Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ridley Scott's ROBIN HOOD Some Thoughts and the Trailer

Robin Hood is one of the great characters of British legend. He is the quintessential homegrown medieval renegade, who fights against authority to help those without power receive justice. He returns money unjustly taken by the crown from freemen, and likely foodstuffs and materials taken from serfs, to the rightful possessors of the money/materials.

His actions have been portrayed a number of ways by a number of people.

  1. Robin Hood steals from the rich and gives to the poor is a phrase with which most are familiar. On the surface, it seems to describe what Robin Hood is doing. Yet none of the traditional tales of Robin actually have him doing this action -- except in maybe the Warner Brothers Daffy Duck cartoon where he isn't very effective at this task. He isn't really "stealing" in the sense that we normally think of stealing, and the rich he is stealing from is the Crown (Prince John in particular). I have yet to see a Robin Hood film where Robin breaks into the house of a freeman to take money in order to buy food for starving peasants. I think I might enjoy such a tale, and we've seen similar non-Hood versions of that tale. As much as we often use the "steal from the rich to give to the poor" statement to describe what Robin does morally, we rarely see adaptations that actually have that as the narrative.
  2. Robin Hood as thorn in the side of an unjust regent is the version of the tale we most often see in film. The typical Robin Hood story has Prince John as the unjust tyrant reigning over England while his heroic brother is fighting valiantly in the Crusades. It is up to Robin to make sure that John doesn't so abuse the freemen and serfs that England is destroyed during Richard's absence. These tales often include coming up with the ransom for Richard, who is being held captive by the French. These stories often have a heavy Ivanhoe influence and are kind to the Crown in principle, though harsh to the tyrant John. Sometimes these versions of the tale have Robin's activities as one of the things that pressured John to sign the Magna Carta.
  3. Still other, more recent, versions of the Robin Hood story emphasize the importance of the Crusades and have those influence Robin's activities. In these tales, Robin is a homegrown rebel returning unjustly taken tax money that would be used to pay for an unnecessary foreign war. One can see how this line of narrative keeps Robin a topical figure, while finding new ways to explore the historic time period Robin to which is typically assigned. These stories allow Robin to be a people's hero against the tyranny of the State. Both Richard and John are to blame in these tales, or at least both contribute to the suffering of the people of England.
  4. My favorite version of the Robin Hood story, a version exemplified in the excellent series Robin of Sherwood starring Michael Praed, deals with Saxon/Norman tensions in medieval Britain and the tension between Christianity and Pagan faiths.

I have no idea which version of the tale, some existing trope or an entirely new one, that Ridley Scott will use in hims upcoming ROBIN HOOD movie. I do know that Scott is a talented director who makes films that typically manage to be both entertaining and of artistic merit -- an all to rare combination. Scott has played fast and loose with history, and with other source material for that matter, but he tends to have a clear vision with whatever project he is working on. His inclusion of Russell Crowe as Robin is icing on the cake.

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