The latest version of Robin Hood is a theoretical prequel to the classic tale, but vet helmer Ridley Scott makes such a confusing hash of its multiple storylines, it’s like a two & a half hour trailer for a film not made. Scott pulls off some grand visual coups and the occasional telling detail, but it’s all a bit of a slog. Those old pros Eileen Atkins & Max von Sydow make the most of their splashy supporting roles, but the rest of the cast make little contact with their characters . . . or with us. A whole colony of feral forest children are completely wasted, and the putative Merry Men are both undistinguished & indistinguishable. Even worse, Russell Crowe & Cate Blanchett do nothing for each other in the leading roles. (Blanchett has the excuse of being a last minute replacement.) She still retains the bone structure to have modeled for N. C. Wyeth’s classic Robin Hood illustrations (see our poster), but they’re both a stubborn decade and a half too old. Even if you give up on the film, skip to the final credits. Animated in the same style as Scott’s production company logo, they’re gorgeous, and have just the magic the film proper lacks.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: No one’s ever topped the famous Flynn/Curtiz/Korngold version from 1938, but try M-G-M’s surprisingly good adaptation of IVANHOE/’52. It was in that novel that Walter Scott really codified our ideas of Robin & his Merry Men, but you won't find them in this IVANHOE film probably because Disney released a made-in-Britain ROBIN HOOD pic the same year.