Tuesday, June 14, 2016
ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES
(June 1991, U.S.)
This film was released on June 14, 1991 - exactly twenty-five years ago! Just another one of my many blog coincidences that probably means nothing to anyone else but me because I'm the one that notices it and points it out. Such is life.
Twenty-five years! Wow! I was younger then and the movies were better! That particular summer of 1991, however, was probably my strongest in terms of moviegoing attendance. It's not an exaggeration when I tell you that I think I literally saw just about everything that was released on screen that summer; from the greats like BACKDRAFT, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, CITY SLICKERS and WHAT ABOUT BOB? to the pretty good like SOAPDISH, JUNGLE FEVER and DEAD AGAIN to the downright awful like LIFE STINKS and MOBSTERS. I think it was because I not only had a great girlfriend that summer (thanks, Daniela!), but I was also seeing my friends a lot more at night. That often meant movies, some titles more than once, including Kevin Costner's take on Robin Hood.
But let's stop to take a moment and reflect on the character first. Like Dracula and Hamlet, Robin Hood is one of those literary legends that has been done time and time again and by more actors than I can keep up with. Whether you prefer a man like Errol Flynn, Sean Connery, Patrick Bergin, Russell Crowe or even Cary Elwes in Mel Brooks' 1993 Robin Hood spoof, would likely depend on your own generation's appreciations for the cinema's specific interpretation of each release. Personally, I'll take this little guy over all others...
(Yikes and away!!!)
So I suppose the first question that comes to mind is how well one can appreciate Kevin Costner as Robin Hood. On the one hand, this was a period of his career between THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987) and JFK (1991) when the man could seemingly do no wrong, so the film was bound to be a success. On the other hand, one has to ask if dear Kevin is too damn pretty or even just too damn American to play the classic English folk hero. Well, I suppose if British actor Anthony Hopkins could effectively play Richard Nixon, then anything is possible on the big screen. At a time when CGI was still getting itself off the ground, ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES offers the romantic adventure of a familiar tale in a visual spirit that could easily be compared to Stanley Kubrick's SPARTACUS (1960), but on a significantly smaller scale. Certainly, Kevin Costner as Robin Hood offers a stronger degree of darkness, seriousness, violence, depression and far less camp than Errol Flynn did in Michael Curtiz's classic film (interestingly, though, there are moments of Michael Kamen's musical score that may remind one of that 1938 film). The darkness is actually what makes this film most attractive as an epic summer blockbuster; not just in its heroes, but in its villains, too, particularly that of the of the Sheriff of Nottingham (played by the late Alan Rickman) and his cousin Guy of Gisborne (played by Michael Wincott) who seem to take great pleasure in the pure evil of their roles, which is good for a film like this, of course.
While action, adventure and violent conflict are strong and played out well to the point of predictable fun (not necessarily for young children, though), it's actually the human story of Robin Hood's relationship with not only the men who are outlaws in Sherwood Forrest, but also with his love interest Marian (played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) and his loyal friend Azeem (played by Morgan Freeman), a Moore who's life was saved by Robin and who now owes Robin a life debt, to be paid when Azeem deems worthy. Robin is a man of courage who can fight to the death with a blade of steel, indeed, but he's a human being who thinks, who feels and who hurts when the appropriate time call for it. These emotional redeeming qualities are perhaps the answer to my original question of what makes an actor like Kevin Costner qualified to play Robin Hood. Costner, love him or not, never fails to bring pure and sincere emotion to all his roles (even to the movies that aren't that good). I mean, let's face it - WATERWORLD (same director Kevin Reynolds) might have been a whole lot worse than it was had it starred someone else - or better, up to you). Perhaps we should also consider that in a modern world where civil rights, religious freedom, feminism and economic equality are constantly under fire, maybe it's a legendary folk hero like Robin Hood who can make us all open our eyes and take notice of what's right and what's wrong. We just need to get past the fact that Costner makes no attempt at an English accent (good or bad, you decide). In the end, more than anything else, ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES is pure fun right to the very end, especially when Sean Connery (he played an aged Robin Hood in 1976's ROBIN AND MARIAN) makes his uncredited cameo appearance as King Richard. I love that!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Will Scarlett (after launching Robin and Azzem over the wall): "Fuck me, he cleared it!"
Did the word 'fuck' exist back in the Middle Ages??