- Directed by Kevin Reynolds
- June 14, 1991 (US)
Robin of Locksley fights against the tyranny of the Sheriff of Nottingham as an outlaw.
I think it goes without saying that Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a certified classic and was so shortly after its release. It touched a chord with audiences and still does to this day. While not perfect, it managed to overcome its issues and achieve greatness.
This film has action and drama and romance and even a touch of the derring-do style escapes of older Robin Hood adventure films. This is not only a crowd pleasing film but a quality bit of moviemaking as well. It changed up the story to make it fresh yet somehow managed to not make what they ended up with feel like a complete bastardization.
The major issue with this film-and it’s one that was pointed out when the movie was in theaters-is that Kevin Costner barely speaks with a British accent in his role of Robin of Locksley. It comes and goes unevenly during the course of a scene and generally during the film. One has to wonder why they didn’t just skip him trying to use one altogether but then again Christian Slater as Will Scarlet probably would’ve had to drop his as well.
There are a great deal of non-English actors in a film about an English folk hero. We have Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Christian Slater, Michael McShane, Michael Wincott, and quite a few others I am sure sporting English accents that are not British. That just bugs me. Not from a culturally appropriate standpoint. It just feels fake when too many of them are in a scene together. You lose that authentic sound. Anywho…
That aside this is a well-crafted drama that slowly builds its story to an inevitable conclusion. It’s how one person comes back changed from war and he cannot make amends with his father whom he was basically seeking to escape by joining the Crusades. Robin is a former jerk who has seen too much conflict and comes back a changed individual. During the course of the film he has to get past the jerky image others have of him as well as learn to forgive himself in some fashion for not being a better son to his father (Brian Blessed). The reason for the rift? Robin spent years angry with his father because he dared to attempt to find love again after the death of Robin’s mother.
Will Scarlet dislikes Robin from the start and that is explained as Will being the bastard child of Robin’s father. That may work in modern sensibilities, but I have a little trouble believing that might’ve worked during Medieval times. It was a very different social structure back then and I’m not sure illegitimate children at the minimum could have remained in the area in which they were born. I would presume the family would be forced to leave town. Then again this is a work of fiction and I’m hyper analyzing that plot element.
Morgan Freeman does a fine job in the part of Azeem, a new character to the mythology, but I do wish they had gone a little more into why he was in prison at the start of the film. We heard it was over a woman, but the exact details never seem to really come to light. It just sounded like it could have been an interesting story and might’ve served to frame the character as a parallel to Robin.
Costner as Robin Hood and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Lady Marian (never used ‘Maid’ near as I could tell) have real chemistry and pull off a feeling of genuine attraction. Robin is framed as knowing her from childhood and being the type of kid that would dip her pigtails in an inkwell. For her part she for some reason she is still willing to give him a look. WHY?! He tormented you as a kid! Yet their screen chemistry makes you forget about that bit even though it is kinda important.
Marian is not necessarily a damsel in distress waiting to be rescued but rather a strong individual who when she is in the court is generally constrained by the rules of the situation. She can take care of herself and give as good as she gets.
Alan Rickman is a glorious jerk in his version of the Sheriff of Nottingham and often steals the show. He chews up every scene with his mustache twirling evil. His sheriff has a plot to get in line to the throne by marrying Marian and thus becoming de facto royalty. Interesting plan but kind of forgotten as you’re just entranced by Rickman’s performance on screen as well as the action and general acting.
In this version of the story the Sheriff consults a sorceress named Mortianna (Geraldine McEwan) who spouts a few vague prophecies which more or less allude to the end of the film. Her character could’ve gone been gone from the movie and it wouldn’t of affected things too much. Why does this story need any level of magic powers?
The finale is rather epic and rousing. Robin has to save some townsfolk and save the day and this is an exciting cap to a well-crafted film. I’m not saying the movie is perfect, but it is well done. I personally liked how Friar Tuck (Michael McShane) dealt with the corrupt Bishop of Hereford (Harold Innocent). It’s fitting and creative.
Kevin Costner’s fluctuating accent aside, the performances are all great. Robin Hood is cocky and self-assured. Marian is charming yet not a pushover for Robin’s affections. Alan Rickman, the great actor that he was, is all snarling evil. The characters are entertaining and the dialogue is well written and the script is steady paced from start to finish.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a classic bit of filmmaking. While not perfect, it is very entertaining and the film as a whole overcomes any of its flaws. This is most certainly recommended viewing!