Showing posts with label Ridley Scott's Robin Hood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ridley Scott's Robin Hood. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dilemma of the Hood (Jillian)

There are a few stories of which I am vehemently protective. These range from depictions of Joan of Arc (don't mess with her!) to George Lucas' mishandling of his Star Wars saga to the utter joy of watching Jane Eyre beautifully captured by Masterpiece Theatre. Inevitably, as the summer movie season draws ever nearer, I go into that guardian-mode, growling like a Twilight-vampire about to strike... in defense of Robin Hood.

One reason I love this story - and will always love this story - is that it is a legend that has vined up through the ages and has been passed from folk ballad to poem to theatre to film. People are still drawn to the subliminal magic of the outlaw in the woods standing up for the oppressed and defending his beloved England. There have been countless interpretations. Robin and Marian and the Merry Men have been captured in varying shades of light, color, texture and shadow. It is organic and uncontainable. It will continue to evolve, thrive and vine until the end of time, because it reflects the determination of the human spirit and the prevailing power of faith, loyalty and love in the midst of darkness.

I am, however, very, very skeptical of Ridley Scott's version, due to arrive in theatres this summer. As a general rule, I try to refrain from passing judgment on art until I have seen and experienced it; and I endeavor to be positive. But there are exceptions to this rule. I grow queasy when I see the trailers showing big, muscle-bound Russell Crowe leaping into battle on a horse - mud and blood flying everywhere. To paraphrase my sister, it looks way more like The Gladiator than a retelling of the spritely, elusive legend. Of course, because it's Scott, it is going to look that way. It is going to be wrought with war and shadow and grit and agony, etc. But that is not the story I know.

"A retelling! A retelling!" you might exclaim, pointing to a previous paragraph. Sometimes, I admit, there have to be new verses that don't necessarily reflect the original strain of the song we've heard before. But in this case, if the song, the ballad changes too much, is it the same story? Is Robin Hood still Robin Hood if Ridley Scott retells his story as a brutual, hopeless bloodbath?

I don't know. I can only say that previous retellings including Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and the BBC television series starring Jonas Armstrong are closer to my heart (particularly the latter). They achieve the right balance of wit, energy, cleverness and bravery. They are not devoid of blood, but they aren't saturated in it, either. Particularly when it comes to the BBC series, there is a brilliant balance of newness and traditional elements to make it fresh and exciting... and to keep me guessing, crying and laughing. It paints the picture of a legend of an outlaw sacrificing himself for the good of his people, his king and the woman he loves, rather than an epic on the scale of the Iliad.

That said, I dread Ridley Scott's Robin Hood as an excuse to create yet another money-grabbing blockbuster with big names and little semblence of the original spirit of the story. Quite frankly, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, while they are excellent actors, are a little too old and a little too well-known to make me comfortable. I see only Crowe and Blanchett, not Robin and Maid Marian.

I've heard other whispers that this film might "change" other things as well: that Robin isn't battling the Sheriff of Nottingham so much as the French, which may seem historically accurate, but in the grand scheme of things is more irrelevant. (Why? If we're looking Robin Hood from a more historical perspective, if it is set in the 1109s, France was still under control of England, and King Richard I spent most of his reign, when not crusading, in France.) So the Sheriff and Prince John aren't the primary villians, but the French are. Eh?

Thankfully we are spared Scott's experimental idea of making Robin and the Sheriff two sides of the same character. Bleh!

In conclusion to this long rant of disconcert, I am a proponent of retelling stories - of making them eternal and forever blooming with human hope. But stories deserve to be respected and preserved as well. Just because one can retell it a certain way, doesn't mean one should... just because one can envision Robin Hood as a solemn, dirty warrior, doesn't mean he reflects the heart of his story.

Perhaps I am blowing this out of proportion. But I worry when critics and film fans interpret such films as "the most accurate" or "the best version"... when every version of the story is inevitably (and thankfully) different.

For a nice article on the origins of the Robin Hood legend, read this Telegraph article. Ridley Scott thinks his film is the most realistic, but I wonder: "In what sense?"


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