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Cannes 2010. Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood"

David Hudson

The Auteurs Daily

"It is 33 years since a fledgling filmmaker named Ridley Scott went to the Cannes Film Festival and took away the prize for the best first film with The Duellists," writes John Hiscock in his profile of the director for the Telegraph. "Now, more than 40 films, dozens of television episodes and a wealth of Hollywood experience later, he is returning this year with no starry-eyed illusions about why he is there. 'Cannes is a market place because that's what we do,' says the 72-year-old director, whose film Robin Hood will open this year's festival." And in case you didn't quite catch Scott's point: "I don't care if it's a high budget or a low budget movie, if I don't sell it there's no point in making it."

The worldwide rollout begins on Wednesday but the first reviews are appearing now: "In the new Robin Hood, Russell Crowe's iconic medieval hero wears no tights, shows little interest in redistribution of wealth, scarcely bothers with the Sheriff of Nottingham, fights alongside Maid..., sorry, Lady Marion and all but forces King John to sign the Magna Carta," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt. "In other words, director Ridley Scott and his producers were so determined this would not be your father's Robin Hood that a checklist of familiar incidents and legendary exploits to avoid must have been handed to writers Brian Helgeland (story and screenplay), Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris (story). The result is less a Robin Hood story than an epic action movie that sees Crowe at the center of English history at the turn of the 13th century. It's Gladiator in Sherwood Forest — only, for God's sake, don't mention Sherwood Forest either."

Anne Thompson notes that reviews are out from Empire and Variety as well. Dan Jolin (Empire): "For all the blah of 'Gladiator with bows' (guilty as charged), the fifth Crowe-Scott collaboration is a much airier affair, the one-time Maximus here employing more of the twinkle we saw in Master and Commander or State of Play than the scowl that so often defines his work." We can't see Justin Chang's Variety review, of course, but: "Impressively made and serious-minded to a fault, this physically imposing picture brings abundant political-historical dimensions to its epic canvas, yet often seems devoted to stifling whatever pleasure audiences may have derived from the popular legend."

In Contention's Kristopher Tapley finds the film to be "a structural mess with a convoluted narrative, dubious romance, awkward stabs at comic relief and hackneyed tropes of the genre. Perhaps most unforgivable in a film aiming to be an entertainment: it bores to tears."

Notes Ann Gripper in the Mirror: "The film ends with Robin and his merry (well, they finally seem to smile) men, now outlaws and hiding in the forest — all set for Robin Hood 2 which, judging by the heavy hints laid down by Crowe during various interviews, is pretty much a Go project."

For the New York Times, David Carr talks with Scott — and with David Bordwell about Scott: "There is a visceral pictorialism to what he does. Yes, he is a director of spectacle and crowds, but they are genre films of a certain weight, painted on a bigger canvas in a way that makes them land more substantially. He's had a long career, and his images of modern civilization are as important to our conception of modern life as something like Metropolis."

Blogging for the Boston Globe, Ethan Gilsdorf traces the "goody two-shoes/bad-boy schizophrenia" of the legend through the history of onscreen depictions: "Each iteration reflects its particular times and tribulations." Time Out London "looks back at some of the bowslinging vigilante's proudest screen moments." For the London Times, Kevin Maher picks the "ten best screen Robin Hoods." Earlier: For the Guardian, Stephen Moss sets out to "unearth the real Robin."

John Horn profiles Helgeland in the Los Angeles Times and Elizabeth Day interviews Mark Strong for the Observer.

Viewing. James Rocchi talks with Crowe and crew for MSN Movies; Apple has two trailers and a featurette.

Updates, 5/10: "Earthy, rugged and earnestly advanced in quasi-plausible historical terms, this grandly produced picture can be regarded as something of a tangential sequel to Scott's ambitious Kingdom of Heaven, with Richard the Lionheart as the connective thread." Todd McCarthy for indieWIRE: "After several pictures dedicated to documenting his increasing girth, it's reassuring to see Russell Crowe back in fighting form, but the villains here chart new territory in one-dimensionality, the essential storyline is bereft of surprise and the picture ends where most Robin Hood tales — sensibly, as it turns out — begin."

"Ridley Scott's 'origins' version of the Robin Hood legend is a solid, if ultimately uninspiring, adventure epic which contains more of the flat historical storytelling of Kingdom of Heaven than the stirring emotion of Gladiator," agrees Screen's Mike Goodridge.


For the London Times, Alan Jackson profiles Cate Blanchett, whose Marion "is no damsel in distress. 'Rather than Robin simply coming to her rescue, Ridley was interested in depicting a woman who was completely unsentimental, who hardly knew her husband because he'd been away at war for ten years and who'd had to find her own means of survival. Then into her life walks this fellow and they form a bond.'"

John Patterson talks with Scott for the Guardian. Scott, by the way, won't make to Cannes himself "because he is recovering from knee surgery," according to the Hollywood Reporter's Scott Roxborough.

Updates, 5/11: "It pains me rather more than I thought it would to say this, but Ridley Scott's filmography looks thinner as it gets longer," writes Glenn Kenny. "I am not among the camp that believes the director's preferred cut of 2005's Kingdom of Heaven is some kind of unappreciated masterpiece; rather, I find it a mere expansion of a quite visually lush but inconclusive and unpersuasive historical epic. 2006's A Good Year, an attempt at comic pastorale, was unspeakable, unforgivable; 2007's American Gangster surprisingly tepid and forgettable; 2008's Body of Lies moderately engaging in those rare moments that it didn't play like a forced cross between Spy Game (shudder!) and The Insider." As for Robin Hood, "It isn't hell to sit through, but this making-of-the-legend saga constantly bogs down in its own self-seriousness."

"Though realistically ancient-looking, this burly but sluggish production takes very obvious pains to engage with the myth of Robin Hood in a way that it conforms to modern political biases," writes Ed Gonzalez in Slant. "From his fighting next to Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) to his ridding of Nottingham of violence at the hands of its nefarious sheriff (Matthew Macfadyen), the cool-headed imposter often dreams of his deceased father, speaks of redistributing wealth to a mostly adoring audience, and helps to bring together a divided nation. In short, Scott and screenwriter Brian Helgeland have given the Tea Party another thing to rail against."

"What saves the movie, which is quite flawed but still Scott's best in nearly a decade, is its majestic feel for the English landscape," argues the Telegraph's Tim Robey. "It's a pity we don't spend more time actually in Sherwood Forest as opposed to hovering picturesquely over it, but you'd have to be small of soul not to admire some of the ravishing visuals here – there's a shot of a silvery, uninhabited Thames estuary I could have looked at for hours. Scott's regular cinematographer John Mathieson has clearly been studying his Constable — his hay-bales and twilit fields are gorgeous."

"Ridley Scott has had his persistent faith in Russell Crowe amply rewarded," finds the Guardian's Andrew Pulver. "Crowe may be puffier of face, hoarser of voice and done rather too much confrontational living in public, but he still has exactly the right kind of leading-man steel to make this ambitious, serious and unashamedly populist epic work."

"Aesthetically it's convincing, which goes a long way towards offsetting the more nutty convolutions in the plot," writes Tom Huddleston for Time Out London. "And while characterisation has been cut to the bone, Crowe, Blanchett, Strong and especially [Max] Von Sydow remain eminently watchable, with strong, likeable support from the likes of Mark Addy as Friar Tuck and Matthew MacFadyen as a marvellously greasy Sheriff of Nottingham. Best of all, the film just feels huge: genuinely epic in a way few movies have since Lord of the Rings."

Updates, 5/12: Graham Fuller at Film Salon: "How Robin Hood became a socialist." On the other hand, Karina Longworth in the Voice: "Is it an accident that Ridley Scott's Robin Hood plays like a rousing love letter to the Tea Party movement?"

"Monotonous, meandering, and suspense-free, it's a mega-budgeted period piece that's epic only in its waste of talent and resources," finds Nick Schager.

Cannes has posted audio from the press conference.

Jasper Rees talks with William Hurt for the Arts Desk. Take a look at this one; it's quite the career-spanner.

Anne Thompson: "I want to see the sequel: that's not the issue. The question is whether Universal will be able to afford it." Similarly, Ambrose Heron.

"Robin Hood isn't merely misguided, or overly ambitious, or excessively laden with special effects," writes Stephanie Zacharek at Movieline. "Its problems are much bigger than that: The picture is simply oppressive in its blandness, a lumbering symbol of everything that's wrong with big-budget moviemaking these days."

At In Contention, Guy Lodge finds the film to be "a sturdy if resolutely unfashionable entertainment, one crafted and performed by A-grade talent with more commitment than passion – but enough of the former to keep things on the rails."

Updates, 5/13: "Robin Hood is a high-tech and well made violent action picture using the name of Robin Hood for no better reason than that it's an established brand not protected by copyright." Roger Ebert: "I cannot discover any sincere interest on the part of Scott, Crowe or the writer Brian Helgeland in any previous version of Robin Hood. Their Robin is another weary retread of the muscular macho slaughterers who with interchangeable names stand at the center of one overwrought bloodbath after another."

The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips: "As history, it's silly. As entertainment, it works."

"[I]t's Robin Hood by way of Braveheart," finds John Gholson at Cinematical, while, at Time Out Chicago, Hank Sartin calls it "a noisy bore."

"There are two kinds of bad films: actively bad and passively bad." Matt Zoller Seitz explains the difference at IFC.com. Then: "Passive badness, thy name is Robin Hood."

"It may not be reasonable to expect art from Cannes's opening films, but if they're going to be hollow, shouldn't they at least be fun?" asks Matt Noller at the House Next Door.

AO Scott in the New York Times: "This Robin is no socialist bandit practicing freelance wealth redistribution, but rather a manly libertarian rebel striking out against high taxes and a big government scheme to trample the ancient liberties of property owners and provincial nobles. Don't tread on him! So is Robin Hood one big medieval tea party? Kind of, though that description makes the movie sound both more fun and more provocative than it actually is."

Keith Phipps at the AV Club: "Image for image and shot for shot, Scott is still one of the most striking directors around, but in Robin Hood, the cohesive particles keeping those images together — frills like a compelling plot and sculpted characters — prove unstable."

Updates, 5/14: For Slate's Dana Stevens, Robin Hood is "pretty much ill-conceived from the ground up but saved by a couple of strong performances and a wealth of well-researched period detail. Not the most elegant defense, but like the movie, it'll do."

"There's quality throughout, but, visual verve aside, the enterprise is dull, heavy-handed and dispiriting," finds the Oregonian's Shawn Levy.

"Have movies really gotten so used to supplanting history with mythology that now they just can't resist supplanting mythology with drudgery?" asks Jonathan Kiefer in the Faster Times.

Update, 5/15: "Is Robin Hood a Tea Partier?" A roundup at the Atlantic Wire.

Updates, 5/17: It's "a pompous, interminable hash," grumbles David Edelstein in New York. "Billed as a precursor to the legend we know, it's rich in bogus historical context, along with enough mud, blood, and clutter to overwhelm our happy memories of Errol Flynn's grin and Olivia de Havilland's radiance. Here, Robin and Marian are played by a scowling Russell Crowe and a grim Cate Blanchett, who has the face of a wooden squaw stained by decades of cigar smoke. I can't remember a more un-fun-looking couple."

Anthony Lane in the New Yorker: "[W]e sense in our bones when something in the myth goes awry — when, for example, Crowe is seen galloping to the fight along a seashore. Everything about Robin, in whatever incarnation, speaks surely of an inland man: one who finds sanctuary in woods, and patterns of behavior, that are beyond the pale. As Flynn and Fairbanks grasped, he should be more Puckish than Arthurian, his rebellious raids upon authority keeping him light on his feet, which is why an overt parody, such as Mel Brooks's Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), feels so redundant. How can you mock a tradition already ripe with laughter?... And so the legend begins,” the new movie tells us at the end. But it's too late."

Cannes 2010: Coverage of the coverage index.



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