Friday, May 14, 2010
This is, in essence, the educational portion of our review, and we will be quite upset if we don't begin receiving some form of federal funding as a result.
It has been said that, in this movie, Ridley Scott is attempting to relaunch Robin Hood in the same vein that Batman Begins or Casino Royale relaunched Batman and Bond. While there's a kernel of truth to this claim, it fails to fully convey the experience of the film. The movie may have been shot as if it were a dark and gritty picture, but the writing - and, in many cases, the acting - are another animal entirely.
Imagine, if you will, that the script to the Adam West Batman movie had been picked up by Christopher Nolan, then filmed in the style of The Dark Knight. Christian Bale is still Batman, and he reads every bat-line in the same raspy voice he's known for. The lines about bat-shark repellent and not being able to get rid of a bomb are still there, but they're spoken without humor. Also, the role of the Riddler is played by Frank Gorshin.
Switch the Bale to Crow, Gotham to Nottingham, and Riddler to King John, and you've pretty much described this movie in a nutshell. The only exception is the plot: the story in the Adam West Batman movie made more sense. Far more sense, in fact. More on this in a moment.
It has also been said that this was intended as a more historically accurate version of Robin Hood. This is blatantly false on more counts than we can easily count. There may be accurate props, the costumes may be somewhat more believable, and the setting may be more truthful, but overall this no more historically believable than Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Or, for that matter, Men in Tights.
If we're mistaken, than our high school world history teachers have some explaining to do.
This is, frankly, not a good movie. That said, it's not an altogether unenjoyable movie, provided you are willing to dispense with notions like continuity and logic. Characters have a tendency of instantly traveling great distances between scenes. The plot folds over on itself; there is little causal connection between one event and the next, nor is there much in the way of consequences. Meanwhile, characters will occasionally know things in one scene they did not the moment before with no explanation.
This is a movie permeated by images and ideas that feel eerily familiar. Moments echo from other movies you've seen. Sure, there's the obvious tipping of the hat to other Robin Hood films and the expected borrowing from Lord of the Rings and Braveheart, but then Darth Maul shows up and betrays England. And let's not forget the tribe of Lost Boys living in Sherwood. Or the scene from Saving Private Ryan. And none of this comes close to the bizarre echo of Queen Elizabeth: The Golden Age that occurs in the final battle sequence.
Also, we finally learn where the Joker got his scars.
It's easy to have fun watching this, though much of that fun comes at the movie's expense. It's entertaining, for example, to see Alan Doyle from Great Big Sea playing Allan A'Dayle, but he's still singing modern interpretations of folk music. And Oliver Isaac's Prince John is more or less identical to that of the talking lion in Disney's interpretation. Seriously. Watch the first minute or two of this.... then watch this. IT'S THE SAME SCENE.
Our reaction upon walking out of the theater was to ask, "What the hell was that?" We've yet to work out an answer. Was this supposed to be campy? If so, then why film it like it's a historic epic? It's almost as if Ridley Scott either couldn't decide or didn't care what he was making. Is this an update of the Robin Hood of the 1930's? If so, why tell a prequel?
Fortunately, for all its faults, there was plenty of beautiful imagery and solid action to keep us diverted. On the Chronicles of Riddick scale, we'll award this two and a half stars out of five. This was amusing, but, as a ridiculous, medieval prequel adventure with the pretense of serious realism, it falls short of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Still, if you enjoy sword fights and the English countryside - as we do - it may be worth a viewing.
Even so, it's hard to endorse this when you could just go see Iron Man 2 again.