I’m not sure what frequent collaborators Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe are trying to do with this origin story — offer a revisionist take on the legend, launch a historical franchise — but I do know what they’ve produced: an oddly inert, overly plotted take on the English legend.
We first meet Robin Longstride (Crowe) on the battlefields of France, a disillusioned archer in King Richard’s army who is battling his way home from the Crusades. Meanwhile — this is a movie with a lot of meanwhiles — Richard’s brother John (Oscar Isaac, predictably foppish) plots to steal the throne, relying on a traitor (Mark Strong) who has his own scheme in the works with the French. Meanwhile (I told you), back in Nottingham, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett) is struggling to govern her village, given that most of the men have been lost to war and the king’s tax collectors continue to increase their demands. Robin arrives posing as her lost husband (that involves a meanwhile I’ll spare you), which is where things begin to get vaguely familiar.
All of these parallel narratives are poorly paced and clumsily edited, so that you feel as if you’re watching a condensed miniseries rather than a feature film. The disjointedness even seeps into the action sequences, which are usually Scott’s forte. Here it’s the usual battlefield hustle and bustle. Stick with 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood.