This week's must-see DVD/BD, and why we're lovin' it.
What? Robin Hood
Who? Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, William Hurt, Kevin Durand and Max von Sydow
Why? Ever since director Ridley Scott and his male muse Russell Crowe struck box office gold and won Oscar glory with 2000's Gladiator, audiences have been hungry for a worthy follow-up. Now, for their fifth collaboration, the pair have finally delivered the goods by again mixing historical drama with Scott-style action.
Archer Robin Longstride (Crowe) and his three soldier comrades—Allan A'Dayle (Alan Doyle), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes) and Little John (Kevin Durand)—long to return home after King Richard the Lionheart falls in battle during the Third Crusade. Robin and his Merry Men steal the armor of slain knights and return to England under the guise of noblemen to witness the coronation of the pompous King John (Oscar Isaac), who had sent a henchman, Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong), to assassinate Richard. What the new king doesn't realize is that Godfrey is an agent of the French king and is plotting with the French to conquer England. Meanwhile, Robin has kept his word to a dying knight and returned the knight's sword to his father (Max Von Sydow) in Nottingham. There Robin falls in love with the knight's resilient widow, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett), just before the French invade England's southern coast. After the climatic beach battle, Robin retreats into Sherwood Forest with his Merry Men and Lady Marion after being declared an outlaw, and thus the legend of Robin Hood begins.
This origin story of Robin Hood takes place before he and his Merry Men were stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, so fans eager for that story will have to wait until the sequel, if it happens. Even so, you have to appreciate the scope of Scott's vision—the director can be seen in the extras closely inspecting up to 11 screens of action taking place at the same time as he films this grand epic that uses actual locations and huge sets instead of being filled up with CG-generated scenery. Many Robin Hoods have appeared on-screen over the years, but none have been as manly as our favorite former gladiator, and co-star Durand as Little John ups the testosterone level even more. Blanchett balances out all the scruffiness as a strong-willed and lovely distraction for Crowe even if their characters' relationship seems a little random and rushed to be believed. Still, if you're looking for a little R & R (Russell and Ridley), this is easily their most satisfying collaboration since Gladiator
What Else? Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain deleted scenes and the comprehensive "Rise and Rise Again: Making Ridley Scott's Robin Hood. You'll want to check out: Exclusive to Blu-ray is an interactive picture-in-picture "Director's Notebook" feature with Scott and "The Art of Nottingham" that can be accessed while watching the movie.