The legend of the 12th-century nobleman who became an outlaw to help the oppressed and support his king is one of the most popular sagas in folk history, complete with a charismatic hero, a depraved villain, a beautiful woman, an intriguing group of supporting characters, heir-raising battle scenes and a colorful setting.
It is believed there actually was a young rebel who helped stage a peasant uprising in 12th-century England, one of the first successful populist rebellions in history. Robin Hood was reputed to be the kingdom's finest archer at a time when archery was at its peak as a sport and a tool of war. The first written versions were not recorded until nearly 200 years after he lived. In the interim, Robin Hood the man was transformed into Robin Hood, the swashbuckling myth.
From the earliest filmed versions, through Errol Flynn in green tights in the classic 1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood, to Sean Connery as an aging Robin opposite Audrey Hepburn in the 1976 Robin and Marian, the legend of Robin Hood has been a compelling subject for motion pictures, which has been reinterpreted continually over the years.
The 1991 Version
Imprisoned in Jerusalem during the Crusades, Robin (Kevin Costner) escapes and returns home to England. He finds his father killed and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman - Die Hard) attempting to take over the Kingdom from crusading King Richard. Robin and his companion, Azeem (Morgan Freeman) take refuge in Sherwood Forest. There, he meets up with a band of thieves and quickly appoints himself their leader. The renegade group live like The Swiss Gamily Robinson complete with water wheels, tree houses and homemade weapons. Robin helps hone their fighting skills and they begin stealing from noblemen and sharing their booty with the poor. The more they steal, the more the Sheriff raises the bounty on Robin's head.
We've had the dark side of Batman, now we are treated to the dark side of Robin Hood. Instead of a lush and green Sherwood Forest, this is s dark and foreboding place. The castle is murky and dim. Costner is an appealing, youthful Robin, but he doesn't possess the swashbuckling charisma of Errol Flynn. Morgan Freeman spouts wise sayings and acts as Robin's protector. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio makes a beautiful Maid Marian, delicate looking, but able to wield a sword with the best of them. But it's Rickman who steals the show, he gets to rant and rave and has all the best lines.
The battle scenes in the forest and at the castle are filled with fire (thanks to the introduction of gunpowder by Azeem) and excitement. The (PG-13) rating is well deserved. The sword play and blood are plentiful, there are amputations and a disturbing rape attempt while a priest is performing a ceremony over the couple. For older kids and adults, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a well made exciting bit of derring-do.
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