BEYOND SHERWOOD FOREST (2009)
(Sequel to the lesser known "Bed Sherwood Forest" and "Bath Sherwood Forest")
PLOT - Now, pay attention. We begin in a flashback, where spunky tween Robert Something is practicing archery and waiting for his dad, the Vice-Sheriff of Nottingham, to show up and teach him how to shave and play catch with him and tell him about girls. But the Sheriff and his two deputies are busy chasing… a dragon. Yes, it’s one of those. The Sheriff is killed by the beast, making Robin’s dad sheriff. Hooray! In order to gain control of the beast, who turns into a human-looking girl when wounded, the other deputy stabs Robert‘s dad. Booooo! So Robert runs and we flash forward an undetermined number of years where Robert has become Robin and sleeps under what really just looks like a pile of garbage, which is especially odd, since it’s established later that he has an official outlaw base camp. Anyway, the sheriff has finally decided, after (bumbletybum) years, to use the dragon to terrorize the peasantry. So Robin must find a way to kill that which does not die, all the while battling guards, wolves, and a really tedious subplot about Marian. He finally learns (I bet you thought I already got to the weird part) that the dragon, who is named Alina, is actually a fairy from another world, the portal to which lies in Sherwood. Apparently, it just sits there all the time, and no one’s ever noticed. So Robin, Little John, and Will Scarlet go into the fairy world where Robin must climb a mountain to retrieve the magic plant that will cure Alina’s dragonitis, and make her mortal. But the Sheriff… ugh… has cut her heart out of her body, and giving her the plant will kill her, even though she’s not a bad person. And she can't return to her people, because she's been exiled for running away, which seems a silly reason to exile someone. But that’s all resolved somehow, and Marian doesn’t have to get married after all. Oh, did I forget to mention that? Yeah, she… you know what? Who cares. Oh, and Friar Tuck dies.
(Ah, the shot that's in every Robin Hood movie.)
THE GOOD - Um… Ah… Let’s see… Well, most of the performances were, if not actually good, sort of winningly enthusiastic. Costumes are okay, if a bit busy. Sets are okay, if a bit small. Photography’s not bad. Basically, it’s a good looking movie. Nothing groundbreaking, but attractive. Which doesn’t make up for…
(Proof that someone directed this.)
THE BAD - The script. Oh, holy crap, the script. The plot is complete nonsense, as if someone had written a standard Robin Hood movie and decided to tack a dragon onto it at the last second. The internal logic is all over the place. Alina turns into a dragon in the sun, except in the first scene, where she turns back into a person for no reason. Alina loses control when she’s a dragon and turns beastly, except the dragon is clearly shown to be intelligent and rational and defy the Sheriff. And I don’t want you thinking the Robin Hood story outside of the dragon stuff is any good, because it’s not. Plot holes abound, and the actual dialogue is constantly cringeworthy. “Worst Line” had some serious contention this time around. I’m trying not to make this a nitpicky post full of specific instances, but there’s really just so much insane in this.
("So... How are you?")
THE OTHERWISE WORTHY OF MENTION - I’m not going to get into the effects. They’re quite good for a SyFy movie, but that’s still pretty bad, so… yeah. I mean, look at that picture. It actually looks good in still shots. That's not nothing.
(Robin Hood, played by Robin Dunn. Like Robin is that common of a name.)
ROBIN - Robin in this version is a fascinating and varied character, or so I am informed. Shortly after Marian joins them, she points out that all the other Merries take joy in helping others, but Robin is so serious about it, more like it’s a job, nay, a DUTY. Well, I’m glad Marian was around to let us know that, because I never would have guessed from, you know, watching the movie or anything. Basically, this guy’s just a retread of the hot young Robin Hood the BBC has given us, only with an even worse haircut and no personality. And a hilariously fake accent. When he gets excited, it either just plain disappears, or turns Scottish.
("No, John. I'm not taller, I'm just in the foreground.")
LITTLE JOHN - And speaking of no personality, here’s Little John! I’m just foolin’. He’s got a personality. Sure, it’s nothing to write home about, just being a boisterous bruiser type, but it’s something. The most interesting part of this Little John is his voice. His accent is pretty inconsistent, but by the time he showed up, I was already used to that. What’s weird is that when he’s speaking calmly, he sounds almost exactly like James Earl Jones. It’s uncanny.
(Judging by the shirt, I'd say he's a brawny man.)
WILL SCARLET - Will (who looks like a cross between the BBC Will and this guy,) isn’t with the Merries at the beginning, taking on the role of “Townsperson Who Is Angry At Robin For Their Woes”, but once the dragon shows, he swiftly segues into “Guy Who Inevitably Joins The Band To No One’s Surprise Since We Noticed His Name”. He’s the town butcher, and fights at first by dual-wielding cleavers, which is neat. Hey, remember in Avatar when you had Zuko, who uses two broadswords, and Jet, who uses two hookswords, and when Jet challenged Zuko, you knew they were going to have an awesome dual-weilding battle, and Zuko couldn’t use his Firebending, since he was in hiding? That was so cool. Sometimes I like to remind myself that there’s better things on TV.
(What an outlaw! Stole the fingers right off his gloves.)
TUCK - DEAD, BABY. At first, he shows up, all scruffy and peacemakery, and lets everyone stay at his abbey and dispenses sage advice to everyone. He seems all sensible, until he gets the bejeepers clawed out of him by the dragon. Then, on his deathbed, he tells them what they need to do to kill her. Oh, wait, no he doesn’t. He gives them some cryptic riddle bullshit. Sure, they work it out, and WAY too easily, mind, but it still doesn’t make sense that he wouldn’t just tell them, and that he’d hold off on this vital info until he was dying. It’s just stupid. Hey, remember when Zuko fought Jet?
(It was so cool.)
MUCH -Not much by way of Much here, just some tagalong kid called Gareth. He never talks, because the Sheriff cut his tongue out. Yes, we really need that kind of gritty drama in a movie where Robin Hood uses fairy dust to fight a dragon. He helps them in the usual urchiny ways, and is generally forgotten about for most of the movie.
(I like her little embroidered dragon. It's like some kind of medieval Lacoste.)
MARIAN - I feel like I should have more to say about her. Not just because she’s Marian, lord knows we’ve had plenty of boring Marians, it’s just that she’s on Smallville, and my powerful nerd hindbrain is telling me that I need to discuss it at length. But I’ve seen exactly one episode of Smalville since she joined the cast, and all this girl did was stay out of the way while the more interesting characters engaged in the main plot. Which is actually about what Marian does here. Hey, I did it! Also, she’s first seen, apart from the introductory flashback, doing some quarterstaff training. Guess how that gets used later? If you guessed “One fight with Robin, followed by a lot of getting captured and rescued by men,” you are sadly correct.
(And with that tiny cut, he looks worse than the Phantom in the 2004 movie.)
SHERIFF - I think I’ve already told you everything interesting about the guy. This isn’t to say he’s boring, he’s probably the funnest character in the movie. (Yeah, I said funnest.) This is because he’s played by B-movie superstar Julian Sands, who gives it the exact sort of hammy performance it deserves. My favorite Julian Sands movie is The Phantom of the Opera, where he plays the Phantom, who is not deformed, wears no mask, and has sex with rats. He gets into a variety of pervy situations with Christine, who is played by the director’s daughter. Then he is killed by a midget on a rocket powered skateboard. And that’s just the bare bones, the movie’s a lot weirder than that. My second favorite Julian Sands movie is Boxing Helena. I’m not even going to try to describe that one, just go read the Wikipedia article or something.
(Sometimes the gay jokes are too easy to make. Just pretend this is a Road warrior joke or something.)
SIR GUY - Oh, there’s a Sir Guy all right. And no one was more surprised to learn this than me. See, the first time around, I heard a reference to Malcolm being desperate to catch Robin, and context made it seem they were talking about the Captain of the Guards. Okay, so that’s Malcolm. And now everyone is talking about how Robin has a vendetta and a personal history with him and they’re the mortalest of mortal foes. And I’m all like “But why? There’s no reason for that.” Boy, I tells ya, if that guy was actually named Malcolm, this entry would be so funny. But it turns out Malcolm is the Sheriff, as I found out reading the IMDb cast list, which also let me know that this guy is a Sir Guy. And as I watched the second time, it was all insanely obvious, and they call him Sir Guy all the time, and I must have reeeeeeally not been paying attention the first time. He’s okay in a generic, scowly sort of way.
(Oh, and he's pimply and scabby, just like a real medieval king. Kudos, movie.)
THE MAN - Prince John is in this, but he really doesn’t need to be. He’s in three scenes, but never does anything but raise taxes and be generally menacing until the very end. Sure, he’s trying to marry off Marian, but that’s nothing a messenger or the Sheriff couldn’t have handled. If you’re going to have royalty in a scene, there has to be something special about it, and nobody even seems really impressed with the guy. He is slightly redeemed in the final scene, where he hands out the customary rewards, rather than Richard doing it as per usual. Granted these rewards are more along the lines of “I’m not selling you to an Austrian,” and “I’m not killing you right now,” but he’s trying.
(Because even when John and Robin start as partners, somebody's fighting on a damn bridge.)
OTHER MERRY MEN - None. The movie takes a very small-scale approach to the Merries, which I like. A lot of the logistical issues are easily solved by having the Merries consist of Robin Hood and Little John walkin’ through the forest, laughin’ back and forth at what the other’un has to say. Oh, and Gareth. Ooh-de-lally.
(I'm going to have a hard time watching this and not imagining Rourke saying all of Ivan Drago's lines.)
OTHER VILLAINS - Sir not-Malcolm of Gisbourne has quite a few recurring thugs, but the only one that stands out is a fella I likes to call Whippy. Whippy uses whips as his only offensive weapons, which is sort of wildly impractical. They’re useful for keeping the dragon under control, or at least they were until the dragon grabbed them, dragged him forward and ate him. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Why didn’t he just drop the whips?” Because they were tied to his arm, silly. My guess is the creators saw the Iron Man 2 trailer and thought Mickey Rourke looked totally cool. That’s my guess even though the Iron Man 2 trailer was released only a month before this came out, because I’d rather believe that this movie had a total of one month production time and contains blatant rip-offs than that they gave a guy such a ridiculous and stupid style just for a death scene.
("I've lived in Sherwood all my life, and never seen this..." Well, John, maybe you should look to your left once in a while.)
WORST LINE - “When Alina was born, she was fine.” - The Lead Sylvan.
Now, you may be wondering what’s so horrible about that. The thing is, every other line the fairies have is comprised of the stupidest, most stereotypical fantacrap you’ve ever heard. The line immediately before this one is “When she returned from her sojourn to the world beyond, her womb was flush with the seed of life.” And then all they can describe the baby as is ‘fine’? Good gravy, man, if you’re going to be crappy, at least be consistently crappy.
WORST LINE RUNNER-UP - “Where I come from, laws are made by men, not trees.” Robin Hood, setting ‘em straight.
WORST DIALOGUE EXCHANGE -
Marian - That’s a one in a million shot!
Robin - Fortunately for you, you happen to be imprisoned with a one in a million sort of fellow.
NO NO NO! Damnit, Robin! If you’re going to make a snappy comeback, it has to be…. Well, snappy! Not long and stilted! Do it like this!
Marian - That’s a one in a million shot!
Robin - Well, I’m a one in a million guy.
I fully expect to see better quipping from you in the sequel, where you and a werewolf fight sea monsters or some shit.
COMING UP NEXT -