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.

Robin Hood

Release date: 21.11.2018
Length: 1Hr 56

About:

Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) a war-hardened Crusader and his Moorish commander (Jamie Foxx) mount an audacious revolt against the corrupt English crown in a thrilling action-adventure packed with gritty battlefield exploits, mind-blowing fight choreography, and a timeless romance.

The Good

The cast is pretty decent if not close to perfect. With a nice change of pace, we see Taron Edgerton providing us with a younger, more political Robin of Loxley. A self aware ‘toff’, humbled and embittered by war with a moral code to motivate his civil crusade against the corrupt. It’s hard not to love the man who brought a charm to Eggsie, Eagle and Elton.

Ben Mendelsohn, if people don’t mind me being so bold, is fast filling the hole left by the late, great Alan Rickman. Successfully handling the bad guy mantel in films like Ready Player One and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, he’s a shoe in for the Sheriff of Nottingham. While it’s safe to say, he didn’t have as much fun or ham up the role as born-to-be-badguy Rickman, he gives it his own flare and brilliant villainy.

In fact, one of the strengths of this production is that Nottingham is not the highest rank of the dastardly food chain. And when you’re historically known bad guy starts to tremble, something interesting is about to happen.

Honorary mentions must go to Fifty Shades actor Jamie Dornan who seems much more at home playing support than lead, and Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck, who steals every scene he’s in and makes me wonder why he’s not in more stuff.

I liked that this film doesn’t assume that Robin Hood’s story is something that can, and should be contained to one movie outing. It’s just a shame that I’d rather not see a second outing for these outlaws.

The Bad

Its that old clique of having all the best people but still providing the audience with a steaming turd of a film. I wanted to love this film; I even gave it a second chance to win me over. However, both times I felt like I’d had my eyes superglued open and subjected to Peter Jackson’s Hobbit followed by the extended editions of Bored of the Rings.

It feels bloated, insincere and lacking any credibility. The script is dire, takes itself too seriously and gives the audience no rewards. The final act is given no gravitas, and the motivation of all the players are either too thin or so convoluted it makes my ears bleed. Case in point is Sheriff of Nottingham and his hatred of those who help him in his treason. His reveal of being sexually abused does not make his motivation clear or just.

The Ugly

When is this bad boy set?! The narrative suggests medieval and they certainly hammer home that this is firmly placed within the papal sanctioned Crusades that began in 1095.

However, from the moment Mendelsohn’s Nottingham donned his bleached grey leather coat that possibly belonged in his Ready Player One wardrobe, I was thrown off.

All the costumes scream future, rather than past. There’s an attempt of medieval stylings, but it’s too obvious that they came from the disposable-fashion racks of the local Primark.

Then there’s the crusade units themselves; the language is too modern, as are the machine gun weapons that both sides of the war use. The uniforms and filming style would look perfect in a Call of Duty game play trailer, but not in a period piece that was attempting to escape the curse of bad Robin Hood productions.

The film is set in a very Mount Doom-like post-apocalyptic Nottingham. It’s seaside town of mountainous proportions with a epic mine that the people can live in set beside Japan inspired architecture that does not blend with the medieval setting it’s pathetically attempting to convey.

Some of these things can be overlooked, but put it all together with the historical elements and you have a messy clash like oil on water. Which is fine, for some. However, for me I want a film that pulls me in and helps me escape from the concept of time and reality for a while; not something that pulls me out of the experience and gave me checking if my watch is ticking ever so painfully backwards.

Love Han x