Thursday, May 13, 2010

Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves: Hoo Boy

It was with no small amount of nostalgia that I pulled up Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves on my Netflix instant watch. I knew the film’s reputation hadn’t exactly aged well. But I had fond memories of watching the film on our Library’s increasingly worn VHS copy. Memories of getting caught up in the hype of the film, and playing with a Kevin Costner Happy Meal Toy (See also Hook).

I didn’t expect the movie to be great. But after all I’m a big fan of Reynold’s underrated swashbuckler The Count Of Monte Cristo. Perhaps, I thought, Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves will have aged into an enjoyable, light example of pre CGI blockbuster filmmaking. Did It? Oh sweet Christ no.

There are a few things to be said for the much maligned Prince Of Thieves, so lets get them out of the way.

1) Michael Kamen delivers a rousing score, which has earned its place as a trailer cue for for seemingly all eternity.

2) Say what you will about Reynold’s as a director, but he has an eye for composition and choreography. As a result some of the film’s set pieces are interesting to watch as examples of geography, such as the battle between The Merry Men and The Celts. Interesting on a technical if never on a narrative level.

3) Alan Rickman and Michael Wincott seem to be having a hell of a lot of fun. (Is it a mark of 90’s filmmaking that only the villains ever seem to participate in this particular past time?)

And that’s about it. What’s bad about the film? Just about everything else. Let’s start with the man in the center. What can you say about Kevin Costner? Its so easy to forget how big he was. How likable he was. Go back and revisit Silverado some time. He has the live wire energy, and raw charisma of a born movie star. No endless depressing litany of vanity projects, CGI hairlines, and ill thought out post apocalyptic joy rides can rob him of that.

Still Costner’s best roles, thrive on his very Americaness. Whether as the boyscout straight Elliot Ness, the passionate Jim Garrison, or even his tired cowboy in Open Range (underrated). Costner at his best represents the reincarnation of Gary Cooper. Which is why having him play England’s greatest folk hero is a very very very very very bad idea. I mean what the fuck?

It doesn’t matter that Christian Slater, apparently cast so Costner would look less anachronistic, acts worse then Costne. He still looks very bad.

The entire movie screams of bad 90’s filmmaking, from the bizarre casting of Mary Elizibeth Monstrantonio as Maid Marian (what was Penelope Ann Miller busy that weekend?). To the tokenism of Morgan Freeman hanging out in 11th century England (though it is kind of refreshing to see an unabashedly pro Muslim figure in a mainstream Hollywood film). The fact that the movie feels stage bound despite being shot mostly on location (Dover Cliffs look great, but other then that the film might have been shot in my backyard). To the tie in theme song by Bryan Adams which serves as that last cherry of shittiness, Atop this Sunday of suck.

Everything about the movie is a misstep. From the bizarre Monty Pythonesque make up, design, and tenor of the supporting cast (“How do you know he’s the King?” “Cause He doesn’t have shit all over him.”) To the bizarre subplot involving The Sheriff Of Nottingham’s Satan worshipping, Albino, Witch step mother (Only in the 90’s)

In short, Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves is an ill conceived, stagy, disaster. If you have any affection for this film do yourself a favor and leave it in the warm forgiving bosom of nostalgia. There’s nothing to do with it now but gape at it in horror.


Unknown said...

"To the bizarre subplot involving The Sheriff Of Nottingham’s Satan worshipping, Albino, Witch step mother (Only in the 90’s)"

hah! For a minute there, I thought it was Kevin Reynolds' homage to THE EVIL DEAD. I half expected the witch to yell out at one point, "I'll swallow your soul!" and for Bruce Campbell to magically appear and take her out with a shotgun. Ah, if only...

Yeah, this film has not aged well at all. As you say, the bad guys are easily the best thing about this film with Rickman in particularly looking like he's having a blast gleefully chewing up the scenery. At least when he's on-screen it distracts you from how bad the rest of the film is.

As for Costner, I agree that he's at his best when he's playing that idealized image of an American - BULL DURHAM is still my fave film of his. I also love how Clint Eastwood twisted our expectations of Costner in A PERFECT WORLD.

Bryce Wilson said...

If only JD.

Rickman really is having a blast. The man actually gets to cancel Christmas in this one.

AE said...

Your headline for this post made me laugh out loud. I am happy to leave this movie nestled safe in the bosom of nostalgia. It was one of the last movies my parents took me to see, and we all hated it.

Unknown said...

I dunno what to say!
This was the 1st movie I had seen at a theatre as a kid.
I can't get myself to hate it. I guess I have a blind spot for this one.

J.J. said...

Im anxiously waiting for this film to finish downloading. I'm not sure what this guy is talking about, from what I remember this is the best Robin Hood movie ever made. And if you think the newer snooze-fest starring Russel Crowe is better you are no longer my friend. Trying to sit through that crapfest was the very reason I went searching for Prince of Thieves. The cast, in my opinion, is great all the way around. I'm not saying this is a cinematic masterpiece, but as far as Robin Hood goes, this is about as good as it gets.