Today I watched the recent most Robin Hood film starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. Although Alan Rickman and Morgan Freeman will not allow me to ever forget the greatness of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (not to mention Bryan Adams great song for the sound track), Robin Hood is a much better film in so many ways.
I must begin by labeling the great many faults from which Prince of Thieves obviously suffers. First off, would any lord of the twelfth century have a mullet? I think not; probably would don a longer hairstyle (in the front and back) and perhaps even some facial hair. This fault is a minor one seeing how historical films are almost never accurate in the portrayal of hair. There is that one great exception of the tonsure, popular amongst medieval monks. Christian Slater definitely looked pious with that hair cut in The Name of the Rose while fornicating with a women later proclaimed to be a heretic.
One must never forget the lack of talent amongst some of the cast, or perhaps the casting director. Do not mistake me, Kevin Costner is amazing as a baseball player or perhaps a cowboy (especially since his guns miraculously never run out of bullets). As Sir Robin of Locksley however, Kevin just was not up to snuff. Does it not strike anyone strange that the main character of a film set in medieval England does not have an English accent? This little detail may be overlooked if the rest of the cast were also American. Unfortunately, majority of the cast is in fact British, and those who are not at least attempt to speak in that tongue. Morgan Freeman even goes so far as to speak like a man from the Middle East who has learnt English from an Englishman (and not an American).
The biggest problem of the film is the blatant historical inaccuracy. King John is never mentioned; apparently it was some random sheriff that was going to take control of the whole of England. King Richard I, aka "Lion Heart," must have risen from the dead in France to return to England after the Crusade at the end of the film. (Although if anyone can do it, Sean Connery can!) It is somewhat unfortunate that they did not mention King John, and his misfortunes of being the king that allowed barons to have more power. He was the king that signed the Magna Carta in 1215. Films produced today always exaggerate the claims of freedom in ages where such terminology does not translate to anything similar to our own idea of the word. This moment in history was one which could be relished as a step towards modern freedom; one that was a step towards representative government. The new movie, Robin Hood, not only accurately shows Richard I dying in France before his return, but also portrays the political climate of John's reign.
The film is good in other ways like details surround the creation of the Robin Hood legend and his connections with the house of Locksley. This story combines those of Robin being a commoner and those of his origins being in noble blood. Cate Blanchett makes a much stronger Marian than Mastrantonio, and the friars are equal in each movie respectively. As for poor Matthew Macfadyen, his character's role was small and very much undermining the potency of that villainous character which Alan Rickman and so many before him have so greatly played.
As for flaws of the new film, it has plenty of its own but of a lesser gauge. Complete historical accuracy in a film is absolutely impossible, and I am sure that the producers and screenwriters do not claim such. I do find it amusing that this film still did not have English subjects playing the lead roles. This time the actors were from another of Great Britain's former colonies, Australia. Crowe and Blanchett have however mastered the English, and American, accents. Crowe was attempting to be more regionally specific by adopting a more northern or Yorkshire sounding accent. I am not an expert, being a crumby Yank myself, but his attempt was a good one, better in some scenes than others. I feel that the attempt was worth something more than Costner's blatant disregard for cultural ambiance.
Regardless of either's faults, both movies have their place in my permanent video library (if I had the funds to purchase the new one).