Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Rating: PG (aka BBC’s butchered version)
Length: 2h 23
Release: 19.7.1991
Dir: Kevin Reynolds
About: Robin decides to avenge his father who was murdered by Sheriff Nottingham. He joins forces with Little John’s band of thieves to overcome the evils of the sheriff.

First Thoughts

This film is everything about my childhood. Okay, so it’s not the film you went into school shouting about like Goonies was, but I certainly felt its presence in a similar way. From what I saw on twitter today, I wasn’t alone.
For me, this film seemed to be a staple on BBC around Easter. Now, given that I thought Back to the Future was on ITV every Christmas Day for about 5 years, I’m willing to accept that my Easter theory for the archery master isn’t correct either.
I also remember a distinct memory of watching this film in English. The TV trolly was in the hall and there were at least three classes huddled around this tiny tv. At this point (it was at least 1998) I had the whole thing memorised.
There’s problems with that sort of devotion to a film though; you notice when things no longer make the cut.

The Good

  • Alan Rickman is the scene stealing, panto villain of all of our dreams. Some may call it over-acting. I’d say it was Rickman having the best time of his life. He has all of the best lines, he has the best style and the best death. It’s not often we love the villain, but here he is, in his Slytherin finest.
  • The strength of this film does lie in its characters. The story and how its presented is a little bit garbage, but with the element of nostalgia and the characters you root for, it ensures it is less of a chore. Some of my favourites are Duncan, the servant of Robin’s father. He’s a little bit more trouble than he’s worth, but you love him none the less.
    Little John and his wife Fanny are the relationship goals of this movie, not Marian and Robin. The film is clever in how we’re introduced to the family one by one, to finally see them together in the final act. It’s perfect.
  • Morgan Freeman as the Moor, Azeem, is pure joy for me. It’s a performance and character I’ve only come to truly appreciate as I’ve gotten older. There are plenty of small things that he says and does that give people a true idea of what Islam is, but my favourite part of this movie is the interaction with the young girl who asks “Did God paint you?” The answer is as beautiful and as relevant today as it ever was. It also feels important that its Morgan Freeman, of all people, that gets to say it.

The Bad

  • It is, for me, rather on the long side. I don’t need it needs massive editing, but more a trimming of the fat. It is made very differently to films today; cramming what would, by today’s standard, be a trilogy’s worth of story.
  • The accents. Yeah, I went there. Now, I don’t mind Costner’s. I’m not so patriotic in that sense. However Slater and Mastrantonio on the other hand, they drive me mad. Both are half arsed attempts. Certain words are well pronounced, but most of it remains this weird mash up of their native accent and whatever it is they’re trying to achieve.
  • I can’t quiet put my finger on what is is about this production, but it has a Monty Python quality to it. Some of it is to do with the voices used, but it could also be the dialogue.

The Ugly

  • Marian. She bugs the fuck out of me. When we first meet her, not only is she this strong independent woman, she is able to fight in such a way that Robin believes her to be a man. It is only her scream that gives her away. So what pisses me off, is that in the final act, she becomes the stereotypical maiden. Aside from an opportune candle, she stands to the side and shrieks. Have her knocked out by the witch before she goes off on her side mission or something.
  • They cut out Pat Roach. I actually didn’t know until today that Auf Weidersien Pet alumni and part-time Harrison Ford fighting partner was in this film. That’s because his role as Celtic Chief gets a blink and you’ll miss it appearance. However, there is footage out there. I’d imagine it’s on the extended cut that also has much of Rickman’s performance restored.

Final Thoughts

This for me is an awesome, but flawed, film. I think it’s aged better than Robin Hood Men in Tights and the Prince of Thieves will be a film I watch again. However, I do accept a lot of what makes this a good film is nostalgia and that had I watched it for the first time today, my review would be much different.

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