Before watching the movie:
Remember the story of Robin Hood? Forget it. Well, don’t forget it, because this is a sequel. To the fable. The story you know is the backstory. If Robin Hood was Sean Connery. And it happens all over again. That’s the impression the box gave.
These are short sentences.
After watching the movie:
Upon the death of the corrupted King Richard the Lionhearted, Robin Hood returns home from the Crusades to Sherwood. He soon learns that Marian became a nun, the Abbess of the local nunnery, and that King John’s only contribution to the story is a feud with the Pope resulting in the banishment of all higher clergy. Rather than allow her to willingly be arrested for serving her Abbey, Robin abducts her to Sherwood. She claims to have lost all affection for him, but as the next few days pass, her old love returns. As does the Sheriff of Nottingham’s old rivalry.
Not since L.A. Story have my expectations been surpassed so much. I was all ready to come in with comments about how Sean Connery always plays himself, his characters’ facial hair may only be because that was how he felt like wearing it, but nobody minds because he’s Sean Connery. Aside from the fact that I just said that anyway, I can’t make those comments, because of the simple artistry of this film.
At times Connery’s delivery seems Shakespearean, but mostly, they just speak as plainly as is possible in an epic. Even with the slightly stilted speech, a level of tenderness shows through that is almost never seen in today’s films. I think most of it comes from the limited score and long takes, allowing the audience to get that much closer to the characters. As a result of the direction and acting, this is one of the most moving tragedies I’ve ever seen, or at least payed enough attention to care about.
One criticism I have is that Little John seems to be used too little too late. It’s not his story by any means, but he has two characteristics: loyalty and simpleheadedness. The latter isn’t played very much until the final act. He’s not staying with Robin because he’s his friend or he’s loyal, he’s staying with Robin because that’s what he does. He’s there for an extra pair of hands and an expository ear. If Robin had a dog, it wouldn’t have gone much differently. Toward the very end, when we actually start to see his loyalty, there’s a hint at a plotline that might make for a very interesting, if rather Arthurian story, but it goes nowhere.
The (light) action is secondary to the story, but enhances rather than distracts. It mostly serves to show how old the characters are, rather than just talking about it. Old men climbing walls awkwardly, old men taking heavy sword blows. And in the end, traditional catharsis.
My words can’t describe the film very well. The tagline, “Love is the greatest adventure of all,” sums up the film better than I can in a few hundred words. It’s the only adventure this film needs, and it owns it.
Watch this movie: even if you’re not fond of romantic dramas.
Don’t watch this movie: if you’re really not going to give it a chance.