Release Date: June 14th, 1991
Directed by: Kevin Reynolds
Written by: Pen Densham, John Watson
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Alan Rickman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Geraldine McEwan, Michael McShane, Brain Blessed, Michael Wincott, Nick Brimble, Jack Wild, Sean Connery (cameo, uncredited)
Morgan Creek Entertainment, Warner Bros., 143 Minutes (theatrical), 155 Minutes (Extended Edition)
“Locksley! I’ll cut your heart out with a spoon!” – Sheriff of Nottingham, “Then it begins.” – Robin Hood
I remember seeing this in the theater and loving the hell out of it. But I think I’ve only seen it once or twice since then and those viewings were in the ’90s. So I kind of didn’t know what to expect from it, seeing it decades later. And sure, I remembered some of the more iconic moments and lines but that’s about all I remembered.
This film starts out interesting and gives Robin Hood a neat backstory that saw him held prisoner in a dungeon in Jerusalem, far from his home in England. He is able to escape and saves the life of a Moorish warrior in the process. This warrior swears a life debt to Robin and follows him back to England.
Azeem, the Moorish character, was created just for this film but I liked the character a lot and it was cool seeing Morgan Freeman bring him to life while also getting to partake in the action heavy parts of the movie. Also, he paired up well with Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood and I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have watched these two go on further adventures.
The story is your standard Robin Hood tale for the most part but it takes some liberties, as all interpretations of the legend do. This one also pushes the romance pretty hard between Robin and Marian but honestly, it doesn’t get in the way of the action or the larger story. This version also has a witch character, who gives advice and directions to the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Alan Rickman plays the Sheriff and frankly, it’s one of his best roles. He gets some great lines in this and he came off as very formidable against Robin in their final battle. Rickman turned the role down twice but finally took it when he was told that he’d have the freedom to play the character in the way that he wanted. I think that his influence and creative decisions made the character unique and memorable and it takes a great villain to shape a great hero.
I also like that the Sheriff of Nottingham had Michael Wincott as his main henchman. I’ve dug the hell out of Wincott for as long as I can remember and he was a good addition to this cast.
I also liked Christian Slater in this even though I felt like he was a bit underutilized.
The only truly odd thing in the film is that Kevin Costner, as the legendary British hero Robin Hood, uses his American accent, as opposed to doing a British one. I guess this was decided during production, as there are some scenes where Robin sounds a bit British-y. However, the director thought that it might be too distracting and break the film. I guess the critics of the time felt the opposite, though, as they got really hung up on the American sounding Robin Hood.
While the accent didn’t bother me too much, the running time did. I just thought this was 20-30 minutes too long and there was a lot that could’ve been whittled down. Once Robin gets back to England, early on, it felt like it took awhile for the film to really get going.
I thought that the action was pretty good and the big battles were exciting and hold up well. However, the final swordfight didn’t feel swashbuckling-y enough. I think that the director wanted a more realistic fight but part of Robin’s appeal, at least to me, was his athleticism, playfulness and mastery of the sword. Furthermore, the Sheriff of Nottingham truly gets the best of Robin and the hero only wins due to a distraction and a dagger he had hidden. It just felt kind of meh and cheap.
Still, I did like seeing this again and it was an entertaining experience. Costner was fine as Robin Hood but Rickman stole every scene that they shared.