For us, the most familiar Robin Hood movie is that one from the '90s (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) that starred Kevin Costner in the title role. Then, Robin was a gentle giant who loved others above himself and was willing to join forces even with a black Muslim to defeat the ridiculous evil of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Then came Mel Brooks' hilarious mockery of the story, Robin Hood: Men In Tights. That film's goal was to make fun of everything, and Robin Hood's primary purpose seemed to be finding the key to the virgin Maid Marion's chastity belt.
At last, we have a version of the legend that seems less like a fairy tale and more like the way it really might have been. Nobody knows for sure who Robin Hood really was, or if he even existed at all, but Ridley Scott's new 250-minute film certainly seems plausible. Like Gladiator, which also starred Russell Crowe, this new take on the Robin Hood myth is full of beautifully choreographed battle sequences, gritty tough-as-nails fighting men, incomprehensibly inept government authorities, and attractive but independent women (Marion is a widow this time, played by Cate Blanchett).
The most intriguing thing about this film is that it seems to end where the others have always begun. This version takes you back--way back--and explains a good bit about who Robin Hood really is and why he chose his life as an outlaw. We don't get to see him fire an arrow dead-on to its target until the closing minutes of the film, and the film is virtually void of any merrymaking among his men in Sherwood Forest.