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Warner Home Video presents
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

"I, for one, would rather die than to spend my life in hiding. The sheriff calls us outlaws, but I say we are free. And one free man defending his home is more powerful than ten hired soldiers. The Crusades taught me that. I will make you no promises save one... that if you truly believe in your hearts that you are free then I say we can win."
- Robin of Locksley (Kevin Costner)

Review By: Jesse Shanks  
Published: June 16, 2003

Stars: Kevin Costner, Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio, Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Alan Rickman, Michael Wincott
Other Stars: Nick Brimble, Michael McShane, Daniel Peacock, Geraldine McEwan, Jack Wild, Brian Blessed
Director: Kevin Reynolds

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult themes and violence)
Run Time: 02h:34m:58s
Release Date: June 10, 2003
UPC: 085392378029
Genre: adventure


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BAA A+

DVD Review

Robin Hood Prince of Thieves comes in a new two-disc DVD "Extended Version," which greatly improves on the quality of the original DVD release and adds 12 minutes of previously unseen footage. A subplot that had been deleted in the original has been re-inserted into the story: the evil Sheriff of Nottingham and the witch Mortianna have their relationship more explicitly described. Several other short sequences are included that enhance the storylines, and there is some slight re-ordering of scenes, which surely have an impact.

The tale of the outlaw who robbed the rich and gave to the poor begins in Jerusalem in the year 1194, which no doubt surprised some in the audience acquainted with previous tellings of the popular legend. In this case, Robin of Locksley (Kevin Costner) has accompanied his king to the Holy Land on the Third Crusade, and has been captured along with some of his mates. Held in a dark prison, the Englishmen are tortured until Robin and his friend are able to affect an escape. In the process, they rescue a Moor (Morgan Freeman) who is also held prisoner and who is able to guide them out of the dungeon.

Kevin Costner was reaching a new level in his career and popularity following a successful run of films that include Field of Dreams, Bull Durham and the monumental Dances with Wolves. No doubt, his presence is responsible for the financial success of Robin Hood, which grossed almost 500 million dollars worldwide at the box office. No part of this film has come under as much discussion as the accent used by Costner in portraying the legendary English hero; it is such that one cannot see anything other than Kevin Costner as Robin Hood and, unfortunately, his "aw shucks" brand of stoic heroism doesn't quite live up the grandiosity of the rest of the story, especially in scenes where he attempts to rally his troops. But still, it is really only a minor quibble and those that cannot get past it, never will.

The writers wanted to add a different and unusual element to the story and conceived of Azeem, the Moorish warrior, played by Morgan Freeman. Robin saves the Moor's life in the escape, and Azeem swears to accompany Robin until he can return the favor and save his life. There is a confidence in Freeman's performance that is such an integral part of his acting style, whether playing a big city cop or a 12th-century Moor.

Upon returning home, Robin kills some of the Sheriff of Nottingham's (Alan Rickman) men in a chance encounter, and thus becomes an outlaw. He soon discovers that his father has been killed and his land stolen, and swears revenge. Meeting up with other men with a price on their head who have been driven out of their homes, he rallies them to fight against the sheriff's tyranny. The forest settings are outstanding, and the parallel of Robin and Nottingham holds interest.

The supporting characters are quite colorful and add a great deal to the overall impact of the film. Portraying a schizophrenic Maid Marian is Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, who starts off very feisty but ends the movie frozen and hysterical, perhaps in horror at the scene-stealing sheriff as opposed to the more generously underplayed Robin. Alan Rickman as the villainous sheriff garnered good notices for his performance, mostly because it is so over the top and, it seems, because the critics enjoyed taking shots at Costner by promoting his co-stars. Sometimes, it seems that Rickman belongs more in the Mel Brooks parody, Robin Hood Men in Tights; his performance is often jarringly unlike the rest of the film. However, it is reasonably acceptable and is certainly part of what makes Robin Hood Prince of Thieves what it is. Christian Slater makes for an angry Will Scarlett, adding some interesting subtext in his unexpected relationship to the hero. Unfortunately, Slater received a Razzie nomination for Worst Supporting Actor, joining Costner, who won for Worst Actor.

A small part is Much the Miller's Son, one of the band of forestmen, played by Jack Wild. An actor best known for portraying the Artful Dodger (with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar® nod) in the award-winning musical version of Oliver! from 1968 and Jimmy on the H.R. Pufnstuff children's show in the 70s. Look for a cameo by very popular star as King Richard near the end of the film.

There are some great action sequences in this film that contains no postproduction computer generated effects. There are many other quite laudable aspects including many fine supporting performances, fantastic sets and costuming. The film score is singular and very enjoyable, although the saccharin quality of the song (Everything I Do I Do It) For You can be wearying after a time. Overall, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves is an enjoyable film despite the nitpick list (the occasional continuity lapses and some questionable historical accuracy). Combine that with a high quality DVD release and you have a recommended purchase for someone who enjoys rollicking medieval adventure.


Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Robin Hood Prince of Thieves is presented in a beautiful widescreen 1.85:1 presentation that is almost flawless. Certainly for the home theater enthusiast, this will be a "must have" disc for it excellent technical quality. The colors are rich and crisp in widely varying settings including dungeon, castle, church and forest. Fleshtones are excellent and the lighting job is showed off to great advantage.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Surround are both present and are both potent sound transfers. Producer John Watson notes that the sound tapestry is deeper on this film than most, with extra surround attention paid in its original theatrical release. There is indeed excellent attention paid in placing sound in the stereo spectrum and the ambient effects are very nicely conceived.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 46 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring American Outlaws, Ace Ventura, The In Crowd, Chill Factor, Juwanna Mann, True Romance
6 TV Spots/Teasers
Production Notes
Isolated Music Score with remote access
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Commentary One: Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Writer/Producer Pen Densham and Co-Writer/Producer John Watson. Commentary Two: Kevin Costner and Director Kevin Reynolds.
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Weapons of the Time Gallery
  2. Photo Gallery
  3. Cast Interviews
Extras Review: Robin Hood Prince of Thieves includes a set of extras that rivals releases from The Criterion Collection. Disc One includes two feature-length commentaries with the film and Disc Two is chock full of Robin Hood historical info and promotional material about the film.

Commentary by actors Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman and writer/producers Pen Densham and John Watson

Densham and Watson do most of the talking and provide quite a bit of amusing information about the development of the script and other details of the production but, as is typical for long commentaries, there is quite a bit of stating of the obvious and backslapping. Obviously proud of their accomplishment, the writers take the opportunity to lash back at some of the harsh critics who have negatively portrayed the historical accuracy of the film. Freeman provides a few interesting nuggets of information and Slater adds quite a bit about his codpiece and other Will Scarlett issues (from which he is still recovering).

Commentary by actor Kevin Costner and director Kevin Reynolds

Both the director and his star admit to not having seen the film in ten years and they have obvious pleasure in watching their efforts. The uninhibited quality of their banter and frank discussion of the technical and thematic aspects of the film is very intriguing. Many of the issues that critics raised with the film are addressed either directly or in a roundabout way.

Robin Hood: The Man, The Myth, The Legend (31m:49s): Hosted by Pierce Brosnan, this documentary does a nice job of recapitulating historical information about Robin Hood and tying it to the production of Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Inteviews are conducted with movie principals, Robin Hood historians and real people who live in modern day Nottingham, to provide a well-rounded depiction of the legendary story.

Bryan Adams (Everything I Do I Do It) For You: Live from Slane Castle (4m:14s): Video of a live performance of the hit song. Not much to be said, since you either love it or you don't. A song that went on to become one of the biggest selling singles of all time and was a Golden Globe and Oscar® nominee for Best Song. The song also won a Grammy as Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television.

Interviews:

Interview segments for One on One with the lead actors recorded at the time of the film's release.

Kevin Costner (4m:18s)
Morgan Freeman (4m:22s)
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (3m:42s)
Christian Slater (3m:42s)
Alan Rickman(3m:12s)

Essays

Interseting textual essays that address several questions about the production and add some background information.

The Legend of Robin Hood
Robin Hood in the Movies
Why Tell the Story Again
Creating 12th-Century England

Trailer and TV Spots

The original trailer is interesting in that it shows no dialogue by the stars. Three promotional TV spots in 30-second and 10-second versions are provided.

Photo Gallery has 112 photos featuring movie stills and production shots. Unfortunately, presented in a smallish frame that makes it seem like one is peeking through a peephole to see them.

Biographies/Filmographies

A very decent set of biographies and filmographies for the film principals.

Kevin Costner
Morgan Freeman
Christian Slater
Alan Rickman
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Michael Kamen
Pen Densham and John Watson
Kevin Reynolds

Weapons of Sherwood Forest

Pictorial and text descriptions of the various weapons used in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, including the sword, scimitar, bow, crossbow and axe.

Michael Kamen's Score in 5.1 Surround

Very listenable remastering of Kamen's score in surround sound. Nice background music for cleaning the house or some other activities.

Overture and a Prisoner of the Crusades
Sir Guy of Gisbourne and the Escape to Sherwood
Little John and the Band in the Forest
The Sheriff and his Witch
Maid Marian
Training: Robin Hood Prince of Thieves
Marian at the Waterfall
The Abduction and the FinalBattle at the Gallows


Extras Grade: A+

 

Final Comments

Very successful in theatrical release as a re-imagination of the outlaw's legend, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves makes a great DVD release, with extra footage and a quiver full of extras. Despite its flaws, this film will light up the home theater with its crisp digital visuals and outstanding sound design.

 


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