Every generation has its own version of Robin Hood. Douglas Fairbanks donned the tights with pride in the early 1920s, followed by a dashing Errol Flynn with a feather in his cap in the 1930s and Richard Greene in the long-running 1950s TV series.
Disney cast a wily fox as Robin in the splendid 1973 animated version before Michael Praed then Jason Connery portrayed ‘the hooded man’ in the popular ITV series Robin Of Sherwood.
More recently, Kevin Costner flexed his bow to Bryan Adams’s (Everything I Do) I Do It For You and Jonas Armstrong sexed up the Saturday night schedule on BBC One as the eponymous crusader.
With each new incarnation, the mythology has been embellished and any historical veracity sacrificed at the altar of artistic licence.
Director Ridley Scott and leading man Russell Crowe reunite for a thunderous new opening chapter in the legend of the 12th century folk hero.
Shot with Scott’s typical bombast, this Robin Hood juxtaposes spectacular battle scenes with romantic interludes, political intrigue and melancholic flashbacks, all set to Marc Treitenfeld’s rumbustious score.
It’s unabashedly macho and predictable with an inevitable battle cry for Crowe to rally the troops into action: Gladiarcher, if you will.
Richard The Lionheart (Danny Huston) is slain on the battlefield by the Norman invaders.
Fearless archer Robin Longstride (Crowe) and his friends Little John (Kevin Durand), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes) and Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle) head back to England.
In order to secure safe passage back home, Robin poses as slain knight Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge) and continues the ruse with the dead man’s wife, Marion (Cate Blanchett), in order that she clings on to the family estate once ruled by the now blind and decrepit Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow).
Over time, Robin falls in love with Marion but any chances of an enduring romance are threatened by double-crossing Godfrey (Mark Strong).
Meanwhile, in London, Prince John (Oscar Isaac) seizes the throne but quickly makes enemies of adviser William Marshal (William Hurt) and his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Eileen Atkins).
Robin Hood is a lively jaunt through Plantagenet history, incorporating the familiar figures of Friar Tuck (Mark Addy) and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen).
Crowe’s accent roams the British Isles depending on who he is acting opposite, which is distracting, but Blanchett is luminous with an unshakeable Nottingham burr, which adds warmth to some choice lines of dialogue.
Strong doesn’t overplay his villain, hissing all of the usual orders to kill Robin, with flecks of humour courtesy of the soon-to-be-Merry Men and Addy’s man of the mead-soaked cloth.
Screenwriter Brian Helgeland ends with Robin and co exiled in the forest, accompanied by the title card ‘and so the legend begins’.
If Scott’s film hits the bull’s-eye at the box office, you can be sure that Robin and Marion will ride again in a sequel.
STAR RATING: ***