Skip to main content

MMYIF: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

My Misspent Youth In Films...

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Directed by: Kevin Reynolds
Starring: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Released: June 14, 1991

When Robin and his Moorish companion come to England and the tyranny of the Sheriff of Nottingham, he decides to fight back as an outlaw.

What I Thought Then

I thought it was one of the best interpretations of Robin Hood that I'd ever seen. Way better than that one with the animals. And much more serious.

What I Think Now

This is Kevin Costner at the peak of his career. Field of Dreams and The Untouchables were behind him. The apocalyptic miscalculations of Waterworld and The Postman were still in the future. He'd just come off directing and starring in the awards darling Dances with Wolves, and here he was teaming up with his old friend/director Kevin Reynolds to make a reinterpretation of Robin Hood that focused on a "poor little rich kid discovers social justice" angle instead of just being a traditional carefree adventurer. Which is certainly a take. It's far from the most embarrassing take on the material, but it's still something. Robin of Locksley returns from the Crusades a broken man with Moorish sidekick Azeem in tow (Morgan Freeman, and how quaint to see movies from a time when Muslims were considered exotic curiosities as opposed to terrorist threats) only to find his father murdered and Nottinghamshire terrorized by an oppressive sheriff (Alan Rickman, who is by far the most watchable thing in this whole picture). He meets up with some version of his merry men, including Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet and Little John, and courts the lovely Maid Marian. Hijinks (and explosions) ensue!

And you know what? I still like it. I liked it more than I expected to, honestly. It was a box office success for a reason--the movie's a lot of fun. The action beats play pretty well. The cinematography is a bit over-dramatic--there's a lot of fish-eye lens business going on--but it does manage to get the drama across. The production design is fantastic. It's got a lot going for it. The script is... meh. It works narratively, but everyone speaks in platitudes and grand declarations. This makes the conversations come across as unnatural, but on the other hand it makes for a film that's chock-full of quotable lines. I had a girlfriend in high school who loved to recite the "Why a spoon, cousin?" / "Because it's dull, you twit, it will hurt more" exchange. I find myself occasionally quoting the witch Mortianna who, after Nottingham throws a temper tantrum, dryly responds "Something vexes thee?"

Casting is hit-or-miss. Costner's very much out of his depth. He's a good actor with no shortage of on-screen charm, but there's so much latent Americana woven into his DNA that he feels supremely out of place in Merry-Olde-England. I mean, there's a reason he keeps making movies about baseball. He and Reynolds never agreed on what to do with his accent, and in the final product it's fairly inconsistent but mostly just distractingly wrong--although having seen him in Thirteen Days, attempting an accent might actually have made matters worse. Morgan Freeman, similarly, is a compelling presence, but you'd never mistake him for a Turk. Christian Slater's Will Scarlet is also a bit distracting, especially since he's sporting 90s hair-drapes. The rest of the cast is solid, though. Rickman's a treat, as is Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Maid Marian. Michael Wincott chews scenery as a lieutenant bad guy. Friar Tuck and Little John are wonderful, and just over-the-top enough. And of course that cameo from Sean Connery is a crowd-pleaser (speaking of misplaced accents).

The special effects are mostly practical and look pretty good, but there's an effects shot from the point of view of an arrow that made it's way into most of the trailers and it's kinda laughable by modern standards. Setting aside the miscast leads, the thing that's aged the worst is the finale, in which Nottingham's protracted attempt at raping Marian is half played for laughs. So that's a little cringey. The second cringiest part is the Bryan Adams music video that plays over the credits. Not that it's a bad song or anything, but it sets a bar for cheesy-movie-tie-in-songs that would not be matched until My Heart Will Go On.


If you can get past the bizarre casting choices, it's a fun ride. And, for the curious, the DVD I have of this film is an "extended cut" that includes extra Satanism and a secret parent sub-plot. Good times!

Tune in next week to see the rock-a-who?...

In My Misspent Youth In Films, Kurt is going through the movies he grew up on. Read the explainer or see more posts.


Popular posts from this blog

On Getting Laser Eyes

Last week I got Lasik. I was looking forward to not having to deal with glasses getting smudged by my kids or slipping off my face. I figured that not needing them would be pretty convenient. However, the words I heard over and over from other people who'd already done it were: "life-changing." That seemed to be overstating a bit. Convenient, yes, but life-changing? I didn't get it. I get it now. I've had some kind of vision correction, either glasses or contacts, for the last thirty-odd years, which is nearly as far back as I can remember. And what I hadn't realized was the extent to which this had become part of my identity. It's not that I thought glasses were cool because I wore them--although I did and they are. It's that the ability to see was, for me, artificial and temporary. And my vision was pretty bad, so my natural state was one of... not so much "blindness" as "isolation." There was a layer of vagueness that sat bet

100 Album: "Game Of Thrones Season 3 Soundtrack" by Ramin Djawadi

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the  explainer  or view  the master list . Artist:  Ramin Djawadi Title:   Game Of Thrones, Season 3 Soundtrack Released:  2013 Genre:  DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh He's not as big a name as Hans Zimmer or John Williams or the various Newmans out there, but Ramin Djawadi is easily the most interesting composer working in television right now (with due respect to Bear McCreary). Soundtracks, especially television soundtracks because they're produced so quickly, have a tendency to serve more as a wall of atmosphere than anything else. But Djawadi's work here and on Westworld  has generated some amazing musical themes. There's a strong undercurrent of leitmotif informing the way the music flows together and the themes those motifs are built around are damned  catchy--which you know if you got the joke in the genre description above. While all of the soundtracks for GoT  are very listenable, this is m

100 Albums: "Fashion Nugget" by Cake

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the  explainer  or view  the master list . Artist:  Cake Title:   Fashion Nugget Released:  1996 Genre:  lo-fi indie alt-rock There was a summer when I was in college that I spent every spare minute playing Super Bomber Man  on the SNES and listening to Cake's Fashion Nugget  (and one other album that I will get to shortly). Cake broke in the late era of grunge with The Distance , a--ahem--driving song about a man racing to get back to his love, or something like that. The metaphor was unclear, but the song was catchy as hell. They followed it up with a cover of I Will Survive  that was much more indicative of Cake's sound: lo-fi vintage guitar, a lead trumpet, John McCrea's deadpan just-off-rhythm singing and sarcastic lyrics, and Victor Damiani's frenetic bass-playing. Fashion Nugget  was independently produced under the ethos of "if you can't make it sound clean, make it sound dirty in an interesti