Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – UHD Review

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was one of two Robin Hood films that came out in 1991, with other one being a John Irvin film that ended up going straight to TV in the US but theatrically in Europe. This one ended up being the big smash, however. Kevin Reynolds, a director I actually quite like (he made Fandango, Kevin Costner’s first major film, as well as Waterworld), was at the helm. It revitalised Robin Hood as a commercial entity, and was followed by more films about the fictional robber.

For Costner, it came between Dances With Wolves and JFK, so he was at the peak of his fame and to some extent his acting. It hits most of the key beats of the Robin Hood story. Costner really lobbied for the part, although some people felt he was too old or too American for the role (and they were probably right). To his credit, he doesn’t try to do a British accent. Sean Connery has an uncredited cameo at the end as King Richard, and he didn’t have an English accent either, obviously! Incidentally, Cary Elwes was actually offered the lead, but ended up playing the same character in Mel Brooks’s parody version Robin Hood: Men In Tights instead.

It’s a fairly fun movie, although it’s not great. Alan Rickman steals the film as the Sheriff of Nottingham, which became one of his iconic parts. That elevates the film, because while Costner is fine, the film is a bit bloated and he’s out of his depth somewhat. Rickman and some of his comedian friends rewrote his entire dialogue to a trip to Pizza Hut, because he thought the original script was terrible. Considering that his lines are the best thing in the film, that was probably a good call.

It has some nice photography from my part of England—a lot of it was shot in north Yorkshire. The geography of the film is quite laughable if you know the area, of course There’s a whole bit on Sycamore Gap by Hadrian’s Wall, and obviously it would have taken them forever back then to get from there to Nottingham. There was a big conflict over the edit, with Costner taking over and throwing out Reynolds’ editor in favour if his own. It marked the beginning of a beef between Reynolds and Costner which would escalate during the production of Waterworld, until they made up to make Hatfields and McCoys miniseries.

Morgan Freeman plays Azeem, a Merry Man from the Middle East who is based on the legend of captured assassin Nasir. Christian Slater plays Will Scarlett, and although it’s not one of his best performances, he’s having a lot of fun with it. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is perfectly fine as Maid Marion, but doesn’t leave any major impression. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves has became a nostalgic favourite for many of my generation but sadly doesn’t live up to my fond memories. Reynolds is a fine director but check out Fandango and Waterworld, the longer Ulysses cut of Waterworld on Arrow Video’s release is a revelation. Rickman’s performance is very enjoyable and is the reason to check out the film, he even won a BAFTA for it.

The package includes a solid 4K transfer, with both the theatrical and extended cuts, and comes complete with the Bryan Adams video (unfortunately). There’s also a commentary from Reynolds and Costner; another commentary from Slater, Freeman and writers/producers Pen Densham and John Watson; a new documentary that includes interviews with the crew, writers and director of photography; a documentary about the film hosted by Pierce Brosnan (someone who would have been much better as Robin Hood); and some archival videos of the main cast, trailer, image gallery and TV spots, plus a fat booklet.


Ian Schultz

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