ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS (1993)
BEFORE WE BEGIN - The “Best line” section, or whatever I replace it with is out here. Looking at my notes, I see that it’s almost all about individual lines, jokes, and bits. So I’ll do a special edition blog later, where I go into detail on some bits. Until then, let me tide you over with… “I’m Little John! But don’t let my name fool you. In real life, I’m actually very big.”
(Don't ask me, ask them.)
PLOT - Robert of Loxley is trapped in the Holy Land, as is so often the case with him. He escapes his confines with the aid of another prisoner, and returns to England, where he finds the land under tyranny, and joins with a motley crew of outlaws to fight for justice. Okay, now that I’ve typed that, I can watch the movie. Ostensibly, this was to be a parody of Prince of Thieves, but the decision was wisely made to expand it and make it more of a parody off Robin Hood’s legend in general. We get, the archery contest with split arrow, a fight on a bridge, everyone wanting to marry Marian, Robin crashing a party, a big fight in a tower, a public hanging averted, and all the rest of the traditional business. I’m fine with that. A movie that solely parodies another movie is rarely good. Speaking of good things that are rare…
THE GOOD - Okay, as much as I’m about to rag on the humor in this movie, it does have several jokes that made me laugh out loud. Sadly, there’s maybe six that weren’t ruined by the pacing afterwards. Oh, but there’s also a lot of really good actors! Sadly, they have awful lines and direction. All right, all right, let’s see, the good… The good… Nostalgia?
THE BAD - Mel Brooks got old. That’s a bad thing. Whereas he was once a master of timing, wordplay, slapstick, and parody, all of those skills had rusted and atrophied by the time he made this movie. I suppose we all should have seen it coming when he decided to make a Star Wars parody in 1987, when it was already old, but not yet retro. (He fares slightly better here, Prince of Thieves being only two years old at this point.) Spaceballs also showed Brooks really running hard into the kind of comedy Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker (ZAZ) mastered with Airplane!. But that kind of comedy takes a special mind, and amazing talent, and a lot of luck to do well, and Brooks hasn’t got the knack.
There’s a constant feeling like all the jokes run one line too long, and the camera is kept running for a few seconds after it should have stopped. It’s a constant cycle of tell a joke, explain a joke, stand around awkwardly. You can’t pause for laughs in a movie, it doesn’t work like that. ZAZ knew that if you’re going to do stupid, off-the-wall humor, it needs to come hard and fast. Keep the audience laughing so hard they miss half the jokes, and they’ll buy tickets for a second showing. Wait for them to finish laughing, and THEY WON’T BE LAUGHING BECAUSE YOUR PACING SUCKS, MEL BROOKS.
THE OTHERWISE WORTHY OF MENTION - There’s a LOT of jokes from old Mel Brooks movies in this one. I can’t really complain, because they’re still funny, and he’s always done it. There’s just so damn many of them this time. “It’s good to be the king”, “Walk this way”, moving deformity, sequel jokes, even an entire character. The only really awful one is when a character looks straight at the camera, directly mentions Blazing Saddles, and waggles his eyebrows. But that’s near the end, and I was so desensitized to that shit already by that point. Some people got offended by the prison in this movie, both for mocking Arabs and torture. But the torture jokes are no worse than The Wizard of Id, and the Arab jokes are incredibly mild. Plus, the book I read complaining about Arab stereotypes cited Prince of Thieves as an example of positive images. Yeah, one nice guy played by an African-American in the middle of a swarm of swarthy Semitic Saracen swine does not a positive image make, BOOK. Oh, and it’s a… musical? There’s four very short songs in it, at least. One is sung by Marian, and is very short, only one verse. One is sung by Robin to Marian, and is obviously dubbed, which is the big joke. One is an expository rap intecut with Hey Nonny Nonnys and ballet, which gets the movie off to deceptively promising start. And one is “Men in Tights”, which you all know anyway.
The Elephant Man
The Producers (musical)
MUCH - None, really. There’s the saved-from-poachers lad. He makes a really labored and awful and dated Home Alone joke. Yes, even by this movie’s standards. It’s not really based on anything other than it’s a thing a young kid can say that people will recognize. Had the movie been ten years later, the kid would have said “I see dead people”. It’s a Seltzerberg level joke, and I expect better from even ‘90s Mel.
MARIAN - She reeeally doesn’t make a huge impact, I’m sorry to say. Writing female characters has never been Mel Brook’s strong suit. And since by this point comedy wasn’t, either, Marian comes off pretty badly here, with not much more than a sunny outlook, an annoying voice, and some really ugly dresses. I guess if I wanted to, I could say that this was parody of how Marian tends to be underwritten romantic interest in Robin Hood movies in general and Prince of Thieves in particular, but that would be giving the movie too much credit. She wears a steel chastity belt, awaiting for the man who holds the key to unlock it. I could say that this was parody of the female lead‘s role in fantasy literature and other popular fiction as a prize to be won, but that would be giving the movie too much credit. She also has big red curly hair, and let’s just say that’s a Robin of Sherwood reference. Hey, they need SOME credit.
OTHER MERRY MEN - Well, Lady Sassmouth shows up, carrying a German accent and an obsession with maintaing Marian’s virginity, which is basically what she does anyway, and she’s usually the comic relief, so there’s not much change here. The clearest reference to O’Thieves here is in the two extra Merry Men. One of them, Blinken, is awesome. As you may recall, if you’ve been here since the beginning, Robin had a servant in PoT by the name of Duncan, who had been blinded by Nottingham’s men. Duncan’s malady was gruesome and graphic and he was a sad, frail old man. Which made the moments they played it for comedy, which were many, kind of awkward and uncomfortable. But Blinken plays it, naturally, with no pathos whatsoever, and is fantastic. Sure, the blind jokes are as hacky as the rest of the humor in this film, but they work in that idiom. My favorite, after he catches an arrow in midair: (John: “That was amazing!” Blinken: “I heard it coming a mile away.” Robin: “Well done, Blinken.” Blinken: “Pardon? Who’s talking?”) Not to mention that he’s the camp’s night watchman. (Robin: “What are you doing?“ Blinken: “… Guessing?“ And the fact that he tends to look in the wrong direction when people touch him.
The other is Achoo, played by… Achoo is played by… I can’t say it. He’s way WAY too good of a comedian to be here, and his comedy is so antithetical to the sort of jokes he’s forced to tell that it makes his lines seem forced and… Okay, Brian, deal with it. He was young, it was a good paycheck, and Brooks clearly recognized his ability. And if it wasn’t for embarrassing early roles of stars, we wouldn’t have Mazes and Monsters…
And sadly, there’s not much indication of the brilliant satirist we all know from his eponymous Comedy Central show. The character is woefully written. It seems Mel Brooks wanted to parody ‘urban’ culture, and the best he could do was “What do the young people do these days? Air pumps on their sneakers! That’s it!” Id like to say Chappelle’s natural comedic ability shines through the material, but sadly, it doesn’t. While it would be nice to think of someone of his caliber being able to spin shit into gold, it turns out that when he’s given uninspiring material, he’s only about as good as the average Wayans. Actually, Marlon Wayans is better at excising laughs from bad writing, Would have been nice to see him in this. Well, now that I’ve admitted I’d rather see Marlon Wayans than Dave Chappelle in a role, I think I need to go slam my ears in the oven door.
COMING UP NEXT - All your favorite characters! Rhi Bran Hwd! Little Iwan! And Friar Aethelfrith! Come and see the timeless legend get all Welshed-up by a guy who feels the need to tell us every damn thing he learned while researching… Hood!
So in 1991, Robin Hood was all big thanks to Prince of Thieves. [Utterly random aside: PoT’s Will Scarlet, Christian Slater, is a huge Trekkie, and the reason his eyebrows are shaped the way they are is because when he was a kid, he shaved them so he could be Spock for Halloween, and they never grew in properly. Also, he had a cameo in Star Trek VI, my favorite Trek movie. And his godfather was Michael Zaslow, the fist person to die on Star Trek, and the first to get the “He‘s Dead, Jim.:” Blue shirt, by the way, not red. Anyway…] Wanting to capitalize on Robin Hoodical publicity, the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew took an old script about King Arthur they had lying around, made it all Robin Hoody, and filmed it. Thankfully, time has robbed the episode of its depressing trendiness, and what we are left with is that rarest of all things: A comedic Star Trek episode that works.
(Let's get those gay jokes out of the way early, now.)
BIG PLOT: Here’s a special section I came up with for Robin Hood themed episodes of other shows, to give you a little background on the series. Star Trek: The Next Generation, or TNG to save space, is the follow-up to the 1960s classic Star Trek. Like the original, it follows the adventures of members of Starfleet, the space faring science, exploration, defens, and diplomatic wing of the United Federation of Planets, who are sort of like the UN, except they get things accomplished, and don’t allow their members to be openly hostile with each other. Unlike the original, TNG was 40% more likely to deal with problems solvable by thinking and talking than punching and shooting. Plus, the Captain was a bald Frenchman. Despite these apparent setbacks, TNG proved to be at least the equal, if not the superior of the original. Anyone who denies this sucks. One recurring character of note to this episode is Q, an omnipotent god-being. Despite that heady job description, Q is noted for his sense of humor and fondness for Captain Picard, who he seems to look at like a cross between a best friend, a baby cousin, and a pet hamster.
LIL’ PLOT:Captain Picard is going to an archaeology lecture! Can you FEEL the action? He’s ever so nervous about being asked to deliver the keynote speech on the Tagan ruins. The whole senior staff is attending the conference with him, and while they act like they support the Captain, you know they all think it’s lame; except Data, who has no emotions. Fortunately, just when it looks like the most boring episode ever, intrigue arrives in the form of Picard’s sextacular former flame, Vash. Vash walks around the ship telling everyone how she banged the captain, and how her, Indiana Jones, and Lara Croft are the only hot archaeologists ever. Picard spends all his time fretting. And not without reason, because who should show up but Q! Picard actually managed to save Q’s life and restore his powers when he had been stripped of them, and Q is here to say thank you. Q decides to show him how having a lady is not worth the risk, and accomplishes this by transporting Picard and his crew to Sherwood Forest in the form of Robin Hood and his crew. Picard/Hood can sit pretty in the forest, and return to his ship at dawn… if he’s willing to let Vash die. Well, of course he’s not. Will hilarity and antics ensue? You betcha!
(The hat looks pretty good with no hair getting in the way.)
GENERAL THOUGHTS: Star Trek is awesome. But it’s not really funny. Fine actors the stars may be, and perfectly capable of saying a funny line and getting a laugh, but to do a full comedy episode, you need comedically gifted actors. Every Trek series has fallen short here. The DS9 crew was so comedically off that the only funny episode I’ve ever seen consisted of Armin Shimmerman and Rene Auberjonois getting the hell off that depressing ass space station and getting up to some wacky shenanigans. But TNG had four great weapons. Regular cast members Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, and Michael Dorn, and frequent guest star John DeLancie. These are four fucking hilarious guys. Add in the eminently likeable LeVar Burton, the always charming Jonathan Frakes, and two pretty girls who manage not to be total humor vacuums*, and you’ve got the only Trek series that can reliably deliver a funny episode.
* I don’t mean to imply that women aren’t funny. Only that Gates McFadden and Marina Sirtis aren’t funny.
(I am... confused by your non-ray-gun weaponry!)
ROBIN: Patrick Stewart is totally the best Robin Hood I’ve seen so far. Picard is the perfect man as envisioned by Gene Roddenberry. He’s intelligent, cultured, and a man of action. And he's able to accept baldness with grace and dignity, which neither Kirk nor Sisko were up to. But to be fair to Sisko, shaving your head is a viable option if you're black. But not if you're white. Have you seen Bruce Willis? Dude looks like a giant thumb. Picard is definitely playing an Errol Flynn Robin here, but with a full awareness of how silly the whole situation is, and he's pure awesome at it. At one point, he shouts "TO THE FOREST!", and just straight up pulls it off.
(And here's one for the ladies...)
LITTLE JOHN: As I referenced a while back, Riker is a right proper Little John. He’s tall and hairy, for one. He’s also thoughtful, clever, and cautious, while still the best man in a fight, which is how Little John was before Hollywood turned him into “big angry jerk guy”. He also ignores Robin in the finest Little John tradition, going in to rescue him after being specifically told not to. Classy John all the way. Also, I think we can all agree that Jonathan Frakes is pure masculine thunder formed into a human being, and there ain't nothin' wrong with that. I must admit, though, I do keep hoping he'll end every episode with a lame pun, like he did when he was hosting "Beyond Belief". "Is this tale of a starship crew tormented by a trickster god true? Or is it... too out of this world?"
WILL SCARLET: Worf is put into the Scarlet role here, which is great, because the costumers chose to go with the classic “foppish dandy” Will, a choice we haven’t really seen to its full extent. Well, except in the ‘39 movie. But they were all dandies. Worf is Worf wherever you put him, though, and he still kicks ass. Nice to see a Will with some personality. And of course he gets the funny lines, including “I protest! I am NOT a merry man!” and “Nice legs… um… for a human.” He also gets the rare pop-culture reference in Trek, when he smashes Geordi’s mandolin and apologizes, a la Belushi in Animal House.
(Wah wah wahhhhhhhhhhhhh)
TUCK: Data, of course. The priest would be the smart guy of the team, so the android gets to play him. He exposits greatly about the legend of Robin Hood. Data also gets a tiny bit of hand-to-hand combat in this one. Hand fighting with Data usually consists of him hurling someone a great distance with his robo-strength, but this time, he’s pretty evenly matched by the local guard-types. I idly wondered for a while why he’s never downloaded kung-fu into his brain. Then I wondered why he has to practice his violin. Then I remembered that he has trouble whistling, and maybe Dr. Soong programmed this trouble with music into him to give him something to strive for, and that downloading knowledge would defeat the intent of a learning positronic brain. Then I realized I was so far from Robin Hood it was ridiculous. So let’s just say Q arranged for the fantasy world to compensate for Data’s strength, and hey, at least Tuck gets to fight.
(My favorite Troi moments are when someone's experiencing an emotion you can figure out by looking at their face, and she tells everybody that she "sensed it". Look, if a guy's smiling, don't brag that you sensed happiness.)
MUCH: Much doesn’t appear by name, but I’m going to say it’s Troi. Troi and Crusher don’t get Robin Hood names, probably because Q (or the writers) were too lazy to look up any extra Merry Men. But I’m saying it’s Troi because Much is useless and annoying and hardly does anything helpful, and Troi, well… You know.
(Yes, I could have shown you her in her Marian outfit. But then you wouldn't see Patrick Stewart's short shorts. And would you really be happy?)
MARIAN: Marian is played here by Picard’s old friend Vash, whom he had hit-and-quit some time ago. She's a great version of Marian, though, strong, self reliant, and absolutely capable of surviving and escaping without the help of Robin Hood. She's actually got the situation so well in hand that when Picard arrives to help, he just messes everything up. She even agrees to marry Sir Guy, flirting with him to influence his decisions, a theme we'll see every twelve minutes or so on the current BBC series.
(You will never win, Hood! For you see, I have a more feathery hat than you.)
SHERIFF: Q gives himself this role, of course. It’s actually the best interpretation of the ol’ S.O.N. I’ve seen in a long time. See, in order to keep it fun, Q made his dream world independent of himself, so that even he didn’t know what was going to happen. Therefore, when Vash gets her own way out of the predicament Q put her in, he has to turn Sir Guy against her with trickery and wit. I love the idea of a Sheriff who’s manipulating his bosses to serve his own ends. So 10 points to Roddenberry house.
(Okay, Clive... one, two, three - SNEER!)
SIR GUY: Played by roly-poly character actor Clive Revill, making him the first and only person to be in both Star Trek and Star Wars. Until Lucas edited him out in the Special Editions, that is. This is very much a Rathbone Guy, a wealthy aristocrat after Robin Hood’s sloppy sec… no, that’s tasteless. Robin Hood’s erstwhile paramour. He manages to be the sleaziest and creepiest Guy yet. Yes, even more than Armitage. At least that oily freak was actually trying instead of just locking the girl in a tower.
(THIS. This is the man.)
THE MAN: Jesus, how much time do you think Q has? The answer is all the time that is possible, because he’s immortal and omnipotent. Point is, he’s not gonna bother to put in the whole dang monarchy.
("Look, captain, I'm gonna level with you. I don't know squat about actual doctoring. I mostly just point a blue laser at it until it heals.")
OTHER MERRY MEN: Dr. Crusher gets a hat, so she counts. She also bandages Worf’s wound at one point, which is nice, because hey, Doctor, so let’s use our skills. Geordi is Alan-a-Dale, which is weird, since he's not particularly musical, but not so non-musical that it seems like an intentional joke. The only thing I can think of is in the magnificent episode "Disaster", where the crew is trapped in four distinct groups during a critical systems failure and has to deal with situations way out of their league. The episode opens with Crusher and Geordi in the cargo bay, with Crusher desperately trying to get Geordi to audition for her on-ship production of "The Pirates of Penzance". Geordi awkwardly mumbles the opening lines of the Major General song, and protests that he sucks, which he does. This raises many questions. How does the Chief Medical Officer have enough time on her hands to direct a musical? Shouldn't she be going after actors with more less demonds on their time than the Chief Engineer? Why is she so adamant that he play the part when, of all the roles in all of Gilbert and Sullivan, there is not one that LeVar Burton is less suited to than Major General Stanley? Why are they discussing this when one of them is on duty? What is the Chief Engineer doing in the cargo bay? Shouldn't he be somewhere around the engines? The list goes on. In the same episode, Worf had to deliver a baby, Picard had to escort children around the ship, and Troi had to be of some consequence, so it was still a pretty good one.
(See, if it were me, I'd go for the horse. "BUT THAT WOULD BE WITHOUT HONOR." Okay, Jeez. Inside voice, Worf. "SORRY.")
OTHER VILLAINS: See “The Man” for more information. Actually, I guess Vash technically counts as a villain. She sells out the captain at the drop of a hat, and only helps anyone when it benefits her. And given that she only came so she could go on an illegal raid… DAMN! This might be the only Robin Hood version ever when Marian is a bad guy. Rock the hell on.
(Was this strange tale of a tobacco executive giving people rectal cancer from beyond the grave the truth... Or are we just blowing smoke up your ass?")
COMING UP NEXT : "The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men", a 1955 live-action entry from Disney starring some really unfortunate-looking folks, and some decent-looking folks with unfortunate hairstyles.
THE OUTLAWS OF SHERWOOD (1988)
(I’d really like to know what Robin’s looking at, seeing as how the other guy seems to be looking at something a lot more dangerous.)
PLOT - Robin, the poor forester son of a poor forester, is on his way to the fair, hoping to enter the archery contest. But trouble comes in the form of a HOODLUM. This HOODLUM got the assistant (to the) chief forester job, and he’s feelin’ like hot shit. So he and his HOODLUM (Okay, I’ll stop) friends commence to razzing Robin about what a crap archer he is and he flips out and kills them. I’m just kidding. He only kills one of them (The chief HOO… I mean RASCAL), and it’s an accident. He means to just spook the guy and figures the arrow won’t even reach him, but he even sucks at sucking and it hit’s the poor bastard right in the heart. This is the closest we’ve come yet to the oldest Robin Hood origin, except that in that, he actually does kill the guy for no real reason. Any old how, Robin naturally goes on the lam after this , living in his friend Much’s attic for a time, until he decided to run off to the woods. Much joins him, and brings a few other folks on the wrong side of the law along. And Robin’s all “Dude! How do I effectively hide in the forest with all these people here?” and Much is all “Duh. You become a freedom fighter and symbol of hope to the oppressed Saxons.” and Robin’s all “Nuh-UH! Not even!” and Much is all “Well, what the hell else are you gonna do?”
So Robin lives in the woods happily ever after. FACE! He actually starts taking in all sorts of other refugees from the sheriff, stealing food and whatnot, and finding homes for them in other villages. But, as Much realizes, if you’re stealing food, why not also steal some ill-gotten money already? Spread that around, you’re hurting the man and helping the poor. Anyway, things escalate from there in the usual way. After a while the Sheriff decides that’s quite enough of this nonsense thank you so much, and hires a badass from out of town to take down the Hood gang in the most stunningly violent episode of any Robin Hood I’ve seen or read. Not bad for a “young adult” book.
(This man purports to be the cover model for the book. And since he signs my paychecks, I have no reason to disbelieve him.)
THE GOOD - In a book, they get to spend more time on each individual part of the story, which is nice. For example, the bridge fight between Robin Hood and Little John. In the average movie, they bump into each other, have a brief tiff about who gets to cross, and fight. In this book, we get details like Robin was in a bad mood in the first place and therefore not paying attention, John was a quarter of the way across when Robin started, and stopped to watch him. Thus John was there first, but Robin was farther, giving them both a legitimate claim to pass. (I also like that John stays where he is when Robin walks back to the other side and spends five minutes or so cutting himself a staff.) There’s also a lot more freedom to go into subplots, which is nice, even if said subplots are occasionally kind of lame.
(I am not reviewing this book. But if anyone has a copy, I REALLY REALLY want it.) THE BAD - The subplots are, for the most part, incredibly lame. Lots of business about Marian’s wooing and Will’s sister and other stuff of no interest to the main story. And while the time they can take to tell the story is good, there’s about seventy pages here and there that could be snipped without much loss to the book in general. The part where Marian is injured and Little John has to sneak her off to Tuck’s place in the company of some circus folk is particularly draggy. On the other hand, the book does have circus folk, which is an improvement on most versions of the tale.
(Beth, I swear I will return this book to you soon. And after only two years! Less, even!)
THE OTHERWISE WORTHY OF MENTION - The characters all talk in a semi-formalistic and extremely wordy manner that almost always works wonderfully by making it sound old-fashioned without using a load of thees and thous. But sometimes there are moments where it gets jarring/obnoxious, particularly when used in the narration. Oh, and they say ‘sennight’ a lot. Just say ‘week,’ you jackasses. Another side effect is the fact that a lot of parts wind up being pretty hilarious out of context.
(Ah, the Mego company. They pretty much held the monopoly on action figures in the '70s. But how far they fall... Well, I'll show you later.)
ROBIN - I like this one, because the major facet of his personality is that he sucks. He is a terrible archer, the worst in the band. In fact, his sucking at archery is what gets him outlawed in the first place. He has a tendency to get mopey and introspective, and would rather ensure the safety of his men than steal from anyone. So when he does go out a-robbing, he’s doing it thoughtfully and seriously. His mopeyness is actually what gives him his outlaw name, even. It’s raining, and Robin’s pouting, and Much is trying to convince him to start calling himself Sheriff-Bane, and Robin flips his hood up and says “Might as well be Robin-of-the-Hood. It’s rains enough here, God knows.” Then Lucy pulls the football away from him and he sighs over the little red-haired girl. No, seriously… I mean in sooth, he takes his life as it comes, and it actually makes him one of my favorite Robins. Oh, and they make reference to the fact that he can’t grow a decent beard. I feel you, man.
(The weird thing is he's no taller than Robin, since they just made one body and stuck different heads on them.)
LITTLE JOHN - Someone’s got a crush on Little John, and her name is Robin McKinley. I have learned, in what passes for research here at the Brian Lynch Academy of Lazy Blogging, that McKinley’s husband is several years her senior, and that nearly every one of her books features a female protagonist that falls in love with an older man. Now, there’s no option for that sort of shenannigation here, unless we want to make some very serious changes to the legend, but McK makes up for it by spending luxurious paragraphs on John’s beard and his serious, wise attitude, and how he’s best at most stuff, etcetera. It comes to a really creepy head when he has to go to a fair posing as a wrestler, donning tight pants and oiling up his muscles.
(Mego Will adds even more to the characters traditional lack of camouflage with a snappy blue hood.)
WILL SCARLET - Will is the second tallest guy in the band. He’s almost as tall and muscular as Little John. And that’s clearly important, because it’s brought up like once a chapter. Even when he’s not around. His motivations for joining the band are odd. He’s a rich man’s son, and when his beloved sister is given in marriage to a Norman, he heads off to find Robin Hood. Not to rescue his sister, as a sensible person with a reasonable grasp of narrative causality would assume. He’s just sort of given up on her. Real class act. Anyway, after joining the band, he quickly settles into the standard Will Scarlet role of third banana and hardly any personality. Hooray!
(I like his sandals and his cottonball under the tunic padding, but what's with the creepy grin?)
TUCK - Jesus, what a sad sack. He lives in a crappy little yurt in the middle of the woods with three huge dogs named Beauty, Bright Eyes, and I forget the last, so I’m gonna guess Henslowe. It’s probably Henslowe. Anyway, Tuck never joins the band proper, just sort of hangs around on the outskirts moping, lending a hand when someone needs medical help or needs to get married or whatever. His clothes are crappy, he’s old and fat, and the big final battle with Guy takes place at his place and Henslowe gets killed. Kinda depressing here.
(What, you didn't actually think they made a Much figure, did you?)
MUCH - Second good Much in a row. Yikes. The last one was not annoying, this one takes it a step further by being smart. We keep this up, the next one’s gonna have to be a capable fighter. Well, let’s not go nuts. But yeah, Much is the one who convinces Robin to go from being an outlaw to being an Outlaw. His basic point is that the people need a hero, and you’re a dead man walking anyway, so you might as well be one. For the rest of the book, he’s the morale booster and resident snarker, good for spotting flaws in plans, and keeping everyone inspired with his enthusiasm for madcap superheroics. He’s kind of like Marco from Animorphs that way. Hey, I keep my references classy here.
(Sure she's poorly constructed and her only accessory was probably a hairbrush, but any Mego female was made in such low numbers she's probably worth about five thousand dollars today.)
MARIAN - She’s Robin’s childhood friend in this. The hoops McKinley jumps through to have the poor forester be friends with the rich dude’s daughter are contrived, but in a way that you juuuuuust barely manage to not care about. She helps convince Robin to be a hero, and helps with getting supplies and clothes for everyone in the early days. She also gets a lot of private attention. Probably because this was written by a lady, said the sexist blogger. In addition to the standard “Oh I love Robin so much, but he leads the hard life of an outlaw,” we are treated to an interminable subplot about her wooing at the hands of a dweeby little twerp called Nigel. There are whole chapters wasted on whether she’s going to choose the sniveling pencil pusher over the childhood sweetheart/superhero. Gee, what do you think?
(Even before I decided to use toys for this review, I pictured him pretty much like The Penguin. I know, it's weird.)
SHERIFF - Fun stuff with the Sheriff, though he’s barely in this one at all. The book takes the position that Robin and the gang are more like a nuisance to the powerful and important Sheriff than anything really bad. After all, they’re small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. It’s only after they prevent him from taking some land by paying off a mortgage with money stolen from his coffers (their first big job) that he really gets his knightly knickers in a knot. And then his whole business model is pretty much the standard “Hire more foresters, hunters, and soldiers of increasingly poor skill until I get REALLY mad and decide to hire…”
(Gisbourne! Guyyyyy of Gisbourne! King of the wild frontier!)
SIR GUY - The classic Guy shows up at last! See, Sir Guy wasn’t always “Sir“. In fact, I believe Sir Tons du Fun from the silent masterpiece was the first to carry the knightly title, but like I said, I barely do any research. In ye olde ballads, however, Guy was a drooling mercenary who showed up in the woods wearing most of a horse, and Robin beheaded him and stole his pants. He is introduced as a bounty hunter whose reputation strikes fear into the hearts of all who hear his name. Like Boba Fett. When he strikes, he is swift, capable, effective, and deadly. Like the opposite of Boba Fett.
(Even in mustache and unitard, he's still less creepy than the Burger King.)
THE MAN - I don’t remember if John played a part in this at all. If he did, it wasn‘t important. I think they mentioned how he speaks better English than his brother or something. But that brother sure played a part. Ol’ Couer de Leon shows up at the end, like he usually does. Only, you know how usually when he shows up at the end, it’s to bestow some marriages, punish the wicked, and pay for Sean Connery’s new boat? This is kind of like that, except he shows up to depress the fuck out of everyone and be a jerk. And I can see his point for acting the way he does. On the one hand, sure, Robin saved a lot of innocent, not to mention loyal subjects. But on the other hand, he did this by stealing the King’s taxes and flouting the law. So what’s his punishment to be? A term of service in the Jerusalem. Oh, great. So unlike every other Robin Hood thing, where he comes back from the Holy Land, stops the Sheriff, and gets the girl; here he gets the girl, stops the Sheriff, and leaves for the Holy Land. Where the hell does McKinley live? BACKWARDS TOWN? For the record, it’s not just Robin who gets bent over like Berengaria. The others… What? Spellcheck doesn’t recognize blog, snark, Boba, dweeby, kinda, gonna, or spellcheck, but it’s fine with Berengaria? Huh. Anyway, the others are all shipped off, too. And I mean all. The women go along as cooks, except for Marian and one other, who will be soldiers; and Alan and Much, who were crippled in the fight with Guy, (Alan will never play again, of course. McKinley seems to subscribe to the Joss Whedon school of do horrible things to your supporting cast.) go along as scribe and quartermaster, respectively. (I should add that the ending is not free of all happiness. Robin and Marian are together after all, and Robin is made heir to the lands he saved from the Sheriff. It is also not free of girl-powery contrivance; as Marian goes as a soldier after turning down a job as new Sheriff.) So anyway, the King’s kind of a jerk, but he tries in his own jerky way to give the happiest ending his stupid, jerky king brain knows how.
(Sure, why not?)
OTHER MERRY MEN - Well, there’s Jocelyn, who against all probability is a man. And then there's Rafe, which is how Ralph Feinnes would spell his name if he paid attention in English class. They’re one of a few random names that show up every so often, just enough to give you a sense of the main characters actually knowing who everyone else in the woods is, and avoid a situation like Lost where every important thing happens to a core group and everyone else just sort of hangs out. Speaking of the core group, Alan-a-Dale gets his I’m-not-legendary-but-I’m-damn-close on in this book. They tie together two classic legends, using the breakup of Alan’s love’s wedding to a knight to rob from said knight, and use his money to pay the mortgage of Sir Richard at the Lee. (Who if I’ve never mentioned him before, is Robin’s foremost noble supporter in the old tales, and was Marion’s father in Robin of Sherwood.) Alan reacts to the outlaw life with enthusiasm that far surpasses his ability, and his wife reacts with enthusiasm that equals her ability, which is to say none.
OMG SPOILERS YOU GUYS - At one point, a boy named Cecil joins the gang. He kind of sucks at everything, doesn’t talk much, and is nervous around the ladies. But he’s small, sneaky, keen, and his self-haircut is adorable, so Little John takes the lad under his wing and trains him. And he seems to really like being under John’s wing… a little too much. Just when it seems we’re about to bust through with some more of the Robin Hood legend’s signature “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” Cecil is revealed to be Cecily, Will’s little sister! She didn’t marry that Norman after all! Which Will would know if he ever called or anything. Anyway, Cecily insists on continuing her training, and after this point, the book has a depressing tendency to turn into Cecily Presents the Cecily Show Starring Cecily. In Cecily, McKinley finds herself more in her element, writing about a young lady committing daring acts while mooning over an older man, and it’s all nicely done, but the absolute shift in main character is shocking. It’s one thing to spend the occasional chapter following Marian around, but quite another thing to have Robin disappear from the book entirely for five chapters.
(THIS is how far they fell. Love Boat action figures.)
OTHER VILLAINS - None, really. The villains aren’t really the focus, and other than the Sheriff’s weaselly friend and the guy who’s trying to marry Alan’s girl, there’s not really anything to speak of. And they’re boring. Guy’s henchmen and the Sheriff’s foresters get no personality, and I’ve already said all there is to say about the HOOLIGANS.
(Cavort, cavort, cavort, cavort...)
AND NOW, SOME HILARIOUS OUT OF CONTEXT LINES -
“What a disappointment,” Much said, “For mine is the shortest in the company.”
“Here, you’ll have more use for this,” said Tuck, and thrust the sticky knob at Rafe.
“She does it obliquely.”
“I find,” Cecil said sheepishly, “That I miss sausages.”
COMING UP NEXT - Hey, who wants to finally read about that Star Trek episode? I hope you do, because otherwise, you’re gonna be disappointed.