Sep 29, 2013

Robin Hood (Ridley Scott)

It's high time I started writing again, and my favourite archer has long been waiting in the wings for me to drop King Arthur for a while and dedicate some of my time to him! Part of the delay was because I wanted to start with the oldest stuff possible (books, legends), but I'm lost in a series of books that won't let me go and I don't know when I'll start reading about Robin Hood! Anyhow, the other day I was staring at my shelves, trying to decide which movie to watch, and my eyes kept coming back to Ridley Scott's 2010 movie Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. This version brings us an origin story (why are those still so popular?) with older characters and places the action a bit later in the historical context.

Who is this Robin Hood?

Robin Longstride is a man without a home, a family or a past. An archer in King Richard's army returning from the Crusades, he takes the place of Robert Loxley, a close friend of the Lionheart, whom he happens upon as he is dying from an ambush which was meant for the King (who was already dead). He impersonates him (and his companions take the place of other dead knights) in order to obtain passage to England on the Royal ship, take the Crown to London to inform them of the King's death and to take Loxley's sword back to his estranged father who lives near Nottingham.

Robin's companions (John, Will, Alan) are fellow soldiers from the Crusader army, Marion is Loxley's widow to whom she had been married barely a week when he set off for the Crusades. The Sheriff of Nottingham is the local (somewhat cowardly) tax collector who keeps trying to get Marion...

What's going on here? 

(spoilers in this section, but the movie did come out 3 years ago so...)

The movie starts out with King Richard's death during the siege of Châlus after returning from the Holy Land. Robin and his comrades make for England, impersonating knights killed during an ambush ordered by the French King Philippe who is planning to invade England with the help of Godfrey, a "trusted" friend of Prince John (who basically appears to be a twit in this movie, obsessed with his lover and future queen Isabelle). Once in England, and after having delivered the royal crown and news of Richard's death to Queen Eleanor in London, Robin goes to Nottingham to fulfil the dying Robert Loxley's last wish: return his father's sword to him. Robin gets roped into continuing his charade of being the returned Loxley by Loxley senior, much to the annoyance of Loxley's widow Marion who's been getting along just fine on her own thank you very much.

As a result of the heavy-handed (read: violent) tax-collection being done in King John's name (but by Godfrey and French troups disguised as English), the barons of the North of England revolt and band together to form an army and march south against King John. It turns out Robin Longstride's father was a stonemason (as in a Freemason???) and a visionary who had the radical idea that kings needed their subjects as much as subjects needed and convinced thousands to his cause of equal rights until he was executed ("Rise and rise again until lambs become lions" was his motto, key words inscribed on the Loxley sword). Before he was executed he had refused to give up the hiding place of a charter that had been signed by many of the lords. The young Robin Longstride witnessed this (but didn't remember the details until standing just before the hiding place) and so our hero retrieves the document. Loxley Sr. and William Marshal were two of those original signatories. Possibly supposed to be an early version of the Magna Carta?

The Lords pressure John into agreeing to write up a "charter of liberties" in exchange for joining with him to fight against Godfrey and the French and stop the invasion. Of course once the battle is won and John is presented with the Charter he refuses to sign, burns it, tells his lords they are lucky he is in a merciful mood... but he's a bit miffed the French troups surrendered to Longstride and not to him, also that the English troupes were cheering Longstride and not him!

Angry King John! :p
"As for Robin Longstride, that mason's son. For the crimes of theft and incitement to cause unrest, who pretended to be a knight of the realm, a crime punishable by death, I declare him from this day forth to be an outlaw! To hunted all the days of his life until his corpse, unburied, is carrion for foxes and crows.

So now Robin and his men really are the outlaws of Sherwood! And will be fighting against King John instead of Prince John... unfortunately this means they'll never have a happy ending since King Richard won't be returning from the Crusades to slap his brother's hand and forgive our band of merry men.

Characters from the Legend:


Robin Hood a.k.a. Robin Longstride a.k.a. Robert Loxley
Marion (is Loxley's wife), she agrees to play along with the charade of Longstride impersonating her husband, and of course as they get to know each other they fall in love.
Little John (gets in a fight with Robin at the very beginning, during the siege)
Alan A'Dale (another archer)
Tuck is Nottingham's churchman!
Will Scarlet (another archer)
Sherriff of Nottingham

Sheriff of Nottingham (has been chasing after Marian while her husband was in the Holy Land, little more than a bully, not really the major bad guy here)

Oh, and the Outlaws of Sherwood Forest are basically Peter Pan's Lost Boys on steroids!!! (ok, so they're mostly orphan boys who've runawat from Nottingham and have become poachers in Sherwood who frequently venture back into Nottingham to steal)

Historical Figures: 

William Marshal and Queen Eleanor

King Richard the Lionheart
Prince/King John still quite bratty




Obvious historical inaccuracies:

  • Siege of Châlus: King Richard is said to be returning home from the Crusades, hasn't been back to England yet, no mention of his captivity. (Although John mentions the captivity and ransom to his mother when arguing with her later over taxation) In reality Richard spent enough time in England upon his return for a second coronation before heading back to France for more fighting...
  • King Richard dies in battle (instead of as the result of an injury sustained while surveying the work of sappers during the siege, and with his mother present).
    Prince John and Isabelle
  • King John's mistress while married to his "barren" English wife is Isabelle d'Angoulême??? Who should have been 10-12 years old at this time... And she's supposedly the French King's niece?! (technically her mother was his cousin) Uh-huh...
  • French troops (pretending to be English, under traitor Godfrey, John's supposed friend) on a rampage throughout England collecting taxes supposedly in King John's name. Burning and killing those who refuse to pay.
  • French invasion of England (?!?!?!?!). 
  • Addendum: Ok, so apparently the French did invade England (woah!), but it was towards the end of John's reign, as part of a rebellion against him by his barons, and led by Philippe's son Louis who wanted to claim the English crown for himself... (a fact I didn't know until I read Sharon Penman's novel Here Be Dragons!)
  • Nottingham little more than a collection of hovels and a single manor house Pepper Harrow. There was an important castle there at the time, 'twas a favourite place of King John's.
-> There are probably more that I missed, but these were the ones that jumped out at me as I watched the film. Here's a list with more errors on imdb.

Random thoughts:

  • I liked how they mixed in a bit of French when obvious French people are speaking. Only problem is ALL the nobles should have been speaking French at that stage! They were Normans or Angevins or from Aquitaine (which is to say they were ALL French, lol!)!  Very few would have ever spoken a word of English.
  • I liked it much better the second time, now that I knew what to expect. It also helped that this time it was in English instead of dubbed... Anyhow the first time I saw it I was disappointed, this wasn't really a Robin Hood tale! It seemed like a decent period film about the Middle Ages, great costumes, lovely landscapes, great actors... just not Robin Hood. Would have preferred it had it had another name and not been supposedly about Robin Hood. (basically it's an origin story)
  • That French invasion on a British beach at the base of cliffs with British archers shooting down at them from the clifftops was very reminiscent of D-day in Normandy scenes in other movies (down to the landing ships!!!) But the whole idea was rather ludicrous...
  • Great interpretation of Queen Eleanor! They definitely did her justice! Loved her scenes with bratty John... ;o) 
  • Marion shows up in armor leading the Lost Boys?! Puh-lease!!! Good thing it's really the Lady Galadriel otherwise I wouldn't buy it for a second! :p
  • I like the final credit sequence with some key moments from the film "drawn" and animated.
  • These two have to be the "oldest" Robin and Marion on screen after Connery and Hepburn in Robin and Marian (although ironically the actors themselves are only a few years apart in the two films!)
  • Hmmm... the original Loxley was estranged from his father because he went off to the Crusades with Richard? Kind of sounds like Kevin Costner's Robin in Prince of Thieves! Only this time it's the son who dies too soon for reconciliation (in the other one it was the father who died) ;o)
  • Another Hmmm... I just found my original review for the movie back in 2010... and it's proven to be an interesting exercise in how you can't trust your memory! As written above (since this is kind of a "spontaneous thoughts" section I'm not going back and modifying it) I was very disappointed in the film when it came out. Well turns out I wasn't! I actually enjoyed it a lot! I did specify however that it didn't feel like a Robin Hood movie... :p
  • I saw the Director's cut DVD, and I don't remember enough of the original movie to compare! But it's a good version, not overly long (apparently it's 16' longer) and doesn't seem to have any unnecessary scenes...



"Marion: I sleep with a dagger. If you so much as move to touch me I will sever your manhood. Do you understand?
Robin: Thanks for the warning."

First -and only!- robbery (to retrieve Nottingham's seed corn which is heading to York)
"I demand to know who you are!
We are men of the hood. Merry now at your expense!" (owwww!)

Robin to King John: "Every Englishman's home is his castle."

Robin to Marion upon leaving to fight: "Ask me nicely"
and "I love you Marion"

King John: "Gentlemen, we go to war. It is my first time, I shall lead."
Then once there and seeing all the French troupes disembarking on the beach:
"That's a lot of French. What's to be done?
Robin: Archers to the clifftop.
Marshall: Cavalry to the beach. We'll await you there.
John (after they've headed off): Excellent plan."


  1. Thanks for excellent summary. I remember not being overly impressed with the film in 2010 yet I've wanted to re-watch it but never had the opportunity. I don't mind the origin story - I love different interpretations of the legend, but I'd like them to fit within the history of whatever time they portray and try not to warp that history!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the summary!

      I'd been hesitant about rewatching it for a long time, 'cause I was still annoyed at them not putting out such a good quality (effects, costume, setting, actors, money) film that was more of a REAL Robin Hood story! But in the end I just let myself enjoy it!

      I don't know why I so enjoy the idea of many different versions of Arthurian legends, but it annoys me that they mess in such a way with Robin Hood! I guess a little more historical accuracy would have helped with it...


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