Monday, July 19, 2010

ramble: I love Robin Hood, film edition

I love Robin Hood. I love the hazy green bliss of Sherwood, the sounding of the hunting horn, the camaraderie and adventure and starry-eyed idealism. I love sly Will Scarlett and loyal Little John and brilliant Maid Marian and witty Alan-a-Dale and wicked Guy of Gisbourne and all the side-characters unique to one version of the tale or another. And most of all, I love wry, brave Robin himself. I love the man and I love the legend and I love the retellings.

I've loved it all since I was little. I collect Robin Hood books (up to nearly thirty now), from picture books to scholarly works to novels (a post for another time). I've attended academic sessions and panels on the history and myth of the dashing outlaw. I've learned archery because of my love of the hooded man (and though I've never split an arrow myself, I've seen friends accomplish the feat!).

Oh, Robin, you scoundrel. The things you've made me do!

And, unsurprisingly, I'll watch any and every Robin Hood movie and TV version. While I certainly haven't seen them all (or even close to all; just search for Robin Hood on IMDb! good god!), I've seen a respectable number. Here's a brief overview of the standouts, both good and bad. Oo-de-lally! Let's go to Sherwood!

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

One of the classics, with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Dashing and charming. This portrayal really shaped my vision of Robin.

Robin Hood (1973)

Everyone's seen this Disney animated version, even those who don't know anything about Robin Hood. And surely everyone loves it. It's perfectly wonderful. Foxy little Robin and Marian! The anthropomorphic characters could not suit the tale better. And who could forget Sir Hiss? And the songs--especially "Oo-de-lally"?

Robin and Marian (1976)

This movie is such a disappointment. Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn as Robin and Marian sounds absolutely wonderful, but it's wretched. It's not that I mind seeing older, jaded, tired versions of our heroes--it's that Sean Connery's portrayal is simply not Robin Hood. Too brusque, too thoughtless, too presumptuous, and treats Marian with no respect. None of that is Robin at any age. I would like to forget this exists.

Robin of Sherwood (1984-1986)

This three-season TV series is my favourite portrayal of the Robin Hood story. Nothing will ever supersede it in my heart. We get two versions of the hooded man, following the two major threads of the legend: the yeoman outlaw (Michael Praed as Robin of Loxley) and the noble outlaw (Jason Connery as Robert of Huntingdon). They're both breathtakingly gorgeous and absolutely marvellous. The whole show is enchanting, from its blending of Celtic mythology with medieval Christian magic to its powerful and moving storylines. Nothing is forgotten.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Another disappointment. Kevin Costner's portrayal is another that is not Robin. Even the awesome cast (Morgan Freeman, Alan Rickman, Christian Slater!) can't rescue this for me. There are moments I enjoy, but overall this movie's got far too much empty action and not enough mystique or depth to the worldbuilding to be a true retelling of the legend. Leaves me cold.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

I love this movie (and Cary Elwes!) so much. Anyone who enjoys weird humour in the Monty Python vein [full disclosure: I laugh so hard at Monty Python that I make myself ill] loves this, Hood-fans or not. There is so much hilarity: the praying mantis! the portcullis with the garage-door opener! the chastity belt! So tasteless. So hilarious.

The Princess of Thieves (2001)

In this movie is another washed-up, worn-out Robin, but this one I love and want to root for. And this is the movie that made me a Keira Knightley fan! She had the spunky heroine thing down even at sixteen years old, here playing Robin's daughter, Gwyn. And Stephen Moyer [sigh] is in this! Yes, perhaps I am more charmed by the cast than by the story, but they absolutely nailed a light-hearted take on the legend and made daydreaming teenagers like me very very happy.

Robin Hood (2006-2009)

This three-season BBC series is a very close second to Robin of Sherwood. Very close. The two aren't really comparable, though; this one is a total rollicking romp that plays with the story in delightful ways. The cast is stellar (in particular, Richard Armitage as Guy [sigh] and Lucy Griffiths as Marian) and the characters are magnetic, each one eliciting love and hatred sometimes within the same episode. Strong and emotional--the most vibrant Robin Hood I've ever seen, and I adore it.

Robin Hood (2010)

And I haven't seen this yet! Though I like Russell Crowe and love Cate Blanchett, they don't fit my Hood-vision right off. But I am super excited to see it anyway: there's always room in my heart for more Robin.

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