“Robin Hood” review

blind-side1

There are few modern directors with as keen an eye to staging action sequences or better yet, human drama, than Ridley Scott. The mans pedrigee encompasses such fantastic films as “Blade Runner”, “Black Hawk Down”, “Alien”, and “Kingdom of Heaven”. As these films prove, he is a master at telling a story with interesting, fleshed-out characters, and yet balances these perfectly with large-scale action sequences. It’s unfortunate that his newest effort, the $237-million-budgeted “Robin Hood” is a massive disappointment.

Starring Russell Crowe in the titular role, “Robin Hood” is a prime example of a film that quite simply, under-uses all its good elements. “Robin Hood” rounds up a fantastic cast: Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, not to mention Crowe himself. But it condemns each of these fantastic actors to uninteresting, one-dimensional roles. The movie somehow finds a way to make Robin Hood an uninteresting, dull character. The film is being sold as Robin Hood’s origin story, but seeing as Robin Hood has no personality to speak of in the film, the film just feels like some people came up with an action period epic, then decided to randomly name the character “Robin Hood”. This is by far the most unsatisfactory and disappointing aspect of the film, as he is an enduring, fascinating character of folklore.

It drops our ol’ reliable protaganist Robin Hood into the middle of a confusing, middling plot that encompasses many, many characters and their own individual subplots. However, considering that none of the characters are interesting or distinctive, we don’t really care about any of the plots and are subsequently very bored throughout the film, aside from the battle sequences.

On that topic, the action sequences in this film (rare as they are) are very well-choreographed and visually striking, however due to the fact that we haven’t emotionally invested in the characters, and the plot is somewhat incomprehensible, they mean nothing to us, other than for a brief “Oh, cool!” moment.

As I stated earlier, the film wastes its great cast. Cate Blanchett, one of the great actresses of our time, is reduced to 30-ish minutes of being a love interest, and an uninteresting one at that. Mark Strong plays his second villain role within the last month (he also portrayed the bad guy in “Kick-Ass”) and is really…boring here. We are aware of his character’s motivations, but once again falls victim to poor characterizations and even worse dialogue.

“Robin Hood” isn’t a horrendously bad film, but in no way can it be called good either. Instead, we get a film where when it should be “Wow!”, instead we get a resounding “Meh” throughout the film. And sometimes, an underwhelming film can be worse than a bad one. One of the most disappointing Hollywood blockbusters in a very long time.

15

“Iron Man 2″ review

blind-side

Two years ago, Robert Downey Jr. surprised us all. Turning a great performance in the first “Iron Man”, he turned a sub-par comic book hero into a vibrant, interesting movie character that ultimately, greatly boosted the quality of that film. Well, two years after that, “Iron Man 2″ is out, and I must say: It’s better than the first. Yes, the plot here is a total mess. Yes, this film introduces many new characters and gives only a few of them satisfying conclusions by the film’s end. Yes, the plot-lines are quite messy and often come out of nowhere. And yet, somehow, the film overcomes all these faults and goes on to be quite simply, Hollywood entertainment at its finest.

You’ve most likely seen the first, but I’ll refresh you on the plot: Billionaire arms dealer Tony Stark has invented a suit that can fly, shoot rockets, and looks rather cool to boot, calling himself “Iron Man”. With this suit he fights world crime, and when he releases his identity as Iron Man it results in a wave of publicity. With this sequel, several new plotlines are added, including a Russian inventor who wants revenge on the Stark family, a new assistant to Tony who moonlights as a secret agent, and a plotline where the very device that keeps the Iron Man suit powered is beginning to fatally poison Tony’s blood.

The thing about the “Iron Man” films that I admire so much is that whilst most films these days design the big, flashy action sequences first and work the plot around the action, in “Iron Man” the action feels like a natural extension to the story. The action, although used sparingly, is really quite great: Two scenes in particular stand out, a scene set in a Monaco drag-race and the 30-minute climax. They are inventive, engaging, and best of all make sense within the context of the plot.

The best thing about “Iron Man 2″ is without a doubt, the dialogue. In most blockbusters, the worst aspect is often hearing the characters converse with one another. In this movie you relish it: Fast-paced and witty most of the time, but also menacing and even tender when the plot calls for it. Once again, Robert Downey Jr. is great in this film, perhaps better than he was in the first film due to the improved dialogue. The cast is amazing in this film. Sam Rockwell plays a snotty rival arms dealer to Tony, and probably gets the best dialogue in the film: He’s great. Mickey Rourke plays the villain, Whiplash, and I would think from the trailer that he would be laughably bad in this film, but he’s actually quite great. Gwyneth Paltrow returns as Tony Stark’s assistant Pepper Potts, and once again has great chemistry with Downey Jr. As I said earlier, the plot is a total mess. Several storylines swirl about in this film, some more interesting than others, and yet we are so entertained throughout the film that we simply don’t care. At least, that’s the case for me.

Overall, “Iron Man 2″ is a total blast. The action is great and actually (take note, filmmakers of America) makes sense. The dialogue is quite literally a pleasure to even listen to, and the characters are actually quite well-developed throughout. This is what blockbusters should be like, and it gives me some solace that for every “Transformers 2″ or “2012″ we have a film as good as “Iron Man 2″.

351