The Ridley Scott Robin Hood movie comes out today, and in celebration I’ve invited Jennifer Lynn Jordan, blogtress of the blog Per Omnia Saecula, to come by for a special two-blog edition of her blog’s recurring feature Bad Medieval Movies. Today, we’ll be looking at the 1991 be-coloned Kevin Costner Robin Hood, AKA Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. On the off chance that the name Bad Medieval Movies isn’t self-evident, let me turn it over to JLJ for a little explanation:
Per Omnia Saecula: Hi there, people. As you probably know, Hollywood loves making Bad Medieval Movies. So last summer I started making fun of them, to the approbation of most and the extreme irritation of some internet pedants. Then a while ago, Carl invited me to do it here with him. That’s pretty much it. And now that we’re all on the same page, let’s get this thing started.
Got Medieval: What the hell is this crap, Jenn? I thought you said we’d be watching Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, not William the Conqueror: Prince of… Conquerors.
POS: First, you realize we’re not actually watching the movie right now, right? We’re writing about a movie we’ve both already seen. This isn’t MST3K.
GM: And you realize that were not actually talking to each other in real time and that we’ve been emailing this post back and forth and editing it for a while now? So if we’re going to be playing pretend anyway, why can’t I pretend like I’ve never seen it before now?
POS: You can’t. No one who has ever seen this movie can pretend they haven’t. I know, I tried. Like, eight years of therapy tried. You’ve watched it. You can’t unwatch it.
GM: Fine. For the record, I was only pretending I was pretending.
POS: Is it always this meta around here?
GM: More or less, yeah.
POS: Alright, I’ll play your game, you rogue. Yes, we are “watching” Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and for some reason it begins with a montage of images from the Bayeux Tapestry.
GM: As the explanatory setting note will tell us soon,* the movie begins in Jerusalem, 1194 A.D., but the Bayeux Tapestry commemorates the Battle of Hastings, of 1066. It’d be like opening a movie about two streetwise New York Cops in present day NYC with a montage of grainy celluloid shots of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
POS: Or like opening Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with daguerreotypes of Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison.
GM: Two street-smart president cops, one only days from retirement, the other a loose cannon who plays by his own rules. Tippecanoe this, motherfu–
POS: Language! And focus. At this rate we’ll never get to Kevin Costner’s waterfall scene.
GM: Au contraire. We’re already there! Look in the upper right margin of the screen cap. It’s an embroidered naked guy’s ass. Deliberate foreshadowing?
POS: I’m constantly surprised, impressed, and disturbed by your skills at perceiving marginal butts from a great distance. You should try it with your hands tied behind your back and one eye closed.
GM: So, the movie starts with Robin as a Crusader prisoner of war–
POS: Who looks like the “It’s” man from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
GM: –who randomly decides to save the life of the film’s Token Moor, Morgan Freeman as Azeem–
POS: (whose entire character arc is based on made-up Islamic law)
GM: –who follows Robin home to England, where they land at the white cliffs of Dover and walk all the way to Nottingham in one night.
POS: It should be common knowledge at this point that Costner’s every move is aided by a flight of angels, who barely allow his feet to touch the ground. He can walk most places in one night.
GM: But before they get back, Costner’s dad, Brian Blessed–
POS: You mean BRIAN BLESSED!!!*****
GM: Yes, BRIAN BLESSED!!!!!, the original large ham. In a surprisingly muted role by his standards. He only shouts like a third of his lines.
POS: So Robin’s dad is just chilling in Castle Locksley******* writing a loving letter asking some noble for news of his son in a painstakingly rendered authentic medieval hand. I believe it’s called “Lucida Caligraphy pt. 12.”
GM: But before he can send the letter, the KKK shows up and kills him, led by Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham in an Eyes Wide Shut mask that he apparently had made just so that he could terrorize Locksley in style.
POS: Rickman is so delightfully evil. He throws hissy fits, he exploits women, he consults the Dark Arts! He has a PERM IN THE MIDDLE AGES!
GM: Dark arts were behind that perm.
POS: For sure. Dark Arts he would later defend against at Hogwarts. Perms are really insidious.
GM: He sure does a lot in this movie. He kills people with dull spoons (because it’ll hurt more!), he casually rapes various servant girls, he cancels Christmas–
POS: He invented the digital wristwatch, he killed JR, and he wrote Twilight. He’s a mess of evil.
GM: A hot pagan mess, but basically the best thing about the movie.
POS: By far. He’s the real star of the film–no, wait, his HAIR is the real star of the film. That perm! And isn’t it significant that when Robin defeats him in the final battle, he has to cut off a lock of that perm first?
GM: Never thought of it. I always thought it was some pathetic tortured pun on Robin of LOCKsley.
POS: No, it’s his lifeforce! The secret to all his powers! That, or his exposed chest.
GM: I didn’t notice the chest. When was it exposed?
POS: All. The. Time. Most explicitly in his first scene, when he’s storming around being lecherous and greedy and war-mongering. Right before seeing Mortianna.
GM: And this chest… it’s appealing?
POS: When compared to Costner’s wares, absolutely. Snape has got it going on.
GM: I’ll take your word on that. So, are we done talking about Rickman now?
POS: Almost. OMG RICKMAN I WANT YER BABIES. That is all.
GM: What the hell is this?
POS: Don’t be coy. That’s the foreshadowed ass you were talking about earlier. It’s only fair, to move from my obsession to yours.
GM: I’m not obsessed with Kevin Costner’s ass. It’s just the real real star of the film, that’s all. It had its own agent, got its own trailer on the set, riders in its contract about the bottled water and hemorrhoid creams acceptable in its trailer, the whole nine yards. But we were–before you started squeeing like a school girl–relating the plot. What does this ass have to do with the plot?
POS: Well, after a little altercation with Guy of Gisborne, the Sherrif’s extra-growly cousin, Robin finds out everything from his father’s trusty servant Duncan, who was blinded and left to die by Rickman’s KKK boys, and goes to flirt with his childhood friend Marian, then he ends up in the woods and for no readily apparent reason gets made king of the Merry Men who are already living there, and then Marian goes looking for him and finds him swimming by a waterfall. And enter Costner’s ass, stage right.
GM: I think that’s stage left.
POS: Whatever. The important thing is that the fast-paced action grinds to a halt so that we can stare at Marian and her maid staring at Costner with barely controlled desire.
GM: It’s very feminist. Inversion of Hollywood’s “male gaze” and all that.
POS: Does the fact that he seems to have been tanning in his bicycle shorts add to the feminism?
GM: Bicycle shorts are very feminist. There’s an entire chapter on them in Our Bodies, Ourselves. And check this segue out: I’ll bet Azeem invented them.
POS: You want us to talk about the anachronisms now, I take it?
GM: Why not? I carefully screen-capped this shot of Costner standing in front of a glorious Die Hard-esque explosion, so we’d might as well use it. It wasn’t easy, I might add. There’s basically one frame here where Costner looks kind of cool, and the rest of the time he looks like a doughy pasty-skinned doofus.
POS: I applaud your devotion to glamor shotting Kevin Costner. I’m sure his agent appreciates all your work.
GM: Forget Costner and his glorious, glorious ass for just a second. I want to talk about how much crap Azeem or his Muslim relatives invented.
POS: Telescopes, gunpowder, quick-recovery emergency forest c-sections like the one they must’ve given Little John’s wife…
GM: The Sheriff of Nottingham’s digital watch.
POS: We keep coming back to this…
GM: It’s the most famous line in the film, isn’t it? After the bit about the spoon. The Sheriff points at one terrorized, weeping peasant girl and says “You, my room, 10:30 tonight.” Then to another: “You, 10:45, and bring a friend.”
POS: Oh, how I love a good rape joke.
GM: I guess all medieval movies have to figure out a way to work in an explosion somehow, and that’s hard since the Middle Ages were noticeably short on explosions. Enter the helpful Arab with secret Muslim recipes for napalm, gunpowder, and/or unmanned Predator drones.
POS: Usually it’s just the gunpowder though.
GM: Gunpowder is Hollywood’s famous anachronism, it’s true. Just once I’d like to see someone who tries to invent gunpowder in a period piece just plain fail. Or better yet try to invent, say, a toaster and succeed.
“What sort of demon magic have you wrought now, Moor?”
“Why, this device will allow you to select the darkness of your toast.”
“Dark toast, demon Moor? Toast ought to be lily white, like the ass of our fair leader, Robin of Locksley.”
“Allah, in his wisdom, allows for many shades of toasted bread.”
POS: Aaaaand scene.
You’ve reached the end of this part of the Bad Medieval Movie review, but fear not, there’s more! Please redirect your browsers to Per Omnia Saecula for the thrilling conclusion.
*POS: I thought you hadn’t seen the movie. How do you know what the note’s going to say?**
**GM: Holy crap–who gave you access to the footnote machine?***
***POS: You think you’re the only one with an asterisk on their keyboard?****
****GM: Fine, fine, go ahead, footnote away. But you have to use daggers.†
†POS: Daggers are cooler anyway.
*****GM: You know, this would work better if you would stop interrupting me.††
††POS: If you don’t want to be interrupted, stop ending your sentences with two hyphens and sending them to me with space left for me to interject and instructions to do so.******
******GM: Give a girl a little meta…
*******GM: Played admirably by Wardour Castle, which, coincidentally, would’ve probably been within walking distance of Dover. I’d keep adding helpful footnotes, as is my usual wont, but we wasted a lot of asterisk there with that exchange.