Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Robin Hood (2010) - A Review
I finally got around to watching the film about the legendary outlaw Robin Hood that was made in 2010 and famously starred Russell Crowe. I say “finally” because my lovely other half hoards DVDs. There’s no other word for it; she has shedloads of the buggers and we don’t have a shed. The down side is that there are loads in the spaces that I think should be for books. The up side is that she will get stuff that I would hold off from but that I might be interested in seeing, so there’s something when, if I’m feeling particularly tired, depressed or ill, to view. Normally I don’t review films. I prefer to either blog about more personal subjects (see my other blog Peripatetic Pyneosaurus for this) or stick to things that might be quite a bit more fact-based than anything coming out of Hollywood. However, as with most of my interests, this movie has a little bit of strange stuff going on.
Where to start? The beginning? That will have to do. The legend that has been accepted in this day and age (for as with many things, it has changed through time) is that Robin is a Saxon nobleman who has fallen foul of King John and has taken to Sherwood Forest, waging a guerrilla war against the King’s local representative, the Sherriff of Nottingham. This ends when King Richard 1st returns from the Crusades, pardons Robin, who marries Maid Marian and lives happily ever after. What’s the first change? The film is now centred on the First Baron’sWar. I have a shameful admission to make here. I never did much history at school and, to my knowledge, never covered this very important event in Great British history, so full marks to Ridley Scott for drawing to my attention to this event when no-one else ever did. In this alternative legend, Richard dies besieging a French castle (which we know he really did) and Robin Longstride, an archer in the King’s army, takes over the identity of the King’s friend and confidante Robert Loxley. He returns to England and, with Loxley’s father’s consent, replaces Robert. The northern barons are fed up with the way King John treats them so they back him into a corner to sign the Magna Carta (or at the very least some sort of predecessor charter). Prince Louis of France has an agent in England who is conspiring to subjugate England to the French throne. John is persuaded to join forces with the Barons, who by now include Robin) to repel an imminent French invasion. Unbeknownst to Robin, Marian has disguised herself as a knight and has brought along some of the children that run wild in Sherwood Forest to fight alongside the English troops. Robin wins the day; King John is livid that someone else attracts the approval of the Barons and, therefore, outlaws him. Marian and Robin go to ground with the feral boys in Sherwood. It is at this point that the film ends and the legend begins – according to Ridley Scott, anyway.
Where to carry on? I, for one, really could not stomach the ‘Wild Boys’ in Sherwood Forest. It smacked hugely of Peter Pan to me; a strange and completely inappropriate interpolation. It was neither needed nor enhanced the story. Possibly it was some kind of attempt to appeal to the kiddies, but it felt odd to say the least. However, whilst browsing in search of some kind of sense to this, one theme at least caught my eye, of which more later.
The next issue to jump out at me was Robin’s father, who was a stonemason and espoused individual freedom and democracy. He also seemed to be the author of the Magna Carta and was supported by the Barons. It did not require the largest of mental leaps to link a mason with powerful support to a suggestion by the film’s makers of Freemasonry. One American mason even heard Thomas Longstride (Robin’s father) speaking in a Scottish accent. I replayed our copy and could not verify this, though. The relevance of this is that some of the earliest documents relating to Freemasonry tell of lodges in Scotland, thus making it the probable cradle of Freemasonic movements all over the world. Another point of note is that Thomas only practices one bit of stone-laying in the whole film. The supposed departure from the stone mason’s guilds to the freemasonry of today (more of this in yet another blog) is that there were, on the one hand, actual stone carving artisans and speculative masons on the other, who were gentry and certainly did not get their hands dirty touching stone and who were the antecedents of the Freemasons as opposed to what was, in effect, a mediæval trade union. Thomas’s actions, or lack of them, seem to back this up.
Then there was the historically verifiable closeness of King Richard 1st to the Knights Templar who, whilst there is no evidence of a direct connection, have been claimed by some Freemasons as forebears. There is even the example that Robert of Sablé, who had been a vassal of the Lionheart, became Grand Master at least partly by the recommendation of the king; such was his connection to the Order.
So, we have some quite singular stuff going on. Robin took to the woods to pursue men’s freedom, which was a cause inherited from his Masonic father and backed up by the barons, plus back-handed references to King Richard and the Knights Templar. So, Robin the Master Mason? Are Ridley Scott and/or Russell Crowe on the square, then? What also fascinates me is that no mainstream review that I have been able to find has mentioned any of this at all. I do not claim a conspiracy, although it is interesting. It is probably down to the fact that stuff like this is below the radar with most people.
To round things off, I personally rather liked the gritty, muddy “realism” and the lack of Lincoln Green and those little camp hats with feathers in, although I am a huge fan of the Errol Flynn film. The action was riveting and the tale generally twisted, turned and moved on at a decent pace. Those kids, though. They got my back up. One theory has it, though, that Robin was not also the second Freemason but that the children represented orphaned boys of World War 1. In the USA, a Mason called Frank S Land noticed how many of these boys there were without mentors. The organisation that he started was known as the Order of de Molay, after the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay. Thus, in leading the children, Robin fulfils another rôle of the Mason as a guiding light (such a strong Masonic theme that there are lodges named after it). Sorry, kids, you were there for a reason all along!