ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF
After having viewed ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES ($27) for the first time, I can honestly say that donít know what to make of this movie. There are things that I really liked about the film, and there are other things that left me wondering what the filmmakers were thinking. Robin Hood is one of the greatest of all English legends, yet it is an American actor with a recognizably American accent who has to carry this motion picture- something that I find oddly disturbing and disrespectful to the tradition of the character. Kevin Costner has the right physicality for the role of Robin, and his box office clout at the time would have seemed to make him the right choice for Hollywood, but what the film really needed was a charismatic British thespian to bring the character to life. On the other hand, casting selections that I did like included Morgan Freeman as Robinís Moorish companion Azeem, as well as Alan Rickman in the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Rickmanís portrayal brings a sense of comic villainy to the character, which almost makes it seem as if he were in a different movie from the rest of the cast. Perhaps I am not alone in this, but I think I would have rather seen that "different movie" in which Rickman though he was appearing, as opposed to ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES.
As ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES opens, we find noble English Crusader Robin of Locksley imprisoned in a Jerusalem dungeon. Just as he is about to face the chopping block, Robin escapes his captors, along with a Moor named Azeem , who vows to remain at Christianís side, until he has paid back the Englishman for saving his life. Upon his return to England, Robin discovers that that his father has been executed as a devil worshipper and that the Sheriff of Nottingham has appropriated his family lands. Finding himself now declared an outlaw, Robin retreats to Sherwood Forrest, where he encounters a group of impoverished peasants that have been forced into a life of thievery by their inability to pay the taxes hurled upon them by Nottingham and his men. As expected, Robin becomes the leader of this ragtag group, and soon, he and his band of merry men are robbing from the rich and giving to the poor-- much to the chagrin of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Of course, in the middle of all this Robin does find time to romance the Lady Marian Dubois (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), the absent Kingís cousin, and the woman whom Nottingham intends to make his bride. The cast of ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES also features Christian Slater, Geraldine McEwan, Michael McShane, Michael Wincott, Nick Brimble and Soo Drouet.
Warner Home Video has made ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. The transfer is as good as can be expected, considering that the filmís cinematography seems to be going out of its way to make the twelfth century look drab and unappealing. Sharpness and detail are generally good, but there are places where the image appears filtered and a bit on the soft side. Colors appear subdued in places, especially on the filmís sun deprived English exteriors, but sunlight does make for a marked improvement. Additionally, hues are a bit more vivid for the interiors; but this too is dependant upon the available light of an individual sequence. Blacks usually appear accurate and whites are stable. Dark sequences can be a bit muddy, but that has more to do with the original photography than any flaw in the transfer. The film element used for the transfer displays few blemishes, although a grain structure is noticeable most of the time. Digital compression artifacts are generally well disguised, but they do become noticeable during some of the darker sequences, as well as those in which fog plays a significant part.
ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES comes with 5.1 channel soundtracks in the flavors of Dolby Digital and DTS. The mix isnít as aggressive as a newer movie, plus the fact that the sound design favors the forward soundstage tends to date it a bit. Channel separation is clean and distinct across the front three channels and the surrounds do come to life during key moments, which does increase their overall effectiveness. Dialogue is very cleanly rendered and almost always completely understandable. Fidelity is very good, with Michael Kamenís score coming across with a genuine musical presence, plus the sound effects always having a convincing quality. The bass channel is solid and deep, although not up to todayís ground shaking standards. As expected, DTS has a slight edge over Dolby Digital, but the differences arenít jaw dropping. No other language tracks are encoded onto the DVD, but English, French and Spanish subtitles are present.
3D animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDís stylish interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both DVDs of this two-disc set. One the disc one, there are two separate audio commentary tracks- the first is with actor Kevin Costner and director Kevin Reynolds, while the second features actors Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater, along with writer/producers John Watson and Pen Densham. Both tracks have their merits, but the double Kevin track is definitely the place to start. On disc two, we find Robin Hood: The Myth, The Man, The Movie, a half hour program hosted by Pierce Brosnan that examines the legendary character origins and transcription to the screen. Twenty minutes of vintage interviews from the filmís theatrical release are also provided, as is a live performance of the hit song (Everything I Do)I Do It For You by Bryan Adams. Extensive production notes and text essays, as well as a theatrical trailer, six TV spots and a 5.1 rendition of Michael Kamenís score close out the supplements.
Although not a fan myself, I recognized that a lot of people do like ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES. Therefore, I am sure that they will be delighted with Warnerís two-disc Special Edition of the film, which offers a solid presentation of the twelve-minute longer extended version of the film, as well as rich supplemental content.
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