Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) – Review

3 Stars

Kevin Costner is Robin Hood in this dark and somewhat depressing tale that is both a film of its time and years ahead of it. Forgoing any sense of joy or light sources this revisionist take on the man who lives in Sherwood Forest is enjoyable on its base level and the performances, namely Alan Rickman’s Sheriff make up for the rough patches in the screenplay. Turning its back on the wonderful Errol Flynn film 1939s The Adventures of Robin Hood, Costner’s version is more akin to the rebooted Batman Begins in tone and atmosphere. Aspiring to expose the pain and witchcraft elements of the source material is a progressive idea (especially in 1991) that both benefits and hinders the film on several occasions.

The ethically diverse cast featuring an American as arguably the most iconic English character is just the beginning. Sean Connery a well publicized Scotsman plays the King of England and Morgan Freeman is shoehorned in as the only man of color in the otherwise monochromatic proceedings. However every lead is able to deliver and other than Costner’s wavering accent the level of talent involved makes this critic wish the actors had been given a better script to work with. Maybe the original drafts by screenwriter Pen Densham were a bit more streamlined but it its present state the story is a mess. Filled with subplots that are underdeveloped and confused.The Inclusion of a witch that serves as an oracle to the Sheriff of Nottingham is just one of the many characters trotted onscreen and left hanging in movie that is far more interested in blowing things up. On that level it’s competent a lot of thins go boom and rather impressively.

The last hour of the film features two nicely staged action set-pieces. The first is a raid on Robin’s forest hideout by a group of mercenary warriors and the second is the storming of the castle to rescue Maid Marian from the clutches of the evil Sheriff. These sequences are effective and deliver the goods. My biggest problem with the film is its overall glum tone and the murky cluttered cinematography by Douglas Milsome. This is one of the ugliest films to be released by a major studio during the era. Director Kevin Reynolds (Fandango, Waterworld) would return to this territory in the similarly-themed Trsitan & Isolde with greater results. However this Robin Hood is a noble attempt at re-envisioning an established character while taking many artistic freedoms. Its a concept that drives many critically lauded filmmakers to take a crack at Superhero movies in the 21st century.

Special Edition DVD – 2 Stars – This extended Edition includes 15 minutes of footage previously unavailable. The scenes have been reinserted into the film creating a totally different viewing experience. I believe the footage is unnecessary and slows the film down. Take for instance a scene in the final act in which the Sheriff confronts his oracle, this lengthy (5 minutes) sequence is talky and unnecessary to the overall plot and brings the picture to a standstill just when it should be mounting excitement on the way to its climax. The Special Edition is nothing special at all. The picture quality was shoddy and in several instances black lines were visible, presumably from a bad print. I hope they cleaned up the image for the Blu-ray release.

Director: Kevin Reynolds
Stars: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio,

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