Wednesday, April 21, 2010
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?"
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
New Moon (sequel number 1 to Twilight) emerged with rousing fanfare in November; despite criticism, it remains true to its novel and I enjoyed it immensely. My love of Twilight cannot be shaken by grumpy people who can't see the deeper layers of a beautiful, albeit imperfect, story. It is arguably the most painful of the saga, but the world deepens and makes it bearable. The Volturi, particularly Aro (Michael Sheen), balanced ancient-ness, style and down-right creepiness - the art of inflicting terror through serenity.
January came and so did the "End of the Time." The string of Doctor Who Specials came to an appropriately exhilarating end, as Russell T. Davies, who-writer extraordinaire, and the magnificent David Tennant, fly on to other things. I will probably spend a full post expressing my love for this awesome episode, but for now, I must report that the tenth Doctor did not go out with a whimper, but with a bang. The Master was resurrected. The Time Lords schemed to reawaken. The Doctor agonized over the man who would "knock four times" and announce his death. It was an episode of raw emotion, exquisite sacrifice and long-awaited goodbyes to companions scattered out across the stars. Sung to sleep by Ood-song, a new Doctor was born. For now I will say that I am at peace with this end, that the chapter is complete, and I am looking forward to see what Series Five has to offer. But I am still raw, still finding myself reeling about the poetry and the grace and the connected (and unconnected dots) of "The End of Time". I think I will be for a long time, in a good way.
Speaking of Robin Hood, the third season finally came to DVD, and I am thrilled. Yes, a very important character died at the end of the second season (I won't say who in case you haven't seen it), but the show goes on… and characters are living in the aftermath. Jonas Armstrong is the perfect balance of boyish and broken. Richard Armitage gives Guy of Gisborn a conflicted soul. Keith Allen is hilarious as the evil, evil, EVIL Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin's gang is wonderful, and the right balance of brave and funny. Not to mention it reflects the 12th century in a very honest, creative way, even with modern undertones. I can't wait to see the fourth season!
So, that is Fall and Winter.
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