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Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) Print E-mail
Thursday, 21 May 2009
ImageIn 1991, one of the best Robin Hood films was released, "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves."  Now, before you jump all over me for saying that, just take a look at the terrific story present in this film.  The entire film flows nicely.  Never is there a moment that it uninteresting or subpar.  Everything has a role.  That is something that lacks from nearly every movie of recent times.

Okay, so there is one drawback to the film, so let's get that out of the way – Kevin Costner.  Yes, it true that his acting in this film is less than stellar, well, less than average is more accurate.  That is the only reason why this film got docked one half of a star.  I can overlook his acting and that is way it is only worth one half of a star to me.

Alan Rickman's powerful acting compensates for Costner's acting.  After his success as Hans Gruber in "Die Hard" in 1988, and before his stint as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter saga, Rickman starred as the Sheriff of Nottingham.  He is just the perfect choice.  His demeanor is evil but at the same time a bit humorous.

Costner stars are Robin of Locksley, a man that left as a boy to fight alongside King Richard III in the crusades in the 12th century.  He is captured in Jerusalem for allegedly stealing and sentenced to hand decapitation.  With some bold moves, he escapes form the underground, along with his friend Peter and a Moor, Azeem (Morgan Freeman).  Robin and Azeem are able to escape back to England.  Azeem declares a vow to repay Robin for saving his life.

When Robin finds his father hanging in a cage from their castle, he sets out for revenge.  He swears it on his blood.  Robin finds his housekeeper, Duncan, now blind at their residence.  The trio's first stop is Maid Marian's house.  She takes precautions so as not to be kidnapped by King Richard's enemies.  However, Robin is not fooled and finds Marian hiding behind the mask of the castle guard.

Sworn to protect Maid Marian by her late brother, Peter, Robin is not dissuaded by the arrival of the Sheriff's men at Marian's place.  Marian insists that Robin leave.  Chased into Sherwood forest, Robin and his companions are safe, as all others fear the spirits in the forest.

When trying to cross a river, Robin is tricked by a band of outlaws.  After proving his worth to the leader of the outlaws, John Little (Nick Brimble), Robin is giving shelter by the outlaws.  However, Will Scarlett (Christian Slater) is not so taken with Robin.

Robin sets out to destroy the Sheriff.  He begins a war between the outlaws and the Sheriff.  Robin begins to intercept treasure sent by the Sheriff that was intended to bribe King Richard's enemies into revolting against him.  Essentially, this film is about an attempt to take over the throne, foiled by Robin Hood.  Obviously, Robin gets his name by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. The last 35 minutes of the film are true battle sequences.  When you first watch the film you will be on pins and needles.  After the first time you will simply just want to watch for the action that is heightened by the Michael Kamen music score.

"Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" delivers the goods - an intense story and beautiful scenery.  Give it a chance and you will not be disappointed.

Unfortunately, as stellar as the movie is, the video transfer is not very exceptional.  In fact, the Blu-ray simply repurposes the same transfer used for the previous DVD edition of the film.  This is truly sad, as the transfer was not given very much attention.  The transfer should have been thrown out and a new one started from scratch.  Inconsistency plagues this video transfer.  The contrast fluctuates from the dark scenes to the bright scenes.  Occasionally, you will find whites blown out.  Details also get lost in the shadows.  However, details can be quite stellar during the daylight sequences.  Most noticeably, this video transfer has gone through a wash of digital noise reduction and edge enhancement.  The noise reduction creates an overly soft image, but leaves a consistent layer of film grain, which is still overly abundant.  The image looks as if it were blown up from being shot on 16mm film instead of 35mm.  The edge enhancement results in color bleeding, especially when it comes to greens/yellows and whites.  Foreground images can be sharp and detailed or soft and blurry.  Background objects are blurred beyond belief.  Black levels are good however.  The best part of this video transfer is the textures.  I have never seen the costumes in this film look so detailed and real.  The colors are vibrant, sometimes suffering from bleed.  The fleshtones are also accurate, but also suffering from moments of oversaturation.  In the end, the image transfer is still better than the previous standard DVD releases.  However, I know this film can look a whole lot better, and hopefully someday Warners will give it a true restoration treatment.

The audio quality is much on the same plane as the video quality.  Warner Bros. has given us a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track.  This is the same track as the one used on the previous DVD as well.  Dynamics are all over the place when it comes to the dialogue.  Sometimes the dialogue is clear and upfront, while other times the dialogue is buried in the background, lacking the presence in the upper mid frequency range.  ADR lines are also readily apparent and quite bothersome.  The surround channels are only active with algorithmic ambience sounds.  The surround channels are never noticeable and never provide any true enveloping moments.  There are absolutely no discreet effects in the rear channels, nor is there any panning from front to back.  The music has been remixed into surround sound and is the only element that provides any sense of depth in the soundfield.  The most disappointing aspect of this audio track is the lack of the LFE channel.  The main channels have been filtered to create the LFE channel, and is too low in volume at best.  This creates a thin audio track.  For example, the fanfare by Michael Kamen has powerful bass drum orchestra hits and they are nowhere to be found in the LFE channel.  They are completely absent from the track, which is why the rating for this track drops below three stars.  Sorry.  But I would have preferred the original stereo soundtrack where I can manipulate the bass signal myself.  The audio track needs much more attention given to it.

The edition of "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" presented on this Blu-ray is the extended version, same as the previous standard DVD release.  This is unfortunate, because the deleted segments that have been re-added are not of any value and only serve to bring the movie down.  I watched this film over and over again back in the day and have memorized it quite well.  Watching this extended edition was just distracting.  It would have been much better if the film was presented in its original theatrical version with the option for the extended version through seamless branching, or simply just adding the extended and deleted scenes to the special features section.

The other special features on this Blu-ray disc are also the same as the two-disc DVD edition of the film.  There are two audio commentaries.  The first is with actor Kevin Costner and director Kevin Reynolds.  This is the more interesting of the two commentaries.  The second commentary is with actors Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater as well as producers/screenwriters Pen Densham and John Watson.  "Robin Hood: The Man, the Myth, the Legend" is a made-for-TV special hosted by Pierce Brosnan.  It doesn't have anything to offer.  There is a section of vintage interviews with the film's stars.  Some are good and some are bad.  It totals about 20 minutes so just give it a watch.  Also included are a variety of trailers and TV Spots.  The last two bonus materials are the best on the disc.  First, there is a music video for Bryan Adams' "Everything I Do I Do It For You."  I am still disappointed that no version of the film on a digital format has included the music video under the credits like the original theatrical release and the VHS tape.  Placing the music video under the scrolling credits is much more affective than included it as an extra.  Lastly, there is the Music-Only 5.1 audio track.  The music score to this film is wonderful and I enjoy the music only track.  However, as I said earlier, the audio quality is lackluster and so the music score doesn't have the impact that it should.

"Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" is a terrific film that is engaging and well worth owning.  However, this epic story deserves more restoration time in terms of the audio and video quality.  I hope that Warner Bros. realizes this and presents a fully restored theatrical cut of the film on the Blu-ray format.  As it stands, this Blu-ray is better than the extended version DVD in terms of details and textures, but not much else.  Still, as a fan I would suggest owning this Blu-ray.

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