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Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (PG-13)
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Caution: spoilers.

Okay. This movie came out in like 1991. I honestly don't remember if I saw it in the theater or not, though I definitely had it on VHS. Which, btw, had Bryan Adams' music video for “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You,” which was a pretty huge hit at the time. I'm writing this review as I watch a DVD in 2011 (though I think this version came out in 2003). It's an extended version of the movie, so it may have scenes I've never seen before, though I suppose I wouldn't remember every single thing I did or didn't see when I watched it on VHS. Also I wanted to mention that this DVD doesn't have the music video, though it does have Bryan Adams singing the song live at a castle in Ireland. Anyway, there have been numerous versions of the Robin Hood story over the centuries, including books, stories, comics, movies, TV, whatever. And I'm familiar with some of them, though this might be the first one I saw that was particularly memorable to me. Can't say for sure if it's my favorite version, but it was pretty good. Also it seems to have taken quite a few liberties with the legends, though it's not like I necessarily know quite how the story originally went. So, whatever.

The movie starts in Jerusalem in 1194, during the third Crusade. King Richard was trying to recover the Holy Land from the Turks, and many English noblemen died in the war. We see one Englishman, Robin of Locksley (Kevin Costner), in a prison, where he's been for five years. He manages to escape, along with a Moor named Azeem (Morgan Freeman), as well as an old friend named Peter, though Peter ends up being killed, and gives Robin a ring to give to his sister Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), and asks Robin to protect her. Meanwhile, back in England, we see Robin's father (Brian Blessed) at Locksley castle, where some sort of secret society wants him to join them, though he refuses, so they kill him.

The movie then flashes forward four months. Robin returns to England, along with Azeem, who has vowed to stay with Robin until he saves his life, to repay Robin, who had saved his life. Before long, Robin encounters Guy of Gisborne, along with a group of his men, who are about to kill a boy for poaching, but Robin kills some of them to protect the boy. Guy is the cousin of the Sheriff of Nottingham (the leader of the group that killed Robin's father). Guy returns to Nottingham Castle to tell the Sheriff (Alan Rickman) of Robin's return. We also see that the Sheriff is counseled by a witch named Mortianna, who has a vision of their death, and begs the Sheriff to kill Robin and his companion.

Meanwhile, Robin and Azeem go to Robin's father's castle, where they find his father dead and the castle in ruins. His father's servant, Duncan, is still there, but his eyes had been cut out by Guy. Robin is troubled not only by his father's death and Duncan's misfortune, but by the fact that he'd never gotten to make amends with his father, with whom he'd argued before leaving on the Crusade (or as we'd later learn, even earlier than that, for reasons I won't get into). But he vows to avenge his father. He, Azeem, and Duncan go to Peter's castle, to see Marian, and tell her of Peter's fate. Marian, the cousin of King Richard, is one of the few nobles whose land hasn't been taken by Nottingham, and she does her best to help the poor folk who have suffered under the Sheriff's rule. (Marian and Robin don't exactly get along at first, though of course it's clear romance will eventually develop between them.) While they're with Marian, Guy shows up with a group of soldiers, and chases Robin, Azeem, and Duncan, who escape by hiding in Sherwood Forest, which the soldiers don't want to enter, because the woods are supposedly haunted.

While crossing through the forest, Robin gets into a fight with John Little, the leader of a group of outlaws who demand a tax of anyone crossing their river (which runs through the forest); he also happens to be the father of the boy (Wulf) whom Robin had saved from Guy's men, earlier. John (whom Robin calls “Little John”), mostly gets the best of him, but Robin wins in the end, and is accepted by the outlaws; all but one, Will Scarlett (Christian Slater). Robin wants the outlaws to fight back against the Sheriff's tyranny, but they're not warriors. Still, Robin ends up further angering the Sheriff, who exacts retribution on the peasantry, who then blame Robin (who is now being called “Robin of the Hood”). After their homes are burned, many of them (including John's wife, Fanny) have to join the outlaws in Sherwood Forest. But it doesn't take long for Robin to inspire them to action. And they start making weapons and training to use them. So, they all begin stealing from the Sheriff every chance they get, and giving to the poor.

This goes on for some months, apparently, though we see but little of it (at some point "Robin of the Hood" becomes simply "Robin Hood"). Of course, it irritates the Sheriff no end, and he keeps raising the price on Robin's head. Eventually the outlaws capture a drunken friar named Tuck, along with some gold and beer, and Tuck agrees to stay on as their minister. A bit later, two of the outlaws (Bull and Much) stop Marian and her servant, Sarah, as they're passing through the forest. (Here I'll stop and say I'd never heard of either character before this movie, though some years later I'd mention them in a collaborative online story someone else had started, which I don't remember well now, but it... was pretty complicated, and involved a mix of different fictional universes, like Sherlock Holmes and Star Wars. Anyway, I never heard of Bull anywhere but this movie, though he seemed here more important than Much. Quite a bit later, though, Much was an important character in a TV series, Robin Hood- unrelated to this movie, except for being another telling of the Robin Hood legend.) Anyway, Bull and Much bring Marian and Sarah to their hideout, when Marian demands to see Robin. He'll let Marian know that the Sheriff is planning to unite the remaining nobles against King Richard, so he can seize the throne. When she leaves, he has her take Duncan with her, and also asks that she get word to her cousin about Nottingham's plan.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff is worried that he can't pay his potential allies, since Robin and his men have stolen so much from him. Mortianna advises him to recruit Celts to fight on his side, as well as to produce his own royal heir... with Marian. There is an attack on the outlaws' camp, and many of them are killed or captured. Will, however, makes a deal to be set free, and when he later talks with Robin, we learn why he disliked Robin so much (but I won't spoil that reason). Anyway, eventually the outlaws have to stage an assault on Nottingham Castle, to stop the execution of their comrades, and to rescue Marian (who had been abducted and was being forced to marry the Sheriff). I feel like I've maybe given away too much of the plot, but I've left lots of details out, actually. And I won't say how it all ends, though it's not exactly surprising.

Anyway, there were a number of things in the movie that I found amusing, and I generally liked how the characters were written and acted. Rickman was pretty great as Nottingham, though not my favorite one ever (that'd be the Sheriff in the TV show I mentioned earlier). Of course Freeman was great as Azeem (is there such a thing as Morgan Freeman not being great?) And Slater was good as Will Scarlett (miraculously not sounding like Jack Nicholson, for once). Costner was okay as Robin Hood. Micheal McShane was good as Friar Tuck. Definitely liked Mastrantonio as Marian. What else? The battles were decent. The overall story was pretty decent. A cameo at the very end (which I won't spoil) was pretty damned cool. And I guess that's all I can think to say. The movie may have had some minor flaws, but generally I thought it was pretty fun.

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