Due to a very pleasing viewing of the recent Robin Hood film, I thought I’d re-evaluate the previous Mr. Hood, the one whom I’ve held on a pedestal for so long. Comparatively, they are different sotries and given that the newest Ridley Scott film is a production that throws out most convention, looking back it seems more apparent that Costner’s did so as well (just to a lesser degree). Was it a bad thing? No. It, just like Scott’s film, just fit well in the time it was made and like history has shown us, change, sometimes, an inevitable part of storytelling. As far as Kevin Costner’s film, does it stand up? Nostalgia aside, I believe it does…ahem:
I think I’ve said it many times before that Kevin Costner is one of my very favorite actors. Not the absolute best out there but dependable, fun and garnering quite a legitimate following…kind of like Keanu Reeves and Michael Keaton. Almost to a fault I will see anything with his name attached, and to the nay sayers out there, the man can act and he’s got talent. Dances with Wolves anyone? Open Range??, and more to the point, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I saw this for the first time when it came out on video…yes video, and was so enthralled with this take on the Robin Hood legend. My previous exposure to Sir Robin was the Errol Flynn picture and the other forest/castle based swashbuckling adventures replete with daring-do and green tights. That said I was (even at a young age) impressed with seeing a more worldly take on this famous tale.
This new envisioning of the popular Robin Hood story follows Robin of Locksley and begins with him as a prisoner during the Crusades. Escaping with the help of a fellow prisoner ‘Azeem’ (Morgan Freeman) he makes his quest home only to find his family murdered and the kingdom, in the absence of King Richard, overrun by the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham (the always impressive Alan Rickman). It is up to Robin to avenge his father, win the hearts of the common folk and attempt to over throw the sheriff.
Riding high on the popularity of Dances With Wolves, this film looked to be another epic film and in a sort of daring re-imagining, Costner and director Kevin Reynolds took a bold approach. The story of Robin and “the archery contest to win the golden arrow” worked fine in the books but in terms of appeasing today’s more action hungry audience, this story needed a more engaging and almost believable story rather than just sticking strictly to the source material. I’m glad they did, and more so, I really enjoyed the other liberties taken with the story, namely Robin’s famous fights to win over Little John and Friar Tuck. Even as a kid reading those parts just didn’t impress me and I thought that if they ever did a modern movie, those sequences would be hard sells in terms of believability. The Little John bo-staff fight was really fun and impressive and I loved that it took place over the span of the river rather than just the one (Godzilla sized) log as written in the story. Also making the Friar a drunk (who gets drunk on his own ceremonial wine no less) was borderline brilliant.
The screenwriter and production designer’s idea to show the expansiveness of Robin’s tree fortress was so much more impressive than watching 10 or 20 “Merry Men” sitting around a fire all night talking about “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor“. Lastly I know being a Robin Hood story, there had to be a storming the castle sequence of some sort but I was so happy that it was more of an exciting rescue and did not end with Robin shooting an arrow out of the tower to mark his grave. The return of King Richard was a much more welcomed and satisfying end to the story (kid friendly and smile inducing). If you’ve never seen this film, and don’t know who plays the King, you are in for a treat.
Kevin Costner may have gotten top billing for this film but one actor, who really stand out looking back after all this time is the one, the only Alan Rickman. ‘Hans Gruber’ is one tough act to follow (as probably film’s best villian…sorry Darth, Hans wins this one). Although playing the Sheriff, there were some vile and sleazy hints of brilliance to rival old Hans himself. Rickman can play cold unfeeling and pretty damn funny at the same time and so well mind you that it’s tough to find a better actor to use as a villain in a film than he. On the flip side he can turn right around and play a beloved good guy like Dr. Lazarus in Galaxy Quest, but I digress.
All that aside, I don’t think there’s many actors out there who can rival the longevity and appeal of Morgan Freeman. He has been in way more films as of late than he was 20 years ago when he co-starred in this but his is truly truly talented. Sure his accent wasn’t the most convincing but having Morgan Freeman on board brings a lot of weight to a film and his inclusion on any picture can bring the professionalism of the production waaaay up in my opinion. I don’t really recall any film where Morgan has done significant action, and while he isn’t all guts and glory here, it’s still refreshing to see him duking it out rather than being some soft spoken advice wielder that he seems to embody in most other movies.
People usually laugh at me when I say that I really do love this movie. I think it was great when I was a kid and I still do today (hence the post nearly glorifying it). Kevin Costner gets flack for Waterworld and I believe many people are so caught up in remembering to bash it (when it was fairly entertaining) and forget the other great things he’s done…which include but are not limited to The Untouchables, Dances with Wolves, Field of Dreams, JFK, Open Range, The Upside of Anger, Mr. Brooks. So if you prefer your famous “Ace of Arrows” in tights fighting in a cardboard castle, check out the classic film The Adventures of Robin Hood from 1938 it is still a fine movie. The new Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe film is as fantastic as it is epic (despite its very unconventional narrative). However if you want more of a fun retelling/re-imagining of the classic tale, check out Prince of Thieves. Nostaliga be damned, it is a good movie!
G-S-T Ruling – 4/5
G-S-T Seal of Approval: GRANTED