Not gonna lie, I love this movie despite all its flaws and issues. I don’t care who knows it. When this movie came out I was just getting into fantasy novels, Dungeons and Dragons, and already had a love of history. I also had fond memories of both the classic Errol Flynn, and Disney versions of the story. I actually had the story book record for the Disney version, which included a lot of the voices and music from the animated film, and used to listen to it on the fancy wooden cabinet record player my grandparents had in the family room. Released in 1991, this was the first theatrical release of a Robin Hood film since the year I was born (Robin and Marian, 1976, Connery and Hepburn) so I was beyond excited to see it when it came out.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a period drama released in 1991, and starring Kevin Costner (an American playing a Brit), Morgan Freeman (an American playing a moor), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (an American playing a Brit), Christian Slater (an American with perfect hair playing a Brit), and Alan Rickman just being damn amazing. Honestly, the fact that most of the cast was not even British didn’t matter to me at the time, and really doesn’t now. They are actors after all. The fact that Rickman overshadowed them all kind of made up for it as well. It’s not the only thing I noticed that’s wrong with the movie, and even knowing what I know now, my recent viewing of the film was still a lot of fun and nostalgia.
Speaking of the acting, Rickman is always fantastic. Freeman, as usual, was also wonderful. I could watch any movie with those two in it, and be a happy man. Hell, I could listen to either of them read a cook book and I’d enjoy it. Costner is the real oddity here. Costner doesn’t look like the traditional idea of a leading man, and he’s certainly not that great of an actor at this stage, but he managed to land some huge roles around this time that sort of cemented his place in cinema. Especially period pieces. That’s not to say he’s a bad actor, but let’s be honest, if it weren’t for the movies he was in no one would remember him from this time. He does, however, have a certain kind of charm that only he seems to have. There are parts of this movie where he’s very good, but it’s not consistent. From what I understand part of that was due to directing, and disagreements over the delivery and whether an accent should be used or not. Now, he is one of those actors who has become so much better with age. The Costner we see in Yellowstone is miles apart from his early days in Dances with Wolves, Robin Hood, and Waterworld.
Other wonderful characters were found in the form of Guy of Gisborne, played by the quintessential 90s villain actor Michael Wincott. His scenes with Rickman are some of the movie’s best. Little John, played by Nick Brimble adds much needed humor, and good chemistry to the group. But Friar Tuck (Michael McShane) is probably my favorite minor character in the movie. When he’s singing at the top of his lungs while the troops are trying to move quietly through Sherwood I can’t help but laugh. He’s one of those characters who was perfectly cast, and while not key to the entire plot, he adds something that would be lacking with any other performance.
Without a doubt, the late Alan Rickman made this movie what it is. Bad costuming, misplaced cultures, and lack of accents aside, this movie would be nothing without our good Sheriff. Rickman is over the top in this movie, and it was perfect. Every scene was an exercise in just how low, how slimy, and how repugnant this character could be. And did you notice the rug he was wearing? Julie hadn’t noticed that before. He delivers some of the most iconic lines in a style that only he can, and I believe every future iteration of Nottingham will be measured against his performance.
One of the best lines, however, has got to be Azeem (Freeman) talking to the little girl in the forest about his skin. A lot of modern writers could learn something here I think. The girl asks, “Did God Paint you?” to which he responds, “For certain.” When she asks why he says, “Because Allah loves wonderous varieties.” There’s no browbeating the audience about diversity. No ham-fisted sermons. A simple, touching moment between a young mind and a part of the world she has never experienced.
To someone who loves history, it’s best not to delve too deeply into things like costuming, technology, and culture. When I watched this in 91, it did stoke a love for all things medieval, but for me that turned into a desire to learn more. For quite a few it just turned into ‘knowledge’ they believed they now possessed and stored for future reference. Despite that, it is a very good movie to look at. the costume and set design teams went all out. The fashion, while very out of place and time, was fantastic. The celts…also out of place and time, were not so much. But honestly, as Robin Hood is mostly a legend, a fantastical character in history, perhaps it is an unintended homage to the fact that he is also out of place and time in just about every story we see of him.
Capping off the movie is the spectacular score. It is one of those few movie scores that is instantly recognizable for me. Could be because it is one of the few that I’ve owned, and listened to over and over again. It also helped that at the time I was in the marching and concert band in school, and we played a couple songs off of it. Even if you don’t like the movie, I can’t believe anyone would take issue with the music. So, check out this movie if you haven’t seen it in awhile, or at all. If it’s before your time, trust me, I still think you would enjoy it.