Appellate Judge Mac McEntire robs from the upper middle class and gives to the lower middle class.
"Centuries ago, in England, it was an era of chivalry and magic. The evil Prince John unleashed an iron fist of fury upon the people. They called out for a champion. One man answered that call. His name was Robin Hood."
Another week, another obscure Robin Hood-related DVD gets released. How many of these Robin Hood shows and movies have there been over the years? This one, The New Adventures of Robin Hood, was made in 1997. You know what was popular in 1997? Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. This series follows those shows' playbooks to the letter. The cheese is so thick not even one of Robin's arrows can penetrate it.
Facts of the Case
In old-timey England, Prince John (Andrew Bicknell) lives in luxury while the commoners barely get by. Enter Robin Hood (Matthew Porretta, Alan Wake), who robs from the rich and gives to the poor. Robin travels throughout the forested countryside fighting evil and whatnot with his friends, Marion (Anna Galvin, Caprica), Little John (Richard Ashton, The Fifth Element), and Friar Tuck (Martyn Ellis, Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London). When he needs guidance, Robin turns to the wizard Olwyn (Christopher Lee, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) for some cryptic advice.
This four-disc set contains all 13 episodes of the show's first season. The episodes raise many questions:
• "Rage of the Mongols"
• "Attack of the Vikings"
• "Robin and the Golden Arrow"
• "The Race Against Death"
• "A Price on His Soul"
• "Marion to the Rescue"
• "The Legend of Olwyn"
• "Witches of the Abbey"
• "The Arabian Knight"
• "The Birthday Trap"
• "Miracle at Avalon"
• "Dragon from the Sky"
• "Nightmare and the Magic Castle"
A lot of filmmakers, most recently Ridley Scott, have attempted a fairly realistic approach with Robin Hood, by depicting life as it really was back in the day, and then working the legend into that setting. The makers of The New Adventures of Robin Hood go in the opposite direction, with a full-on fantasy, complete with wizards, dragons, magic, and so on. That doesn't have to be a bad thing—I love me some fantasy adventure—but both the writing and production values don't merit what they're shooting for.
The first thing you'll likely notice when watching this show is the endless parade of historical inaccuracies. Even though this is the dark ages, everyone's hair looks great. The women have perfect makeup, and their outfits are designed for maximum cleavage-heaving. The poor peasant villagers all wear bright pastels. It's not just the clothes and hair. The credits reveal that this show was a U.S./French co-production filmed on location in Lithuania. As such, every character sounds like he or she is from a different country. The actors vary from English accents to American accents to accents from I-have-no-idea-where. These inconsistent, fluctuating dialects will have you longing for the richness and subtlety of Kevin Costner's English accent. With a show like this, I know you're expecting me to make a "Renaissance fair rejects" comment, but that would be an insult to Renaissance fair rejects.
You could argue that the emphasis on fantasy over realism gives the creators freedom to do away with historical accuracy, letting them introduce Mongols, Vikings, and more as villains. Instead, though, all it does is make viewers say, "Since when are there Mongols in a Robin Hood story?" Then we see crazy stuff like wizards, vampires and (I still can't believe it) space aliens, and suddenly it's like we're not watching Robin Hood at all, but The Adventures of Random Generic Swordsman.
The action scenes are decent, but sometimes clumsily staged. The swords look bendy and plastic as the actors and stuntmen swing them around, and every punch has the same sound effect, a combined fleshy "thwack" and "splat" sound ("splack?"). Robin doesn't use his bow and arrow as often as you'd think. I have to wonder if the creators only had him use the bow once in a while just because they know that's what people expect from the character. Even then, he likes to swing the bow around like a club—or, dare I say, like a bat'leth—rather than fire arrows. As an alternative, Robin also has this dart gun thing. It looks kind of like a pack of cigarettes, except that it shoots a bunch of little darts at his enemies, knocking them unconscious. This is a favorite weapon of his, and no doubt of the show's creators as well, because he uses it often.
The actors are likable enough, and they deserve applause for jumping into this thing with enthusiasm, but the scripts give them nothing to work with. Robin is the good-natured hero, and that's all. There are some hints of him feeling remorse any time he has to kill an enemy, but this is not followed up on in any meaningful way. Whenever a woman flirts with Robin, there's usually a jealous reaction shot from Marion, but that's all there is for any romantic tension between the two. Instead, she's another one of the good guys, the strong-yet-caring female hero. Little John gets a character trait of wanting to rush into battle without thinking first, and that's all he adds. Friar Tuck is here for comic relief, but the comedy falls as short as, well, everything else. Laugh as he gets distracted looking for berries in the forest while the others fight the bad guys. Chuckle as he invents history's first clothes dryer, only to have his pants shrink in the wash, and so on. Speaking of comedy, Prince John is my least favorite kind of villain—the buffoon villain. We're supposed to think it's hilarious how his attempts to catch Robin are idiotic and how they always blow up in his face. Unfortunately, this means he's never a credible threat to our heroes, so the stock villains-of-the-week have to do the evil heavy lifting.
The audio and video are adequate, but nothing special, with a basic full frame picture and stereo sound. Any bonus features must have been left behind in Lithuania.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It takes a great actor to make these disastrous scripts work, and Christopher Lee is indeed a great actor. He delivers his lines like he's auditioning for Saruman, giving some serious dramatic weight to all this silliness. When he talks about the power of the mystical golden arrow, he might as well be talking about a certain ring. It's always nice to see him bring his usual professionalism to the cheesiest of cheese.
I still can't get over that they had Robin Hood meeting a green-skinned alien in a flying saucer. I mean…wow.
Wanted dead or alive. Reward: 500 gold pieces.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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