Unrated Dir: Ridley Scott | Universal | 2h 21min
Plot: What’s it about?
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade since Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott teamed up to bring us “Gladiator.” At the time, I somewhat dismissed the film as a Spartacus wannabe, but after it won Best Picture and Crowe won Best Actor, I took a second look. Oddly enough, I now consider Gladiator to be one of my favorite movies. A prophet I’m not, evidently. Gladiator was both a commercial and critical success and in these days that’s somewhat a rarity. Flashing forward a ten years, the duo (Crowe and Scott) have since teamed up on a handful of movies, none of them paralleling Gladiator in any sense of the word until the most recent adaptation of “Robin Hood” hit theaters. This was a different type of hero than we’ve known in previous films and looking at the IMDb, there are at least a couple dozen “Robin Hood” themed movies out there, so there’s bound to be one that suits your liking. Crowe helped produce the movie and with Ridley Scott behind the camera and screenwriter Brian Helgeland it seemed like a winning combination. With a budget of more than $200 million, the Academy Award winning team behind Gladiator and the summer movie season ahead of them Robin Hood was bound to be a success, right?
As I mentioned above, this is a different kind of Robin Hood, as Roger Ebert put it – “…it’s a prequel.” And yes, that’s exactly what it is. Yes, Robin and a few of his band of merry men are present (albeit in a rougher form) but the whole “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor” theme isn’t a part of the movie at all. We meet Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe), an archer and a member of King Richard the Lionheart’s (Danny Huston) army. Richard is killed in battle and as Robin and a few of his men are trying to escape, he’s tasked with assuming the identity of Robin of Locksley from Nottingham. They make it back to Nottingham where we meet “his” widow, Marion (Cate Blanchett) and his father (Max Von Sydow). Robin is to assume the identity of his predecessor, else the family risks being overthrown. This, of course, is only half the story as we meet Richard’s successor, John (Oscar Isaac). He and fellow cohort Godfrey (Mark Strong) seek a new reign, though there seems to be a traitor in the midst.
I’m sure my summary was a bit all over the place and maybe it’s because I’ve become so accustomed to what we thought Robin Hood has been in past films that this new outlook is somewhat confusing. Let’s face it, we all know Crowe and company were trying to re-create Gladiator under a different name. It was a success ten years ago, but this time around it simply didn’t work out. This Robin Hood is a grittier version of those we’ve seen before. And the movie has more the tone along the lines of Braveheart, Gladiator and even a bit of Saving Private Ryan. If you’re looking for a more classic version, I’d recommend the 1991 Kevin Costner version or the much superior 1939 Errol Flynn version The Adventures of Robin Hood. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy this new angle on Robin Hood, because I did, but judging by the critics and box office statistics, it clearly wasn’t for everyone.
Video: How does it look?
The film heads to the 4K format sporting two different versions of the movie (as the previously-released Blu-ray did) and looking and sounding better than ever. The movie had a huge budget and even as CGI effects abound, we’re treated to a delightful viewing experience. Colors are on the muted side as the film takes place in the 12th century we get what we might expect England looked like back then: muddy, cold and cloudy. Detail is amazing as we see every wrinkle on Crowe’s face, the whiskers in his “Gladiator-esque” beard and the stitching on the leather everyone seems to wear. Black levels are solid and contrast is right on target as well. The benefit of additional resolution, deeper contrast and more lifelike colors via 4K has certainly given this film a new layer of depth, visually.
Audio: How does it sound?
The previously-released DTS HD Master Audio track was, by no means, a dud. But with this new 4K release we do find a new DTS X atmospheric mix that amps up the action a notch or two. There are plenty of battle scenes with swords clashing, arrows whizzing by, things blowing up and the like. It all sounds magnificent. I knew before I opened the package that this movie would sound good, even if the movie itself failed to deliver. Dialogue is crisp and clear and even though Crowe tends to mumble a bit during his films, I had no trouble making out his words. We hear all sorts of English accents (some real, some fake) and they sound great. Surrounds add to the ambiance during the key sequences and suffice it to say that if you’re looking for this movie to deliver – it does.
Supplements: What are the extras?
All of the same supplemental features from the 2010 Blu-ray have made the leap and nothing new has been added.
- Director’s Notebook – This gives us some insight throughout the movie by director Ridley Scott. I wouldn’t really call this a commentary per se but we do get plenty of information about the shoot, the script and everything in between.
- Deleted Scenes – Nearly a dozen deleted scenes are included along with editor Pietro Scalia’s optional commentary as he tells us why some of these weren’t included in the final cut of the film
- Rise and Rise Again: Making Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood – Broken into three parts: Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production. We get a look at the film from concept to completion and everything in between. And Crowe hasn’t lost his edge folks, he’s still as outspoken as ever and this 50 minute feature is worth the watch. That aside, it is interesting to see the way a movie takes shape at various intervals.
- The Art of Nottingham – Also divided into different sections: Pre-Visulization, Storyboards, Production Design, Costumes and Behind the Scenes. These give us a photo gallery as well as some interviews with the art direction team. Each section is prefaced with an introduction.
- Marketing Archive – A fancy way of housing a couple trailers and television spots.
The Bottom Line
Watching the film for the first time since I initially reviewed it back in 2010, I tried to approach this in a different way. I’m a fan of Russell Crowe, Ridley Scott and the genre as a whole. While not quite Gladiator and not quite like the other Robin Hood films out there, this one has it’s own flare. I personally enjoyed it more the second time around. The 4K image and sound quality are both cranked up a notch, though the inclusion of no new supplements is a bit disappointing.