Cannes Critical Consensus: 'Robin Hood'
The Cannes Film Festival kicked off Wednesday with an out-of-competition screening of Russell Crowe as "Robin Hood." Reviewers had their quivers full of caustic arrows, delivering notices to director Ridley Scott that were occasionally respectful but largely negative. The movie opens in much of Europe on Thursday, with its American premiere coming Friday.
A roundup from some of the critics' reviews:
Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times: "The difficulty is that this 'Robin Hood' has been misconceived twice over. The first misstep, albeit a defensible one, was the decision to make this an origins story, a kind of 'Robin Before the Hood.' While there is no lack of action and intrigue here, those expecting traditional Robin Hood satisfactions will be left wondering if it'd be asking too much to have the guys kicking back in Sherwood the way we remember them."
Todd McCarthy, IndieWire: "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. 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."
Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter: "Its European history is so ludicrously mangled that one almost suspects Mel Brooks and Monty Python's Flying Circus lent a hand. But the Robin-Marion romance strongly holds the movie together while Scott's muscular direction and Marc Streitenfeld's brilliant score make this one of the fastest 140-minute movies you'll ever see."
Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune: "Though Robin's band of outlaw brothers provides boisterous comic relief, there's not much merriment in the picture. When director Scott storms a castle, he wants you to feel the danger and the thwwwunnnch of the arrow entering flesh. The panoramic computer-generated landscapes are miles ahead of anything in 'Gladiator.' Robin's arrival in London on the late king's ship, for example, shows how CG can be used for cinematic-historical good as opposed to digital evil. The climactic battle with France's King Philip has Robin essentially waging war against all England's enemies, from within and without. As history, it's silly. As entertainment, it works."
Karina Longworth, The Village Voice: "It is an old-fashioned adventure epic produced with state-of-the-art cosmetics, lined with mild romantic farce, and weighed down by overly simplistic, quasi-populist dialogue. Instead of robbing from the rich to give to the poor, this Robin Hood preaches about 'liberty' and the rights of the individual as he wanders a countryside populated chiefly by Englishpersons bled dry by government greed. Conservatives will never again be able to complain that Hollywood ignores their interests, but the driving agenda behind the Nottingham makeover was most likely economic: Robin Hood is, above all, a boilerplate origin story, finely engineered to set up a franchise."
Randy Myers, San Jose Mercury News: "In one unfortunate regard, Ridley Scott's grimy 'Robin Hood' lives up to the actions of its legendary character: It, too, robs — just from richer movies. Scott's bungled yet matinee-worthy take on that brave 13th-century archer who targets England's corrupt royalty isn't nearly as original as everyone associated with it reportedly believes. The fuss about how it boldly reinvents a beloved tale winds up as truthful as those laundry-detergent claims heralding a 'new' and 'improved' product. There's no whiff of genuine freshness here."
Christy Lemire, The Associated Press: "...the brawny battle scenes, which set this incarnation apart from its lilting and swashbuckling predecessors, are shot so and edited in such a chaotic, choppy way, it's nearly impossible to tell what's happening. They're all frenzied, kinetic energy. And the climactic showdown is chock full of cliches, including Robin yelling 'Noooo!' in slow motion; meanwhile, other members of his posse magically hit their targets at just the right opportune moment."
James Mottram, New Zealand Herald: "The British director's fifth film with Russell Crowe, it's an attempt to recapture their mojo from 'Gladiator,' their first outing a decade ago. But while that revived the swords-and-sandals epic, it's hard to foresee Robin Hood precipitating a host of imitators."
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