Review of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Old)

This review is old.  It was originally posted on December 24, 2009.

Yo, Cine Beast reporting for duty. I update rather infrequently, don’t I? My last movie review (and my first) was posted, like, a month or two ago. The primary reason I don’t post reviews often is not because I don’t watch a lot of movies (I do), but because I usually like those movies. To be frank, I do not yet feel totally comfortable about writing a review for a good movie: just a bad one. Maybe this will change over time, but as of now, it’s still the main reason I rarely post. Also, I’m lazy.

By the way, seeing as it’s Christmas Eve, someone might be expecting a review of a holiday-themed film. They would have good cause for thinking such a thing, but they would nonetheless be wrong.

Directed by: Kevin Reynolds

Featuring: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Alan Rickman, and Christian Slater.

Written by: Pen Densham and John Watson.

Year of Release: 1991

Running Time: 144 minutes, however, the extended version (the version I watched) is 155 minutes.

MPAA: PG-13 (perhaps the original cut could pass with this, I don’t know, however, I would label the extended version with an R rating)

Budget: $48,000,000 (Source: Wikipedia)

I have heard of this movie all of my life (literally, for I was born in 1991) but have never seen it until now. I have read about it and heard about it, building up a certain expectation for it. Everyone I’ve asked of the film has told me that it was a terrible movie, and now, having watched it for myself, I must agree.

Every one’s fairly familiar with the story of Robin Hood, who stole from the rich ruffians who plagued the villages around Sherwood forest and battled such villains as the Sheriff of Nottingham, Guy of Gisborne, and Prince John, who stole the English throne after his brother, Richard the Lionheart, left to fight the Third Crusade.

In the 1938 classic, Adventures of Robin Hood,Prince John was the primary antagonist, Guy of Gisborne was a black-hearted if dim-witted man for Robin to cross blades with, and the Sheriff was a nearly useless and cowardly buffoon. To combat these devilish lords, Robin Hood gathered a following of men and charmed the Maid Marian.

In Prince of Thieves, things are seriously changed, and not for the better, in my opinion: the Sheriff becomes the primary antagonist, Guy of Gisborne is his vile but bungling cousin, and Prince John doesn’t appear to have ever existed. Robin does not begin the resistance against the villain: Little John does. Maid Marian isn’t really much of a maid, and is not charmed by Robin at all: she accidentally sees his naked rear and apparently falls in love with him.

The plot is actually a bit of a mess, really. It’s not boring, exactly, but it’s a little too convoluted at times and tries much too hard to try and “update” the tale of Robin Hood for a “modern” audience. Maid Marian (as well as the other female characters) are extremely over-assertive, Robin has a black Muslim partner who is practically written as a symbol of human perfection, and there are heavy anti-Catholic themes present throughout the film.

Of course, seeing as I’m Catholic, these themes are what ultimately killed the movie for me. The Sheriff is a worshiper of Satan, and Robin’s Muslim friend, like I previously said, is an eternally wise and kind man who makes Robin himself look like a selfish git. I wouldn’t even have a problem with these things, however, if the film gave the Catholic characters some credence, which it does not: near the beginning of the film, after Robin has escaped a Muslim prison and returned to England, he finds his father slain and his home destroyed. He takes his father’s cross-necklace and swears to have revenge on the people responsible, cutting his hand with a knife as he makes the vow. What the hell? Catholicism doesn’t work that way! God asks for no sacrifice of flesh, and the whole concept of vengeance is very un-Christian. What Robin really would have done in a more accurate film is pray to the Virgin Mary for guidance and protection, and pray to God that his father’s soul has safely passed into Heaven.

On the other hand, a good story could still have used the whole blood-letting-swearing-revenge garbage as a good start for Robin’s character arc. I can see it now: Robin is trying to be a good Catholic, but is acting selfishly and missing the point. Over the course of the film, perhaps after a few thought-provoking conversations with Friar Tuck or even the Muslim, he begins to understand that there is a huge difference between selfish vengeance and Godly justice.

Of course, nothing like that happens in the film: Robin has little to no character, Friar Tuck is an idiot, and the Muslim is too busy proving that he’s the perfect man and that everyone else is a sleazeball. And, really, I disliked nearly every character in the film! The only person I did like was the Sheriff (played by the the ever-fantastic Alan Rickman), and he’s a heartless, murderous, Satan-worshiping rapist.

That’s not good story-telling, honestly. It’s fine if the villain of a story is likable, but only if the hero is too! Robin makes a load of mistakes throughout the film, idiotic choices that are great for a character arc, but he never really redeems himself by the end of the film. He storms the castle, rescues Marian, kills the Sheriff (in an admittedly cool fight scene), but none of it truly affects him.

Overall, a disappointing film, simply because it had some small promise, but overruled anything interesting by trying to appeal to a “modern” audience. Cine Beast, signing off.

Cine Beast’s Rating: 3/10

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