The desperate flaw of Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe, was its aim to transform a much cherished legend into a real historical drama. The story of this heroic English medieval outlaw has lingered for centuries and has been told in countless formats, including TV series, a 1973 Disney film and the cult-favorite Mel Brooks parody, Men in Tights. Scott’s version loads up the tale with history, or what it claims is the real “untold” story of Robin Hood.
It rightly pours cold water on the myth of the benign crusading King Richard the Lionheart — a key ally to Robin in earlier renditions of the tale — and depicts the monarch instead as a bloodthirsty gold digger. He gets killed off early in the film, but the clever revisionism ends there. What follows is a misguided mess that muddles the story with an overexaggerated French conspiracy and a tiresome earnestness about liberty and the rights of a king’s subjects. More than just being historically inaccurate, Robin Hood saps the joy out of the Robin Hood legend, which, after all, is a trickster tale of a rogue in the woods stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. None of this is evident in Scott’s fable, played out with a hulky, dour Crowe plodding on a beach, bellowing at enemies that didn’t really exist.