The screening was almost full of the usual suspect journalists, ranging from the White badged (pretty much given free reign of the town), through the Rose (about as high as mortal journos can ever aspire to reach) and Blue (the majority), down the the lowly Yellow badged rabble, including myself. The odd amount of empty seats can probably find explanation in the fact that there have already been American and British press screenings of Robin Hood in the run up to the festival, somewhat robbing the opener of its usually auspicious exclusivety (last year Up wasnt due to hit screens for a good few months when it screened as the festival’s opening gambit).
But even despite the comparatively low key affair of the screening itself, I was enormously excited to see Ridley Scott’s take on the familiar legend, and for the main part I wasnt disappointed. This new take on the Robin Hood legend actually plays out like a follow up to Kingdom of Heaven in terms of chronology, and in terms of style it is definitely indebted to Gladiator, but it is unquestionnably its own beast, and a good one at that. The strong points follow in a handy list for your pleasure:
- There are a number of strong acting performances, lead not by growling hunk of meat Russell Crowe, or even the always pixie-like Cate Blanchett, but rather than a grizzly, and utterly impeccable Danny Huston as Richard the Lionheart. He always just skates this side of hamming it up, and what we end up with is just regal brilliance, as Huston captures the idea that Richard could not function properly without battle perfectly. The other highlight, extremely surprisingly, is Mark Addy’s Friar Tuck, who I had expected to be a complete washout, but was very pleasantly surprised by.
- Typically of a Ridley Scott production, the film looks superb, with the battle-scenes the particular highlight in cinematographic terms. Possibly unwittingly, Scott has written a love letter to an England of the past (albeit a possibly imagined one), and the result is just breathtaking in parts.
- Despite the lull in the middle (which a lot of reviewers have pointed out), the story is very good, and balances the “new” back-story elements with those that are mor familiar to a large proportion of the audience very well.
Sadly, as with anything, there are a few weaker aspects of the film. Again, handily listed are a smattering…
- Scott Grimes. I had thought that there would be a good chance that Mark Addy would be the worst part of the film in terms of acting (with parts of me drawn also to Matthew Macfadyen and Kevin Durand as potential problems, though both turned out to be excellent in all honesty), but it was Grimes who was the only real problem. I loved him in Band of Brothers, and even ER, but here he just isnt on form. The decision to cast him in the first place seems strange, with his supposedly Welsh accent the pick of a bad bunch of accents, and his constant mugging went too far beyond comic relief to be at all redeemable.
- Accents: as Ive just said, there are a number of problematic accents, with Scott Grimes failing to get anywhere near Wales with his, and Russell Crowe seemingly wandering all over the globe with his, from Geordie to Australia’s finest. I know it’s difficult, but if youre willing to go into enough depth to discover that Robin Hood was born in South Yorkshire (Barnsdale in the film) and to give him that accent for most of the time, then perhaps you should give your actors more time to adopt their new accents.
- Mark Strong. While a brilliant actor ( I urge everyone I ever meet to go out and find The Long Firm and watch it repeatedly), Strong appears to be playing the same role over and over again, and is in distinct danger of becoming the next Malcolm Macdowell if he is not careful.
So, there you have it. My general, brief musings. What I will say additionally is that the film will make a lot of money at the box office, and it will do so justifiably. And I would also urge you to go and see it, and take not only my blessing, but David’s aswell.
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