[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=4743&w=l[/img]Title: Robin Hood
Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max Von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Brian Helgeland
Studio: Universal Pictures
Runtime: 156 min
Release Date: 9/21/2010 (Blu-Ray)
Synopsis: (4 out of 5)
Video: (4.5 out of 5)
Audio: (5 out of 5)
Extras: (4 out of 5)
Overall: (4.5 out of 5)
A story that has been told many times in a plethora of films, Robin Hood is no stranger to the silver screen. In Ridley Scott's adaptation of the story, Robin Longstride is an archer in King Richard the Lionheart's army, battling his way home from the crusades in northwestern France. In the returning army's final engagement in their 10 year crusade, they are attacking a local castle in an attempt to plunder what wealth they can before returning to England. King Richard is shot by a defender and dies from his wounds, leaving his army confused and without direction. Robin and his friends Little John (Kevin Durand), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes), and Allan A'Dayle decide to flee while the opportunity presents itself. Along the way the foursome hear a nearby battle - the King's knights who are carrying his crown back to England have been ambushed by a traitor, Godfrey (Mark Strong) who is a childhood friend of Prince John and trusted confidant, despite his loyalty to France. Robin and his friends attack the Frenchmen and kill all but Godfrey and his right hand man, who flee.
Upon their arrival at the scene of the battle Robin's band discovers a dying knight, Sir Robert Loxley, who begs Robin to take his sword back to his father in Nottingham and deliver the crown to England as his final request. Robin acquiesces, discovering a map in Loxley's possession indicating that a ship will be expecting the knights on the coast. Robin and his band dress as knights and mount their horses, making all possible haste to the coast. The band is able to board the ship in their knight's armor and begin the voyage back to England. Robin is woken up the following morning by an adviser to the king, informing him of the appropriate behavior when in the presence of the queen mother. Robin is completely unprepared to hear they will dock at the palace rather than on the coast - he rushes back inside to inform his band that they had best be ready to run if the need arises.
Upon their arrival Robin (in the guise of Loxley) gives the queen mother the fallen King's crown, staying on his knees as she declares Prince John the King of England. Robin is asked by the newly crowned King who he is, and he identifies himself as Robert Loxley. The King is about to reward Robin with a ring when he declares that Loxley's father owes taxes to the crown, and that no gift shall be given while there is a debt to be paid. Robin and his band make a swift escape from the castle and ride hard for Nottingham, stopping only briefly for rest. Robin rides into Nottingham the next day and makes for the manor, where he is guided inside by Lady Marion (Blanchett). She introduces him to Loxley's father Sir Walter Loxley who while blind, has a keen mind. Loxley accepts the sword and asks Robin his real name, which Robin reveals. The ailing baron notes the name with some surprise and invites Robin to stay (in the guise of Sir Robert) - explaining that his imminent death will result in no heir for his holdings. If Robin is able to masquerade as Sir Robert the estate can be passed to him and Lady Marion can continue to look after the townsfolk.
Over the course of time Robin is able to begin helping the deprived peasants of Nottingham, first by stealing back their grain that was to be given to the Church. His actions begin to endear him to Marion and a romance begins to flower. Marion admits to Robin that she and Robert were married only a week before he left on King Richard's crusade. While Robin is getting used to life in Nottingham, Godfrey has met with King Philip of France and is planning to betray King John in leading a French invasion. Godfrey leads a large mass of French soldiers to an English camp where they massacre the English and steal their uniforms. Dressed as the King's soldiers the French company travels northward, razing towns and killing civilians as they go. Godfrey is orchestrating a civil war and only a unified England can turn the tide. When powerful lords still loyal to Richard's ideals discover that Frenchmen have landed they race to inform Sir Walter. Under Walter's guidance Robin must soon discover his heritage and grow into the hero he will one day become if he is to save England.
Robin Hood is rated PG-13 for violence including intense sequences of warfare and some sexual content. This is a fairly safe movie to watch as a family, though you should be aware that there is a non-graphic scene where Prince John has a woman in his bed, no nudity is present but the content remains suggestive none the less.
Robin Hood comes to Blu-Ray with an MPEG-4 AVC encode that is impressive in both detail and overall quality. The video presentation is rich in detail right from the opening credits and is sure to impress even the most particular videophile. While there are two night scenes in the film where blacks aren't quite infinite this appears to be related to the light of a real fire next to the actors and in my opinion are not worth deducting from the quality. Contrast throughout is excellent with a rich color palette (the forest scenes are particularly striking) and incredible levels of detail, right down to the individual hairs on Crowe's face. The transfer is free of any digital manipulation or noticeable artifacts and has an exceptionally natural look. Make no mistake, this is a great looking disc that would score an easy 5.0 (Reference Quality) if it wasn't for such minor gripes.
Unlike the video in this film I can thankfully report that there is nothing worth nitpicking in the stellar DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that accompanies the film. The sound design uses constant low level activity in the surround channels and the result is a completely immersive medieval world. The sound effects used are excellent, ranging from birds and wildlife to the clang of armor and swords. Even less noticeable sounds like the creak and groan of a well worn wagon as it moves along a cart path are entirely believable and have beautiful texture. Voices are exceptionally clear and have a completely natural timbre and presentation which combines perfectly with the understated delivery of the musical score. While the score fits the film perfectly, it doesn't distract you from the film - it only adds to the already impressive atmospherics that the sound design creates. This is truly a reference quality soundtrack, featuring exceptional dynamic range and stunning spatial queues. Battle scenes are sure to impress those addicted to loud noises with their frantic and multi-layered sound-fields all pushed along by a substantial amount of LFE content. When the film does include LFE, it does it very well - just keep in mind that if you buy films purely for bass you may be a little disappointed. I give this audio track a reference seal because of the whole package, and not just the amount of low end content that's present.
Director's Notebook (Theatrical Cut Only): Showcases a lot of Scott's original design for scenes and a lot of background information.
Deleted Scenes (HD; 13:06) Several deleted scenes which failed to make the director's cut. Editor Pietro Scalia's also gives some excellent commentary as to why these scenes were cut.
Rise and Rise Again (SD; 1:02:41) - A making of featurette that is quite informative though unfortunately in standard definition.
Art of Nottingham: Storyboards, Production Design, Costumes, and Behind-the-Scenes.
While many critics have literally tripped over one another to defecate on the quality of this film, I personally found it to be extremely enjoyable. Robin Hood is an entirely different take of the legend (and in a sense, a real origin story) that has great performances from Crowe, Blanchett and many of the supporting cast. Scott's unique visual style and muted color tones in some scenes give the film a decidedly medieval feel and the result is a completely immersive experience. Though the Director's Cut is nearly three hours long I found myself completely interested from start to finish, and in many ways found the way the story was told more enjoyable than the other Robin Hood films of recent memory. This is a classy, polished production with set design, audio design and cinematography that will impress you regardless of your enjoyment of the story. Near reference quality video, a stellar reference quality audio mix and a truly interesting story kept me happily in my theater for close to three hours, and I think you'll find the same. Highly recommended.