This Film is NOT a Future Release.
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May 1st, 2010:
Russell Crowe plays the expert archer Robin Hood who leads a band of marauders to confront corruption and lead an uprising against the English crown. In an effort to save the village of Nottingham and win the hand of the spirited widow Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett), this hero rises from humble beginnings to become an eternal symbol of freedom for his people.What to Expect:
I know nobody who is excited about this movie. And I've been asking around. In fact, most people when I ask give me a response akin to "There's a new Robin Hood movie coming out?" Yeah, nobody seems to know, much less care, that yes, there is a new Robin Hood movie coming out.
Why? Why is there another Robin Hood movie in the world? Why is this necessary in life? Was the world crying out for yet another reinterpretation of this mythos? Was Ridley Scott just bored on a Friday night and called up Russell Crowe, who must be pretty bored himself since his career's been kinda tanking of late, and said, "Hey, last time either of us had a hit was the last time we worked together, so let's see if it works again!" Article continues below
I kid, of course. In actuality, Crowe was cast in the film before Scott became attached. The project first came to Imagine Entertainment producer Brian Grazer, who won a bidding war for the treatment by writers Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, which was originally titled "Nottingham." Crowe was signed soon after to play the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Scott the following April. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though. Scott as a producer had tried to take the property to Fox, in a bid that was unsuccessful, but he was still on good enough terms with Grazer through their collaboration on "American Gangster" to get the job directing the project once Grazer's company had come out with ownership.
This super-hot property soon cooled, however. Scott wasn't so keen on the tone of the script Grazer had purchased, which had Crowe's Sheriff styled as a sort of medieval version of a CSI-style crime investigator. Scott soon engaged storied screenwriter Brian Helgeland to retool the story, and production was due to start in 2008 but was interrupted by the Writer's Guild strike. Filming was delayed, and the script underwent another revision courtesy of playwright Paul Webb after Scott wasn't entirely happy with Helgeland's rewrite. It was in this treatment that the most eyebrow-raising change was made: reportedly the characters of Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham were merged into one character, leading to all those shrill headlines about how Russell Crowe would be playing "both Robin Hood AND the Sheriff of Nottingham!" ZOMG what's that all about? Will there be split-screening? Will he have entertaining nose prostheses as one of the characters? Will there be amusing eye-line errors in which he's obviously talking to nobody?
This confusion may have been the result of a script where this was, in fact, the case, or it might reflect a script where Robin Hood briefly assumes the Sheriff's identity. Nevertheless, it's not the case. Crowe will portray the character of Robin Hood, full stop, and "Pride and Prejudice" star Matthew MacFayden will play the Sheriff. I'm not sure if he does die and Robin Hood assumes his identity, but it seems like you wouldn't hire MacFayden if he was only going to show up briefly and then die.
This is just the beginning of the convoluted tale of this movie's story and cast. The original bidding war was for a revisionist type of story, but Scott didn't want to make a revisionist Robin Hood, hence all the rewrites and retooling and eventual coming around to what can only be called a pretty cut-and-dry Robin Hood tale with Crowe as the hero fighting the good fight, blah blah blah. As recently as last April, there were rumors that the script was being rewritten *again,* this time by "Shakespeare in Love" screenwriter Tom Stoppard.
And the casting, oh, the casting. Way back when Crowe was set to play only the Sheriff of Nottingham, there was talk that Christian Bale would play Robin Hood. Helgeland's rewrite put the kibosh on that pretty fast. Originally, Sienna Miller was supposed to play Maid Marian, but in early 2009 she was dropped from the project. Reasons for this vary. One account says that Sienna's notorious bed-hopping personal life had tarnished her image and made her unpalatable as a choice for the role. Another blames Crowe, saying that he'd struggled to lose the weight he gained for "State of Play" and that he would look ridiculously old and fat next to nubile young Miller. Official word from Miller's camp is that neither of these are the case, that Miller left on her own impetus, and that the rewrites had diminished her role to the point that it was no longer worth her time. I have to ask the question of how it can possibly NOT be worth the time for an actress like Miller, fairly famous but lacking a major hit, to play the love interest of Russell Crowe in a Ridley Scott film that could possibly be a ginormous hit. Disadvantage: Miller. And frankly, Crowe looks to be in pretty good fighting form in the trailers. So I'm choosing to believe the whole "homewrecking gossip fodder" rationale for her having been released. At any rate, she was replaced by no less an exalted personage than Cate Blanchett, which makes it even more unbelievable that she left because the role had been made too insignificant. There's no way Cate Blanchett would be desperate enough to take a teeny underwritten part in this film. At least she's closer to Crowe's age.
In the Unavoidable Events category we have Vanessa Redgrave, who was to play Eleanor of Aquitaine in a piece of inspired casting. It would have been her first role since the death of her daughter, Natasha Richardson. She accepted the role a mere week after Richardson's death but later withdrew to be replaced by Dame Eileen Atkins, who is said to be terrified of the role since the frequent script changes mean she's never quite sure of her lines.
So what's the plot of this movie, anyway? Well, see, there's this Robin Hood guy, and there's a village...there will probably be arrows...it's unclear. One plot synopsis has Robin mostly struggling against the Norman royals, in the person of Prince John, his mother Eleanor, and renowned knight William Marshal (William Hurt). Another has him meeting Marion in a village beset by oppressive taxes and there are rich people whom he can rob to give to the poor and sing along, you know the words. There have been so many reports of how this movie's going to play out that it's hard to get a handle on what's really going on. Seems clear that Robin was a lord himself, Sir Robin of Loxley, who served under the crown and now he's disenfranchised and mad as hell and not taking it any more.
Most of the moviegoing public still has strong memories of "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," a movie that has at different times been widely reviled and enthusiastically embraced. Many people do look on that film, and all its cheesiness and Bryan Adams songs, with fondness and nostalgia. This movie doesn't look to be embracing the campier aspects of the Robin Hood mythos. In fact, it looks for all the world as if both Scott and Crowe are attempting to recreate their greatest success together, "Gladiator." Grazer came right out and said that this movie will be the "Gladiator" of Robin Hood movies. I admit that when I first saw a theatrical trailer for this film, for a moment I thought "are they re-releasing Gladiator?" It has that same grimy, color desaturated look, same director, same actor...hell, Russell even has the same haircut. So, are we not entertained? It remains to be seen. This movie is really not on the summer-movie radar in the way that "Iron Man 2" or even "Prince of Persia" have been. The visibility seems low, the anticipation tepid at best.
Then again, I had the same impression in the run-up to "Alice in Wonderland," and that's shaping up to be a monster hit. People are just widely suspicious of movies that look derivative, and I wonder if people will jump up and down to see a Gladiatorized version of a story they feel like they've seen too many times already.
One final note: Scott is just another in a long line of filmmakers scrambling to make his film 3D after the monster success of "Avatar" and now "Alice in Wonderland." The film was not shot for 3D but that doesn't mean he can't demand it. No confirmation yet on whether this change is being made. I hope not. The last thing we need is for every film to try and cash in on the 3D bandwagon without considering whether it's even appropriate for the film.In Conclusion:
A long development process and more script changes than you can shake a stick at might make for a garbled film, but if Crowe and Scott can recapture their "Gladiator" glory this could be a hit. I just don't think anybody's enthused enough about it to make the effort. A really strong set of reviews could combat Robin Hood fatigue, otherwise this one might pass by without making much of a splash.Similar Titles: Gladiator
, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves