Saturday, May 15, 2010

"Rise and rise again until lambs become lions": 11 questions about Ridley Scott's Robin Hood

Why are critics being so harsh on this film?

1) Is it because it does not contain any fighting robots?

2) Is it because the beautiful Kate Blanchett as Marion Loxley is still kind of middle-aged and neurotic as the film's love interest?

3) Is it because the movie is insufficiently high tech, obliging Scott to rely on lots of movement--people running, horses galloping, arrows flying--to keep his easily-bored audience engaged? Is it because Scott does not include obvious computer-generated special effects?

4) Is it because Russell Crowe is too Hemingwayesque, burly, quiet, and grizzled when we would prefer someone younger, lithe, and playful, like the fox in the 1973 Disney version of Robin Hood?

5) Is it because Monty Python and the Holy Grail has parodied much of this film in advance?

6) Is it because the climactic battle scene on the shores of the Cliffs of Dover carries odd echoes of Saving Private Ryan and Elizabeth: the Golden Age?

7) Is it because Robin Hood displays too much of an egalitarian liberal socialist bent as it indirectly critiques recent American Crusades in the Middle East? Or is it because we don't like to see collectivist proto-hippie organizations frolicking in the woods? Don't they have to worry about poison ivy?

8) Is it because we enjoy Luc Besson films and chocolate eclairs too much to imagine the French as villains? (That can't be it.)

9) Is it because Robin's glib Horatio Alger-esque ascension to the highest ranks of the English military is too easy, too unlikely? He mostly just gives a good speech when the nobility and King John is around.

10) Is it because there's something too excalibur about Robin's fascination with a sword that has "Rise and rise again until the lambs become lions" written on it? According to Robin, it means "Never give up."

11) Or is it simply because Ridley's large, old-fashioned, $237 million, possibly doomed, earnest, epic film is too easy a target?

Related link:

the difficulties of making Robin Hood

16 comments:

Andy said...

Is it because by being harsh journo’s know they will get Crowe’s back up and then can criticise him some more when he loses his rag?

Hokahey said...

A very humorous post. I will see it soon and try to answer some of your questions.

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

It's probably because critics are bent on comparing every historical epic Ridley Scott does to Gladiator, which never ends up good, a la Kingdom of Heaven.

And probably because as a whole most critics seem more eager to slam Russell Crowe than support him, except in the cases his performance are miles above everyone else and they look like fools for doing it. Even though they look like fools half the time anyways.

FilmDr said...

Thanks Andy,

I mentioned a link in the previous post about an article that discussed how Crowe was supposed to clean up his act, but now he turns out to have walked out on an interviewer who criticized his "Irish" accent. So it turns out he hasn't reformed much at all, which I find refreshing. He also said that a modern-day Robin Hood would go after the media.

Thanks, Hokahey,

I find I liked some of the film, in part because I've always liked Crowe's work. The climactic battle scene includes some problematic elements. I wonder if Scott struggled with how much he should convey the mythical aspects of Robin Hood, or how much he should go for realism. Crowe's performance grounds the movie in something more realistic. Critics keep writing that the film is too serious, and that Crowe fails to find the proper carefree joy in the role, as others have. But it seems to me that Crowe and Scott redefined the role as more masculine and reserved, as befits Crowe's acting style. It's not like this Robin is devoid of humor either. He's just more sly and Australian about it, and the film takes awhile to find funny moments, mostly in the sexual tension between Robin and Marian. I find it interesting that Scott gets criticized for trying something different in terms of reinventing the role. I also wonder how much modern audiences just have problems with a postoral landscape for their action scenes. We have become accustomed to post-apocalyptic wastelands and cityscapes, but the woods! It's too sweet and retro in comparison.

Thanks, AnswerMVP,>

My favorite Crowe films are The Insider and 3:10 to Yuma and Master and Commander.

Also, I don't mean> to criticize the critics, but I preferred Robin Hood to Iron Man 2, and the critical consensus on both of those films may say something about how comfortable we are with irony in comparison to earnest epic scenes in the woods.

Hokahey said...

Yes, I definitely enjoyed Robin Hood more than Iron Man 2, which I thought was terrible.

I don't know if I can answer all of your questions, but perhaps some.

Wow, definitely Monty Python has been there, done that, in many cases in this movie, and in some parts, it seems as though the movie intentionally taps into Python for a laugh: the lanky French dude who peers through around merlon and sees the king and then pots him - it was almost comical and yet the king was dead! Also, when Robin is in the middle of the road and says that in order to pass they have to answer a riddle.

What I enjoyed - in order -

1. The extreme long shot of the battle laid out at the foot of the cliffs (which were not very white because it was filmed on a beach in Wales - not the White Cliffs of Dover!).
2. The extreme long shot of the siege against the French castle - both the night and day shots - with the battle going on while the soldiers are gambling and eating and farting, etc.
3. The realism of the manor with the mud and the animals and the peasants and the ugly wenches.
4. Lea Seydoux (Charlotte LaPadite in Basterds) as Isabelle in bed (could have done without John).
5. The realism of the manor house with the straw on the floor, the smoking fires, the meat, the dogs. I felt it. I was there in the manor house with Max Von Sydow, who was quite feisty, almost like a character you'd find in Disney's The Sword in the Stone.
6. Russell Crowe and Blanchett were quite good together.

I enjoyed most of it - it kind of sagged around the time they were collecting taxes. Why did they have to ride into villages and slay peasants before even collecting taxes? Just those old barbaric Medieval days?

What I don't need anymore:

-Showers of arrows.
-And I'm tired of the "Private Ryan" high-speed shutter effect. I like the battle action to be clearer. I am very particular about how I like battle scenes.

Simon said...

See, everytime I look at the movie listings, I make an active considerations of whether to see something, based on how many fighting robots promised.

So, it's numbah 1.

FilmDr said...

Nice detailed analysis, Hokahey. Thanks, for your thoughtful answers. I didn't realize that about beach in Wales or the connection with Basterds. Aren't you going to write a post about the film?

Richard Brody, I noticed, made some good points about the politics of the movie:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/movies/2010/05/robin-and-crowe.html

Thanks, Simon,

Yes, robot rage--the cinematic wave of the future.

Helena said...

RE the accent thing, Crowe didn't exactly walk out and it wasn't exactly a criticism. The critic merely mentioned that there were hints of Irish in his voice, to which Crowe responded that the man had dead ears. And then seemed to get progressively more riled by the comment as the interview progressed. He came across as a pompous ungracious twit and it was no surprise that the British media revelled in his reaction for a day or two. It was something to laugh about while we didn't have a government and there was lots of spare time to fill on news programmes. Incidentally, Crowe's accent is meant to be based on a specific part of Yorkshire where a well-known British TV presenter comes from, not a guy one would normally associated with Robin Hood, although I'm sure the individual concerned would love the association, with Crowe at least. Crowe's accent, however, seems to have wandered up and down the British Isles at will. And why not, it's a free country.

FilmDr said...

Thanks for the clarification, Helena. I like your sardonic take on the whole issue. I find Crowe's continuing inability to play the media game endearing (although I didn't see what a twit he was). Now that Robin Hood is being savaged all around, he needs the sense of humor critics claim his Robin should have had.

Helena said...

Thanks, Film Doctor, hope I didn't sound pedantic, just trying to fill in a little local colour. But maybe should have mentioned it was broadcast on the hallowed airwaves of a BBC Radio 4 arts programme, very well mannered and cosy, not usually the place for headline-generating nano-spats in a teacup like this. Congratulations on your blog's second anniversary, by the way, always enjoy reading your posts and look forward to more to come.

FilmDr said...

Thanks, Helena. I enjoy hearing of the local color in England.

Joseph Scott Jr. said...

I just saw the film, and I am in awe. It says to every man, never give up. It says to every woman, you are more than any man imagines you to be. Putting it all on the line for a cause and love at the same moment, is not what we are willing to consider as epic. You see, most people would choose to remain in the closet as coward.

I am in awe.

Anonymous said...

this was not meant to be a happy go lucky frolicky tale that the legend or cinema made it eventually. this is set in history.

richard the lion heart was returning from the crusades. his country was bankrupt and under financial stress, he knew he had to bring back gold. so this is pretty accurate when they make richard sort of a bad good guy as he plunders castles in france to bring gold back to england after ten years fighting for the pope.

robin longstride was a yeoman, or a bow-man as we know. he has just returned from a gruesome ten year campaign massacring people and there is no reason to be jolly, hes just trying to live with it. richard disappears in history at this time and john becomes king by default, but this version explains how richard disappeared.

robert locksley dies and robin assumes his name, this clears up the confusion over which name is really his real name besides the nick name we all know, since longstride and locksley have both been used in legend.

john is a pompous lecherous man who lives up to his fame as a womanizing overtaxing elitist scumbag. just look in the annals of history and the role was played almost exactly to the letter.

the barons were rebelling against john at this point in history which leads to the next point.

the birth of the "magna carta"

the most interesting twist in this plot was the insertion of robins father as one of the visionaries of the "magna carta". and yes john refused to honor it time and time again. every time he promised to honor it to unify england he relented and annulled it.

as far as the romance goes, it was realistic, decent and i was glad it didn't resemble soft porn like so many movies portray. it was also refreshing to find maid marion didn't always need rescuing. she held her own.

the main quote from the film "rise and rise again...till lambs become lions" is the center of a lot of debate as to its true meaning or where it comes from. which i think is silly cause i want to google it and find out where it came from but all the forums and such are filled with stupid answers. come on, its not russian folks its english, its plain as day what it means.

robin becomes an outlaw for his honorable character, and john is jealous of his ability to both be humble and inspiring. unfortunately this scene has been played out in history many times, so what does robin do? he sets out to right the wrongs imposed by his king.

as far as why the critics dont like it: they dont like anything that is thought provoking and decent. they want stupid mindless movies so we are distracted into buying more popcorn and chicken fingers instead of thinking about living as free honorable humans off the land. they dont want us to know about our heritage, or how often we have had to fight for our freedoms.

i think this is a nod from ridley scott to all people who strive to be free.

Ila said...

This is the full saying as spoken by Maitreya The Friend of all Souls:

Rise and Rise
again and again
like the Phoenix
from the Ashes
until the Lambs
become Lions and
The Rule of Darkness
is no more.

- Maitreya The Friend of all Souls

FilmDr said...

Thanks, Ila and Anonymous for your further insights. I don't agree that "critics don't like anything that is thought-provoking and decent," but I do agree that critics tended to be unusually harsh on this sometimes plodding film.

Anonymous said...

"And when they seek
to oppress you
And when they try
to destroy you,
Rise and Rise again
and again
Like The Phoenix
from the ashes
Until the Lambs
have become Lions
and the Rule of Darkness
is no more "

Maitreya The Friend of All Souls
The Holy Book of Destiny