Case Number 02998

ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES: SPECIAL EDITION

Warner Bros. // 1991 // 155 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // June 16th, 2003

The Charge

For the good of all men, and the love of one woman, he fought to uphold justice by breaking the law.

Opening Statement

Remember the days when Kevin Costner commanded the big screen? During the late 1980s and early '90s, Costner was one of the most popular leading men in film. Costner's career peaked with the sweeping success of Dances With Wolves, a drama that garnered him Best Director and Best Picture Oscars, as well as numerous other accolades and awards. One year later Costner would star in the updated version of the Robin Hood legend -- aptly titled Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Directed by his sometime sparring partner Kevin Reynolds (187) and also starring Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption), Christian Slater (Hard Rain), Alan Rickman (Die Hard), and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (The Abyss) as the fair Maid Marian, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves comes back to DVD in a new two-disc "extended edition" care of Warner Home Entertainment.

Facts of the Case

As though most of you don't already know the story or Robin Hood (played with a compelling flatness by Mr. Fluffy Hair himself, Kevin Costner). For those who weren't paying attention for the first 800 years...

After returning home to England from the Crusades (and from being tortured overseas), Robin of Locksley finds his home in ruins and his father dead. With his family heritage and kingdom in ruins, Robin discovers that the cruel fiend behind this brutality is none other than the vicious Sheriff of Nottingham (Rickman, in a role that must be seen to be believed). With King Richard away to London, the Sheriff has imposed his cruelty upon his people (in one fantastic fit of anger, the Sheriff decides to "call off Christmas"). After meeting up with his band of Merry Men in the forest (including Little John, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, et cetera), Robin attempts to right some of the wrongs by becoming a hero for the innocent peasants under Nottingham's rule. With the help of his new Moor friend Azeem (Freeman), Robin and his cohorts (everyone say it with me) "steal from the rich to give to the poor." Along the way Robin falls in love with the fair Maid Marian (Mastrantonio), though her love is not without its challenges -- Nottingham also has eyes for Marian and has decided to force her into a loveless marriage with him. Can Robin Hood save his lady-in-waiting, lead his band of Merry Men into action, and defeat the evil Sheriff of Nottingham's plans?

The Evidence

I'm going to bet my bottom dollar, Annie-style, that the most popular cinematic incarnation of Robin Hood was the version played by swashbuckler Errol Flynn. There is something endearing and enduring about this character -- so much so that dozens of films have been made about him. From the dashing days of Flynn to an aging Sean Connery in Robin and Marian to Mel Brooks' spoof Robin Hood: Men in Tights, the myth and legend have captured the adventurous spirit of moviegoers around the globe.

For those that have seen many of those previous Robin Hood flicks, I'm sure they'll be debate as to which actor portrayed the conniving hero best. I have the feeling, however, that Kevin Costner won't be showing up on any such list. The weakest link in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is Costner's laid back hero -- the man wouldn't know energy if it landed in his lap and pleasured him orally. Costner displays a lazy eyed look through most of the film, a poor acting choice when compared to audience's perceptions of what Robin should be like (merry, full of grace and warmth, and very sly).

In contrast, the rest of the cast is excellent -- the centerpiece being Alan Rickman's tour-de-force performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Rickman, no stranger to stealing scenes (see his work as the baddie in Die Hard and an angel in Dogma for proof) pulls off one of the funniest, most vile performances of his -- and any actor's, for that matter -- career. Twisting his face into snarls and pains (and spouting out wonderful one liners like there's no tomorrow), Rickman is nothing short of hysterical. While it may be debated that his performance here doesn't quite fit the material, at least we know that every time he shows up we'll be wildly entertained. Other standouts in the cast include Morgan Freeman as Robin's newfound Moorish friend Azeeem. Freeman is able to bring grace and depth to almost any script, no matter how trite the dialogue and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is no exception. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio does her best to look radiant (that hair! Oh la la!) and Christian Slater is...well, Christian Slater. The guy may not have tons of range, but at least he's got energy, which is more than I can say for Mr. Costner.

Director Kevin Reynolds knows his way around an action movie. The guy directed Costner's undersea epic Waterworld (once touted as the most expensive film ever made), which was a fantastic adventure that is vastly underrated. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves features dozens of scenes sporting huts burning, men being shot with arrows, swords slicing, horses galloping, and various other stunts that make manly men go "woo-hoo!" The action is well paced and, thankfully, void of any CGI effects or enhancement. This particular version of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves includes over 12 minutes of footage not seen in the theatrical release, mostly more background info on Robin's sinister nemesis, the Sheriff of Nottingham. While Robin Hood really wasn't a movie that required more length (it already had clocked in at almost 2 1/2 hours), the extra footage of Rickman is a welcome addition.

It's been well over a decade since the release of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. All in all the film still stands the test of time. A few hairstyles look a bit out of place, though generally speaking the film retains a timeless quality that will entertain adults as well as children (though I wouldn't advise this movie to anyone under the age of 13). Now we all get to lay in wait for the next incarnation of this famous fellow's tale...

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 1.66:1, enhanced for 16x9 TV sets. Originally released in the early years of DVD, this new edition sports a decent transfer that is at times great, and at other times a bit muddled and dirty. I did spot a few instances where lines ran across the image, as well as some dirt and grain in various key scenes. Otherwise, the picture sports solid colors and dark black levels. While fans will be happy with this transfer, it certainly is far from reference quality.

The soundtrack is presented in two options: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and DTS 5.1, both in English. Both of these soundtracks are full of crystal clear dialogue, effects, and music (Michael Kamen's rousing score is one of the best in recent memory). For those of you that are sick of that damned Bryan Adams song, make sure to turn the movie off before the end credits roll. Overall both tracks boast a decent array of directional effects and surround sounds -- there are a great many whizzing arrows and whooshing catapults to please those in possession of a home theater system. All aspects of the mix are free and clear of excessive distortion. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is part of Warner's new double disc special edition line, and though the set isn't jam packed, it does include a few meaty extra features. Here's a rundown of what's on this set:

DISC ONE:
Commentary by Director Kevin Reynolds and Kevin Costner: Hey, Warner got these two guys together for a commentary session! Last I heard they weren't very happy with each other after the making of Costner's Waterworld. They've apparently let bygones be bygones, since they're both in the same room discussing the making of this film (no spliced interviews for this disc). I was more than impressed with how engaging this track was -- their first discussion is on the aspect ratio of the film, then moves on to Kamen's music, the cast, the action, and various other aspects of the film's production. This commentary is well worth the listen.

Commentary by Actors Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater and Producers Pen Densham : This second commentary is just as amusing and interesting, starting off with Morgan Freeman humorously stating that he is the "voice of doom." Like the first track, this is an engaging commentary that includes lots of stories about the story (the producers were also co-writers as well), more facts about the film's on-location production, and some amusing anecdotes about working with Kevin Costner and the rest of the cast.

DISC TWO:
Robin Hood: Myth, Man, Movie: This hour long documentary, hosted by James Bond's own Pierce Brosnan, takes a breathless look at both the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and the history behind the character. This is a fairly engaging feature that includes interviews with Costner, director Reynolds, various other cast and crew members, plus scholars and professors who debate weather Robin Hood was fact or fiction. "Robin Hood: Man, Myth, Movie" is a nicely produced documentary that should shed a bit more light on both the film's production and the legend of Robin Hood.

Bryan Adams: Live at Slane Castle: Fans will thrill to watching Adams sing an acoustic version of the hit theme "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" live at Slane Castle. This is presented in anamorphic widescreen and, as most of you know, was played at every wedding during the 1991 fiscal year.

One on One with the Cast: Included under this section are 1991 interviews with Kevin Costner, Alan Rickman, Christian Slater, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Morgan Freeman discussing their roles in the film. Most of these are in rough, fuzzy condition and are very surface level discussions on the actor's character, their role in the film, and what it was like working with the cast. If you have time these are worth watching, though the hour long documentary is far better in both quality and quantity.

Publicity Gallery: Under the section you'll find a trailer (non-anamorphic) and six TV spots for the film, a brief photo gallery of images from the film, as well as various other Morgan Creek DVD trailers.

Weapons Gallery: A short gallery of five weapons used in the film, each one of these motion menus tells about the history of the weapon (bows and arrows, swords, et cetera) and what their uses were. This is a wonderful feature for those who wish to know more about medieval instruments of death.

Finally there is Michael Kamen's isolated music score remixed in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, as well as an extended list of cast and crew credits and bios.

Closing Statement

If you liked Warner's original DVD release, you're going to love this full blown two disc set. If you end up running around your neighborhood in tights shooting people with arrows, you need to seek psychological counseling. As for me, I think Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a fine action movie throwback to the early 1990s -- a time when computer graphics weren't used in every single frame of the movie (George Lucas: take a note). It's worth seeing if you're a diehard Costner fan, or just in the mood for a fun swashbuckling tale.

The Verdict

Grab a jug of God's best ale and pull up a seat...Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is about to begin! This film has been found not guilty by the high courts of Nauglewood!

Review content copyright © 2003 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 86
Audio: 89
Extras: 88
Acting: 87
Story: 85
Judgment: 87

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

Subtitles:
* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 155 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary Track by Kevin Costner and Director Kevin Reynolds
* Commentary Track by Actors Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater and Producers Pen Densham and John Watson
* "Robin Hood: Myth, Man, Movie" Documentary
* Vintage Interviews with the Cast
* "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" by Bryan Adams Live at Slane Castle
* Michael Kamen's Soundtrack in Dolby 5.1 Surround
* Two Photo Galleries
* Cast and Crew Info
* Theatrical Trailers
* TV Spots
* Production Notes

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0102798/combined