A tale of 2 Robin’s

By Michael Vass | May 25, 2010

I was speaking with a friend the other day about movies these days. Of course the recent revision of Robin Hood came up. My friend thought it was a fantastic film, I found it good but hardly worthy of the hype.

One immediate thing that should be taken into account is the age difference of my friend and I. He is 25, I am 42. He does not watch black & white films, or anything made after 1980 in general. He has no idea who John Wayne, Humphery Bogart, Cary Grant, Sidney Poitier or a host of other actors are. When he compares the Russell Crowe version of Robin Hood, it’s to Kevin Costner’s fiasco.

I on the other hand am a fan of older films. I love films from the 30′s , 50′s, and on. I can think of probably a dozen or more great actors that have no comparable quality actor today. I can recall many of the original version of films that are revisioned badly these days. When I compare Robin Hood, ala Crowe, it’s to Errol Flynn.

That all said, which is the best version of Robin Hood – Crowe or Flynn? I say Erroll Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Here are a list of reasons:

  • The Merry Men are actually merry, as opposed to drunken, beligerent, horny, opportunists (Crowe version).
  • Robin Hood was actually a Lord and a good man, as opposed to a common thief (he stole the clothes and name of a knight – Crowe’s version), and con man (he tricks people out of money with a medieval 3 card monte game – Crowe version)
  • Flynn’s version is bright and colorful and energetic, Crowe’s version is dank, damp, gray-toned, and generally dirty.
  • Flynn looks more natural and deadly with an English Long Bow and/or Sword
  • Basil Rathbone is a far superior bad guy as Sir Guy of Gisbourne
  • Melville Cooper is a far more interesting and comical Sheriff of Nottingham
  • Alan Hale’s Little John could beat Kevin Durand’s Little John with his pinky
  • Olivia de Havilland is a Maid Marian that looks beautiful and like someone men would fight over
  • The Errol Flynn version makes far more sense, and is far more heroic
  • So what does the Russell Crowe version have that is better?

  • A big battle scene
  • more scenes with horses
  • more political analogies
  • France looks weak (not hard to do since they haven’t won a battle since Napoleon)
  • As stated above, more dirt
  • Thus my friend was lead to ask

    “IF the Russell Crowe version is so bad why did it make $191 million?”

    It’s a great question. The most honest answer is because it has the title Robin Hood. The name alone drives people to theaters. Second, it does have good fight scenes. Third, many women like Russell Crowe’s looks. That’s about it, in that order.

    In fact, if Russell Crowe had not changed the name of the film (from Nottingham) or had made it something like Knight’s Return (which would have been far more accurate) the film would have made half the money it has. Most of the money is coming from overseas as is. The $66 million in the U.S. alone is good, but hardly stellar.

    The 1938 version of Robin Hood is the definitive Robin Hood. Every version since is compared to it. Every actor taking on the role is comparesd to Errol Flynn. That is a sign of greatness, of hitting the mark perfectly. Crowe’s version, like Costner’s is just another attempt to make some money of the legend from a generation to young to have seen a better version for free. There seems to be a new version of Robin Hood every 15 years or so. This time Hollywood planned ahead, and set up the story so that the inevitiable sequel will be the real story everyone wants to see. But I doubt it will fare any better, perhaps even worse.

    A film being old does not make it a classic, just as a new revision does not make a film great. Most films are lucky to be considered in the top of the year they were made. A small few get to be remembered as the best in a decade. A rare few are films that can hold their appeal over time, and are a standard that other films of their genre are judged by. The Adventures of Robin Hood is that film, Russell Crowe’s version is the first.

    So I will finish with what I told my friend. Whether you see Russel Crowe’s version or not, see the Errol Flynn version. I dare you to say that even without CGI, blood, gore, and overt sexuality that you did not enjoy the film. If you do see the Crowe version, I dare you to explain how his revision is better than Flynn.

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