Robin Hood is one of the most famous folklore heroes of all time, and the first rhymes and stories about the noble outlaw go as far back as the 14th century. He is typically known as a follower of King Richard II, the Lionheart, and his enemies are the Sheriff of Nottingham and the ambitious Prince John. In time Robin Hood had a whole gang behind him with names as famous as his, like Little John, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, and Maid Marian. In most tales he chose to rob from the rich to give to the poor, fighting the greed of the upper classes with his bow, and over the past few centuries this story has been told over and over again.
The first Robin Hood film was in 1912, a silent film starring Robert Frazer, and since then there have been various updated films, television shows, video games, and even stage plays. In 2007 development started on a new version of the mythos, and there were rumors they wanted to tell the story from the point of view of the Sheriff of Nottingham. This would make the Sheriff the good guy and paint Robin Hood as a criminal instead. Director Ridley Scott decided he didn't like the script and switched it back to Robin as the traditional hero, with Russell Crowe in the starring role.
In the film, Robin is a commoner fighing for King Richard and he and his friends decide to desert when Richard dies in battle. They come across a plot done by the King of France, whose agent Godfrey (Mark Strong) intended to kill the King on his way back to England. Instead they kill his right hand man Robin Locksley and try to steal the crown, but Robin comes upon them and takes the crown back instead. He poses as Locksley to safely get back to England, but once there he feels honor bound to return Locksley's family sword home and to carry the news of his death to his father. Meanwhile Godfrey the traitor manages to persuade his friend John (Oscar Isaac) - now the King - to show force and allow him to take taxes from the people. This leads him to turn the people against the new King, raiding their villages and clearing the path for France to just walk into a country in disarray and take over. Robin gets to know Locksley's widow Marian (Cate Blanchett) and learns about his past, but can he save the country from itself?
Obviously this is a slightly twisted version of the classic tale, since several things are changed both from the historical truth and from the traditional facts. Usually Robin is Locksley and doesn't steal the title, and he's known Marian for years. Often Richard is alive and being held for ransom so Robin is partly stealing money to get his King back and save the people from Prince John. There is nothing wrong with trying to put a new spin on an old tale, but on the other hand, if the story already works and is beloved by many, why mess with it? This film is very familiar and similar to the style and story of other Ridley Scott movies like Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven. One man, an incredible warrior, becomes a reluctant leader and inspires hundreds, struggles with father-son issues, and has complicated feelings for a strong minded woman.
For fans of both Scott and Crowe, this movie will probably be just more of what they love, but fans of the original tale might not like the changes that were made. Whether or not it was necessary to make a new Robin Hood, there is one coming out on May 14th, so get your hoods and medieval garb on.