Movies/Entertainment,  Off the Shelf

Off the Shelf…’Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’

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 AngerMr. 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


  • Addicted to Films

    I too saw this on video as a kid.. And I liked it then…but the scene in the dungeon in the beginning where a guy’s arm or hand got chopped off…that horrified me terribly. I haven’t seen the movie in the last decade or so, so I don’t know how the movie will hold up in my eyes now.

    • Marc

      Nostalgia aside I think it stands up. Now I am a big Kevin Costner fan but even if you don’t like him there are so many other great actors and elements to make this a winner. Michael Kamen’s amazing score, Morgan Freeman and of course Hans Gruber…I mean Alan Rickman. I get them confused:P

  • Barbara

    Marc –

    Thank you so much for your excellent defense of a movie that sadly, has turned out to need one from the haters that seem to follow any actor’s success. Poor Kevin Costner has attracted more than his share of this. I’ve always been fascinated by the ways in which talented actors are suddenly stripped, by committee of their ‘talented’ status because… why? “Too” popular? I agree that Costner is a very good actor, but somehow it’s really hard for people to admit it.

    I’ve loved “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” from the first time I saw it (yes I’ve seen it many times). Rickman is brilliant, Freeman is his reliable self (favorite MF moment: “Is she worth it, Christian?” “Worth dying for” Nod. Go) Mary Elizabeth Mastroantonio is a wonderful Maid Marian, the Merry Men (and Women!) added greatly to the film, and the cameos (Brian Bedford as well as the final cameo) were perfect.

    Unashamedly still a fan of it

    • Marc

      Hey Barbara, welcome back!

      I would stand on broken glass defending this movie, but it doesn’t need it. Like I wrote above, this move gets flack for being a Costner vehicle. Put anyone else in and I think you’d get less negativity. I for one just love the guy. But as you wrote, the other actors contribute to this wonderful movie. It’s an ensemble piece that works and I adore it:)

      I commend you on your honesty, but fear not, we’re not alone in our opinions. It’s just how do we change the minds of the nay sayers?

  • rtm

    I won’t laugh at you for loving this movie, Marc! Heck, as cheesy as it was, it was hugely entertaining, yes down to the Bryan Adams ‘everything i dooooo, i do it for youuuuuu’ schmaltzy love song! I’m not a huge fan of Costner like you but I do think he’s a fine actor, one of my faves of his is his early one No Way Out. He’s also great in The Untouchables, Fields of Dreams and of course this one. Haven’t seen his epic Dances with Wolves, which proves he obviously got directing talent as well.

    Anyhoo, high five on Alan Rickman! Yes, Hans Gruber definitely wins over Darth Schmader!! Man, I think you’ve just inspired me to resurrect something out of my draft folder that’s been laying dormant for quite a while. Stay tuned 🙂

    • Marc

      You really need to check out Dances…but bring a lunch, it’s near 4 hours. Now that’s long, but very worth the time invested:) Also Open Range is impressive although not nearly as epic!!
      Also, I am a huge Bryan Adams fan so this movie was like a double dose of AWESOME!!

      Lastly I would sing the praises of Rickman any day of the week! I’m looking forward to that mystery post…keep me in the loop OK?

      • rtm

        The ‘mystery’ post is up, Marc… yes, it’s got something to do with Mr. Rickman. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

    • Marc

      Wow, look at that 4 people on one blog calling out their affection for Prince of Thieves…this could be the best news I’ve read all week:) Oh and I LOVE the movie and you’re right, Costner was GREAT in it!!

  • mcarteratthemovies

    The movie no one is talking about, the very best Robin Hood film, is “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” We should be talking about this movie and pay the tolls. Because if they don’t get no tolls, they don’t eat no rolls.

    • Marc

      You can like it all the live long day, but I’ll take Costner over Elwes. But Men in Tights is funny as shite, I’ll give you that:) “This ain’t exactly the mighty Mississippi…look, I’m on the East bank, I’m on the West bank”

  • Steve

    Nope. No way. With the exception of Rickman, this movie gets none of my love. I haven’t seen Ridley’s yet, but I hear it’s short on whimsy which is something Prince of Thieves had at least a little going for it. It’s that absense of fun that’s kept it from being a screening priority.

    My favourite Robin Hood adaptation? The Patrick Bergin one wasn’t bad, but the Robin of Sherwood series was tops. It had a proper Saracen and Ray Winstone!

    • Marc

      Well Steve, to each their own I guess. But didn’t you like Morgan Freeman, or how about Michael Wincott? True, the Ridley/Russell movie wasn’t lacking in whimsy (likened to Braveheart imo) but I think it worked. Think of this like Casino Royale…it’s version of our hero before he’s suave and sophisticated…he’s a “blunt instrument” to quote Judi Dench:P

  • Olive

    Saw this too on video and loved it at the time. Was a bit of a Kevin Costner fan, but for different reasons, as a 13-year old when the film came out, I had a huge crush on Costner. Not so much now. He has appeared in some movies, like The Untouchables though, so I’ll give him credit where it’s due.

    • Marc

      Untouchables was awesome but I being a Costner fan need to get a top 10 list (or at least a Quick 5) pronto. Sure he’s had some stinkers but he’s had some really great ones too.

      Between the comments here and the success of the Poll we had earlier, seems I’m not the only Kevin fan out there:P