There are very few truisms when it comes to movies. One, at least to me, has always been that, while each new version will be watchable, no remake of Robin Hood will be the equal of Michael Curtiz' and William Keighley's 1938 masterpiece.
Richard Green would make the story a weekly part of childhood. Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn would add a poignant ending. Two Kevins (Reynolds and Costner) would add an interesting back story and Mary Elizabeth a fetching Marian as Morgan integrated the tale.
But who could compete with Errol Flynn as the most dashing hero ever to stand before a camera, Basil Rathbone as the most compelling villain, or Olivia de Havilland as the most winsome damsel ever to be in distress? Certainly not Patrick Bergin, at best a journeyman actor, Uma Thurman, a pulp film star, or John Irvin, a second tier British director.
Then I finally saw their 1991 effort, and the truism is true no more.
Bergin's hero is less perfect and less disarmingly charming than Flynn's, yet more compelling and much less comic bookish. This is a Robin Hood who does what's right not because his character allows no other alternative, but because his temper and pride compel him to or events or his reasoned choice lead him to. Robin becomes both believable and all the larger for that credibility.
Thurman does for Marian what Liv Tyler did for Arwen: makes her a full participant in the story and not just a symbol of chivalry. This damsel unsparingly spits on her unwelcome suitor, rescues herself, and is full of passion, not the Victorian addition of chastity. She lives up to the original notion of Marian, a folklore Queen of the May long before she was coupled in legend with Robin.
Sam Resnick and John McGrath wrote a story and screenplay that eschews Robin beating back four swordsmen at a time for one in which the action is believable, yet no less active. The good guys triumph because of their wit and ability, not just inevitability.
This Robin is a hero fighting for his downtrodden people, not Richard Coeur de Lion, who ruled from Aquitaine, spoke no English and seldom set foot on English soil.
I still love Errol and Olivia and will always treasure an hour and a half spent watching the Adventures of Robin Hood. But Patrick and Uma will forevermore be Robin and Marian in my imagination.
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