Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – Special Edition

January 28, 2012 11 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

1991 might have well been called “the year of Kevin Costner”. Aside from starring in two of the year’s highest-grossing movies (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and JFK), he picked up his Academy Award for Best Director and Best Picture for Dances With Wolves in March of that year. Not a shabby 12 months. Granted, though, his career has been a slow decline ever since. But we’ll not look into the past and instead concentrate on this umpteenth remake of Robin and his merry men. Or not so merry men, as the case may be. A far cry from The adventures of Robin Hood, this was a much darker adaption of the popular folk hero. The movie starts out as he’s about to be executed and doesn’t really look up from there. Is it a bad movie? Not exactly. It’s entertaining, but it was obviously aimed at the family market and I think that a lot of the viewers found it a bit too dark that they would want to take the kiddies to. Like so many other movies, this one will probably be remembered most for the title song, “Everything I do, I do it for You” by Canuck Bryan Adams. The song was a tremendous success back then and was even nominated for Best Song (but lost to “Beauty and the Beast”).

As mentioned, the film starts out in a dark dungeon in which Robin (Kevin Costner) is watching people getting their hands chopped off for stealing bread. He then stages an escape and takes a Moor (Morgan Freeman) with him. The Moor has vowed to stay with him until he has saved his life, and so it goes. Robin is shocked to learn that his father and castle have been destroyed by the vicious Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) and his crew. Now on a side note, this part is probably the best of Rickman’s career. His sly, seething “cat ate the canary” smile are part of what made this movie fairly enjoyable. Even better than his performance in Die Hard, he must have had a lot of fun with his role here…and it shows. Robin starts to accumulate his “band of merry men”, though they’re more social misfits, and the rest of the film is Robin trying to save Maid Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Though it doesn’t seem like the two are really in love, it seems that they’re only interested in each other as that’s how the story is supposed to go. Make sense?

Though it’s easy to pick apart a film, I still found myself laughing and becoming involved in the movie. While it won’t (and hasn’t) gone down as one of the better films, it was a big-budget studio “event” film (boy, I’m glad they don’t do those anymore)! The cast is great and for those who think they’re going to see an updated version of the 1938 classic, The adventures of Robin Hood might not be too happy. In any case, this is the second version of this DVD as the first was one of the initial releases on the format. As part of Warner’s ongoing “Two Disc Special Editions”, this one has supplements galore and an improved picture and sound. For those fans out there who have been salivating for a new release of this title (and you’re out there, you know it), it’s here and it does deliver. All kidding aside, this is somewhat of a guilty pleasure for me and probably thousands of others. For those who have never seen the film, this is the best way to experience it for the first time. For fans of the movie, recommended.

Video: How does it look?

Perhaps the most noticeable difference here is that the picture has been given a brand new digital transfer. The old, grainy look is gone and it’s been replaced with a gorgeous-looking 1.85:1 anamorphic image. Though a giant step up, the image does have its flaws from time to time. During several of the outdoor shots, there seems to be a little edge enhancement that caught my eye. As the movie is mostly dark, some of the nighttime shots do have some artifacting associated with them as well. That being said, the majority of the film looks great and it’s yet another testament to the benefit of anamorphic transfers. If nothing else, you’re going to have to upgrade to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves 2.0 just for the new transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

Additionally, Warner has added a DTS track to the mix. A few years back, Warner tested the waters with DTS when they re-released the Lethal Weapon series, Interview With the Vampire and Twister. All of which I thought sounded great. Robin Hood sounds great as the original six channel mix is even more appealing in DTS as opposed to its Dolby Digital counterpart. Still, the mix isn’t quite as active as you might think. For the majority of the movie, the front spectrum takes control, only allowing the surrounds and LFE to kick in at key times. This isn’t bad, however, as the mix is substantially better than the previous DVD release. Dialog is clean and natural, even considering that Costner’s on again/off again British accent is what needed the work. As with the video, this is another reason to get this set.

Supplements: What are the extras?

As is consistent with these two-disc Special Editions, this is loaded with extras. On disc 1 we find two commentary tracks, the first with Kevin Costner and Director Kevin Reynolds (who have collaborated on commentaries before). The two are fairly talkative throughout and though not a whole lot of new information is gathered, it’s a relatively fun track from two of the main players involved in the movie. The second track has Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater and Producers John Watson and Pen Densham. This is a little more dull in that there’s too many people involved. I guess a lot of egos were involved! The more entertaining track is with Coster/Reynolds but fans should be happy that there’s two to choose from. The rest of the extras are included on disc 2; but, lest I forget, the movie is the Extended Version with twelve minutes of added scenes added back into the movie. While not adding a lot of new information, it’s nice to have this “Director’s Cut” of the film on DVD with us forever.

Disc Two sports a variety of supplements, most notably is the featurette hosted by Pierce Brosnan, “Robin Hood: The Myth, The Man, The Movie”. Scholars and interviews with the cast and crew are to decide if Robin Hood was actually a real person or just a folk hero that’s managed to remain with us for some 12 centuries. While interesting (and a lot longer than I expected), this doesn’t really shed a whole lot of light on the issue, though I feel it’s a nice touch and a welcome addition to the disc. Bryan Adams’ song “Everything I Do, I Do it For You” is shown in its entirety, though not the MTV version. This is a concert at the Slane Castle in Ireland. The concert, shot “live” at the film and song’s peak shows how popular both were at the time. Some interviews with the film’s five major stars are also included (Costner, Freeman, Mastrantonio, Slater and Rickman) and can be played individually or all together. The video quality is horrible, but it gives each of them a chance to reflect on their characters and gives us a little insight into the phenomenon of the movie. A photo gallery is also included as are extensive production notes on “Creating 12th Century England”, “The Legend of Robin Hood”, “Robin Hood in the Movies” and “Why Tell the Story Again”. Additionally, there are some text-based screen about the weapons used in the movie (and at the time of Robin Hood) that offer some insight into the weaponry at the time. Some trailers (for this and other Morgan Creek titles) are included as are some cast and crew bios and television spots. Lastly, Michael Kamen’s score is available in a re-mastered 5.1 soundtrack to accompany the movie. All in all, the features, re-mastered audio and video and an above average movie make for one heck of a DVD. Recommended.

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