If, as the Gothic calligraphy tells us as the beginning of this film, tyrants inspire heroes, then the clear implication is that heroes inspire movies. And Robin Hood, who stole from the rich to give to the poor, has been one of the most frequently portrayed on screen over the course of the last century, beginning with a silent film in 1908 and continuing through portrayals that have included Disney animation, Mel Brooks comedy, a space-age version, a gangster version, and films with Robin as a woman, as a child, and as an old man decades after his famous adventures (played by Sean Connery at age 45, Crowe’s age when he made this film).
Pretty much, though, all versions have stuck with the idea of Robin Hood as a nobleman who valiantly defends the rights of the commoners against a corrupt prince who hopes to take over the throne and who falls in love with the beautiful Maid Marian. In this version, something of a prequel, Robin is not noble and Marian is not a maid.
The “Gladiator” director and star reunite ten years later with another story of a heroic rebel leader. Russell Crowe, looking a little more doughy than he did a decade ago in the toga, is Robin Longstride, an archer in the army of King Richard the Lionhearted who has the courage to tell the king he is wrong, landing in the stocks for his impertinence. The king is killed in battle and the knights taking his crown back to London are ambushed by Godfrey (all-purpose villain Mark Strong), a traitor close to Prince John (Oscar Isaac) but working for King Philip of France. Robin and his men pretend to be the knights so they can get back home. And he promises the dying knight whose armor he takes that he will return his sword to his father, Sir Walter Loxley, in Nottingham.
With John as the new king, Godfrey is given the authority to collect taxes from the noblemen, who have already been taxed into poverty. But Godfrey’s plan is to pillage the country so brutally that the nobility will no longer support the king, making the country more vulnerable to attack. Robin delivers the sword to Sir Walter (Max von Sydow), who asks him to stay and pretend to be his son, to help protect his land. Sir Walter’s daughter-in-law, Lady Marian (Cate Blanchett), the knight’s widow, reluctantly agrees. This puts Robin, now known as Sir Robert Loxley, in Godfrey’s path.
As you can tell from this rendition, it’s overly complicated and a lot of what we expect in a Robin Hood story is missing. But it is one thing to omit the archery competition and another to remove the key element of the story, the idea of a nobleman who fights for the commoners. While “Gladiator” did a masterful job of creating a sense of time and place, “Robin Hood” has some clanging anachronisms that take us out of the movie entirely, including some of the dialogue and a scene where von Sydow and Crowe have an Oprah-esque therapy session so that Robin can have an epiphany about his feelings for his father.
Scott and his CGI crew have put together a gorgeous and compelling re-creation of the landscape and architecture of the era, and the movie conveys the fragility of the overlay of civilization as unsettling new ideas about justice, equality, and self-determination are beginning to take hold. But the script itself has a sense of struggle behind it, with too many story lines and too little resolution. Retro elements like burning map montages to show the progress of the pogrom-like raids compete with winks to the future as scenes suggest iconic images like Joan of Arc in armor, D-Day, and the Holocaust. And the concluding scene is such a fundamental re-writing of history that we wonder whether it is not we who have been robbed.
The fall season of television begins this week and there’s a lot to look forward to, from returning favorites to intriguing new shows. Here are some of the shows I’m most excited about.
“Glee” returns with episodes celebrating Britney Spears and “The Rocky Horror Show.” New cast members include Charice Pempengco, who captivated Oprah and Celine Dion with her big voice and sweet personality.
Can’t wait for the new seasons of “Modern Family” and “The Good Wife” as well.
I got an intriguing glimpse of “The Event” at Comic-Con. Blair Underwood plays the President of the United States in a paranoid puzzler of a thriller that could be the new “Lost.” The supporting cast includes top talent Laura Innes, Jason Ritter, and Zeljko Ivanek.
I love glamorous romantic adventure, so I am looking forward to “Undercovers,” with the gorgeous Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a married couple who once were spies and are still gets called by the CIA for special project. I am sure those projects will involve exotic locations and sexy banter. Can’t wait!
I have had a weakness for lawyer shows since the original “Perry Mason” and there are a bunch of news ones this year. I’m looking forward to “The Defenders” with Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell and co-starring one of my favorite young actors, Jurnee Smollet. The Las Vegas setting should give them some interesting cases. And I’m glad to see Tom Selleck returning in “Blue Bloods,” about a family of law enforcement officials, including Bridget Moynahan and former NKTB-er Donnie Walhberg.
But the show I am most excited about is Martin’s Scorsese’s Boardwalk Empire, written by “The Soprano’s” Terence Winter. Set in Prohibition era Atlantic City, it stars Steve Buscemi as a political fixer who is part politician and part gangster. It features a powerhouse cast from the big screen including Michael Stuhlbarg (“A Serious Man”) Gretchen Mol (“The Notorious Bettie Page”), Michael Shannon (“Revolutionary Road”), and Michael Pitt (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”).
For historical background, read the book by Nelson Johnson.
Tinker Bell has found her voice in a popular series of DVDs that give Peter Pan’s sidekick a chance for her own adventures in her home town of Pixie Hollow. She and her fairy friends Rosetta, Silvermist, Fawn and Iridessa help to make the four seasons vibrant and beautiful.
In this episode, for the first time Tink makes a human friend, Lizzy, played by Lauren Mote. Lizzy and her affectionate but distracted scientist father (voice of Michael Sheen of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Frost/Nixon”) move into a small house near the woods. Tinker Bell and Lizzy find a way to communicate with each other about their different worlds. And they have to help each other when Tinker Bell is at risk of being captured and Lizzy needs to find a way to remind her father that all work and no fun is, well, no fun, and not very healthy for families either.
The design is rich in texture and detail, showing the influence of Pixar head John Lasseter, who produced, and the story is charming, with top-notch voice talent and a sweet message about friendship, integrity, and family.
Celebrate “Talk Like a Pirate Day” with a look at this delightful sketch from “Saturday Night Live” with Peter Sarsgaard visiting a Pirate’s Convention and finally figuring out why they really wanted him to be there.
And don’t forget the delightfully piratical Tim Curry in “Muppet Treasure Island:”