The majority of gripes audiences will have with Ridley Scott's version of Robin Hood (rated PG-13 for war violence and suggestive dialogue) could have been solved by a simple title change. When people go to a movie bearing the name of folklore's most beloved outlaw, they expect certain things: Sherwood Forest and Merry Men confounding the Sherriff of Nottingham foremost among them. To invoke the convention and not come through with the goods is bound to leave some viewers dissatisfied even if the product is perfectly good.
And Scott's story about how a common soldier named Robin Longstride (a riveting Russell Crowe) becomes the enemy of the crown is good, though not great.
This Robin isn't yet an outlaw and doesn't become one until the last few minutes. He also isn't as interested in robbing from the rich to give to the poor as he is in getting very rich royalty to stop robbing from everybody via taxes. That Britain's icon of wealth redistribution is transformed in Scott's hands into something of an American Founding Father is provoking fury from critics at The New York Times and The Washington Post, but it's bound to resonate with audiences. Nor is it necessarily anachronistic given that the film is set in the years before John signed the Magna Carta.
Also working in Robin Hood's favor is an attention to detail that brings medieval England to vivid life as well as breathtaking cinematography. (Those reportedly depressed Avatar fans should take a gander at the sublime vistas and forests Scott offers. Not only do they put James Cameron's gimmicky neon woods to shame, they're real. You can even visit them.)
Where the film falls short is in the editing department. The ambitious script follows so many political intrigues, none feel particularly important. And the feminist revision of having Maid Marion (Cate Blanchett) on the battlefield in chain mail doesn't come off as enlightened, it comes off as ludicrous. Those few lapses in judgment notwithstanding, Ridley Scott manages to inject fresh relevance into a centuries-old tale.