Directed by Kevin Reynolds
Many years from now, when my children’s children ask me what movie I last saw Alan Rickman act in before he died, I’m gonna have to say this one.
Rickman was always great at playing the villain, but even a bad guy’s gotta have fun once in a while. His portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves borders on the absurd, a quality shared by many of the characters in this film. The cheerful tone and groan-inducing jokes make it easy to role your eyes at this movie, but overall I’d say it’s held up pretty well over the last quarter of a century.
Robin Hood starts out with Robin of Locksley (Kevin Costner) and Azeem (Morgan Freeman) fighting baddies in Jerusalem and returning to England from the crusades. Azeem is a Moor who owes Robin a debt because Robin saved his life, which means now he gets to put up with xenophobia from a bunch of drunk white people. Azeem accompanies Robin back to his home, which has been burned to the ground. His father was hanged for practicing witchcraft or summat. Out of the shambles stumbles Duncan, who’s had his eyes gouged out for his loyalty. Robin spends the rest of the movie supplying Duncan with meaningless tasks so that he can feel useful.
The proprietor of this blog compared the acting in the beginning of this movie to a screen test: the characters come off as experimental, containing too much of the actors themselves. It gets better as it goes along, although Kevin Costner tried about as hard at his British accent as I tried on my statistics final in college. It seems he remembered only sporadically what was being asked of him.
(By the way, Morgan Freeman’s freckles are on fleek in this movie. I heard rumblings that he shared a makeup artist with Pippi Longstocking.)
Next we meet Marian. I was impressed by the director’s progressive choice to cast a typically unattractive woman in such a prominent role… until this woman is revealed to be Sarah, Marian’s handmaiden, who is impersonating her mistress so that the real, hot Marian can sneak up behind Robin and attack him. You may remember that women are not as physically strong as men, so a little subterfuge was necessary to level the playing field. Moving on.
Essentially, it is revealed that the Sheriff has been abusing his power since King Richard left for the crusades; the Sheriff has the hots for Marian; and the Sheriff doesn’t know what ‘no’ means. The whole movie he’s commanding women—saying things like, “My room, 10:45, bring a friend!”—and it’s very unclear how much consent is involved.
While the Sheriff is busy molesting ladies-in-waiting, Robin meets up with the Lost Boys. Initially they tease him for being rich, but eventually Robin proves he can chill, so they accept him and let his Muslim friend come, too. By uniting against a common enemy, taxes, Robin and his new friends set out to make Nottingham great again. They build an Ewok village to help train and defend themselves against the Sheriff’s forces. Robin and Marian share a romantic evening. There’s a birth scene. Unfortunately, all that comes crashing down when Duncan inadvertently leads the enemy to their secret fort, resulting in flames.
Many of the gang are kidnapped, including Marian. Things get very tense because a bunch of people are on the gallows waiting to be hanged. I was really hoping that everyone would break out into “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” here, but that never happened. Maybe reading this before you watch the movie can help save you from some disappointment.
A battle ensues, and it is revealed that all of that archery training has come in handy. Robin and Azeem make it into the castle where Marian is being held. Rickman’s status of rapist versus demanding polyamor is ultimately clarified in the final fight scene, wherein he tries to force himself on Marian while a priest standing ten feet away reads out wedding vows. I think we all can agree that the 12th century in England was a weird time.
Ultimately, Azeem fulfills his obligation to Robin by helping him defeat the Sheriff, and Marian escapes without forfeiting her value as a woman. Robin and Marian are married. “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” by Bryan Adams, which has been playing subtly on pan flute throughout the latter half of the movie, becomes impossible to ignore.
And then… Guess who shows up! JUST. FUCKING. GUESS.
Although this movie is silly and at times feels dated, I thoroughly enjoyed it. There’s a wealth of quotable dialogue, and the actors are clearly having a good time. Rickman’s Sheriff is vain, ridiculous, and a lot of fun to watch. If for no other reason, watch it to enjoy an off-beat performance from a phenomenal actor who was taken from us far too soon.
This review is dedicated to the late, great Alan Rickman. Minimal thanks to the DC Public Library for providing a locked copy of the DVD.