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Join Robin Hood!

October 1, 2021

Robin Hood is a tale told time and again, the kind of mythic legend that gets a fresh coat of paint on it in every generation. I was a child of the 90s, so that means that my Robin Hood was and forever will be Kevin Costner. For reasons I can never understand, this opinion is often questioned and even mocked when I share it. This article is a hybrid of our Unpopular Opinion and Nostalgia Watch series as I have no doubt that Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves is the best film version of the classic legend.

Let’s just start with the tone of the movie, it’s an absolute blast! A sweeping and epic adventure filled with action, thrills, and romance. It’s a major studio project that spares no expense and looks absolutely gorgeous as we move from dark and foreboding castles to the lush greenery of Sherwood Forest (I’m still totally in love with Robin Hood’s awesome treehouse hideout). There’s fantastic propulsion to this movie despite running nearly two and half hours, it just whips along.

A major contributing factor to this tone is the MVP of the movie, composer Michael Kamen, whose blaring horn score creates a wonderfully heroic sound for the noble outlaw and his merry band of sidekicks. The way Kamen perfectly melds the hugely popular and Oscar nominated Bryan Adams soundtrack contribution “Everything I Do I Do It For You” into the score to become Robin and Marian’s love theme beautifully balances the energy of the movie’s sound.

I mentioned Costner earlier and I think he does a more than serviceable job as the hero of the movie. Sure, on paper he’s an odd choice for the part of an English nobleman. Costner is maybe the most American actor to grace the silver screen, most at home as a cowboy or baseball player. There has been much said about his quickly abandoned attempt at a British accent, but honestly it’s not nearly as prevalent or distracting as people have made it out to be. Here’s the thing that works so well about Costner in the part, his incredible ability to play the moral center of a movie. He’s an actor who excels at playing characters who represent a square jawed and purely heroic air of goodness. He’s never hokey and you believe the sincerity of him delivering monologues about fighting for freedom. There’s no doubt this guy is on the side of the persecuted and destitute. Costner makes a real human performance out of what could easily become a boring cardboard cutout of the hero in the hands of a lesser actor.

A hero is only as good as his villain and this movie has an all timer of an evildoer. The legendary Alan Rickman turns in what is easily the most deranged and psychotic take on the villainous Sheriff Of Nottingham. Introduced in an absolutely fantastic shot removing a creepy mask as he is about to burn down and slaughter all the residents of Robin’s home. Wholesale slaughter is this guy’s opening move! He then spends the rest of the movie screaming like a madman and consulting with his personal advisor, an actual witch. He offers one of cinema’s greatest threats when he yells at Robin that he “will cut your heart out with a spoon.” His lecherous and very much non consensual attempt to marry Maid Marian is despicable and absolutely harrowing to watch. Rickman relishes every evil deed he commits in this movie, he walks the line of becoming a parody but never tips over. He is deliciously evil and makes the audience wait with anticipation for his final duel with Robin Hood.

Romance is key to this story as well and Mary Elizabath Mastrantonio makes a stunning and capable Maid Marian. We first meet her engaged in a fight with Robin Hood, not the most typical meeting point for these characters. She shows throughout the movie that though she is coveted by both hero and villain she is not just a damsel in distress. We watch her slowly warm to Robin as their romance grows and the chemistry between Costner and Mastrantonio is absolutely sizzling. This couple really earns their happy ending.

Robin can’t win his battle against the oppressive forces of the throne by himself; we need to talk about the amazing ensemble of actors that make up his band of Merry Men. First off, we have the legendary Morgan Freeman as Azeem, a Muslim man Robin saved during the Crusades who swears to stay ever by his side until he has returned the favor. Time and time again Azeem is the one who keeps Robin on track with his mission. He is his closest friend and confidant and one of the most positive portrayals of a devoutly Muslim character in a major stuido movie. Next we have the always great Christian Slater as the angsty Will Scarlett, you feel his torn nature between respecting Robin’s leadership and his own desire to be a hero. Nick Brimble is a commanding presence as the larger than life Little John whose commitment to his family and the cause of freedom is exceedingly noble. Finally, Michael McShane crafts a humorous and lovable portrayal of Friar Tuck, a fallen man who rediscovers his own faith through the battle against the hypocrisy of Nottingham.

The cast is amazing here but so is the action. Director Kevin Reynolds designs so many exciting set pieces with unique camera moves and shots that sell the intensity of the combat. Robin Hood is best known for his archery skills, but Reynolds is not content to just show Costner releasing his bow and then cutting to an arrow finding its target. We get multiple close up shots of arrows spinning through the air and even an early CGI shot where the camera appears to be mounted to the top of an arrow as it slams into a tree. He also includes an unforgettable and very trailer friendly moment of Robin firing a flaming arrow right at the camera in slow motion.

It’s not just the archery scenes that pack a punch, the movie is filled with great one on one fights. From Robin’s staff battle in the river with Little John to a crossbow battle against a squad of knights. The final sword fight between Rickman and Costner is absolutely astounding with Rickman swinging a massive broadsword that sparks every time it slices the stone pillars of the castle room. It carries as much excitement and visual flair as any lightsaber fight you’d see in a Star Wars picture.

Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves fills me with joy every time I watch it. It’s an exceedingly fun movie filled with exciting action and wonderful performances. I basically wore out my VHS copy of it as a kid and whenever I revisit it I feel like a child again marveling at all the swashbuckling heroics and sweeping romance. If you have not seen the movie, I implore you to check it out and ignore whatever deriding comments you may have heard about it. From the opening notes of the theme music you will be swept away by the adventure and excitement of Robin Hood.

Check out John Campbell's piece in last week's Nostalgia Watch - Christopher Reeves as Superman.

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