s version (or, this version of his version) is tantamount to a superhero origin story. It’s two-and-a-half hours of preface — entertaining, well-done preface, but preface nonetheless. It’s intriguing, captivating storytelling about a common bowman, a disillusioned soldier who leaves the military, finds himself, and finds something worth defending. There’s stuff here you’ve never seen or heard, but missing is a lot of stuff you have: Don’t expect a faceoff against the Sherriff, don’t expect Sherwood. I did, and wasn’t exactly disappointed (because I ended up liking what I got instead), but I can see why some would be. Think of this one as Robin Hood Begins, or as analogous to the first Iron Man. (Stick around after the credits to see an eyepatch-sporting Ivanhoe find ’Hood in a tavern and invite him to join a super-secret organization of heroes.) (Don’t, though.)

So, yeah. There’s a new Locksley in town. (He spells it “Loxley.”) For reasons too personal to alter, I’m still a Costner devotee, but: Welcome to the canon, Maximus. I’m up for a sequel.

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