“We’re in a Hurry Boys, We’ve Got a Long Way to Go”

Robin Hood

It has a cast and a half! Russell Crowe is Robin Longstride, Cate Blanchett is Marion, Max von Sydow (who has a filmography going back to the 50s) is Sir Walter Loxley, William Hurt (currently General Ross in the MCU) is William Marshal, Mark Strong (villainous Lord Henry Blackwood in the first Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes film) is villainous again as Godfrey, great British actress Eileen Atkins is Eleanor of Aquitaine, Mark Addy (Roland in Knight’s Tale and he appears in Game of Thrones) is Friar Tuck, and Matthew Macfadyen (Mr. Darcy in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice) is the Sheriff of Nottingham. This 2010 film was directed by Ridley Scott, the same man who brought us Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, and Kingdom of Heaven and provides an origin story for the hero. My family and I prefer this version as it attempts to show the history of the time period better (Hollywood still gets some facts wrong, but that surprises nobody). I watched the Director’s Cut for this viewing.

The film, set in 1192 opens with script stating “In times of tyranny and injustice when law oppresses the people, the outlaw takes his place in history. England at the turn of the 12th century was such a time.” We’re next in a forest where masked children sneak into Nottingham in the middle of the night to steal their grain. A woman, Marion, wakes the household to see about the ruckus. Back to the lettering: “King Richard the Lion Heart, bankrupt of wealth and glory is plundering his way back to England after ten years on his Crusade.” [Question from a historian: Since Richard prefered Normandy, a vassal state of France, why would he be plundering France?] Continuing: “In his army is an archer named Robin Longstride. This is the story of his return home where, for defending the weak against the strong, he will be condemned to live outside the law.”

We’re introduced to Robin and his men and their work as archers. Richard walks about camp that evening with his friend Robert of Loxley to find an honest Englishman. He finds Robin fighting Little John and asks Robin will God be pleased with his sacrifice? No. They are godless men after the massacre at Acre. Richard appreciates his honesty, but still puts him in the stocks. During battle the next day, Richard is killed by a lucky shot to the neck (that is historically accurate to a point). Robin and his crew break out of their stocks, before the rest of the army figures out what’s happening, giving them a head start to get passage back to England. They don’t owe god or man service, they make their own fates now.

Meanwhile, in England, Eleanor needs to have a discussion with her son, John. He has put aside his English bride and intends to marry Isabella of Angoulême, the niece of King Phillip of France. Oh yes, she has this conversation after she walks in on them naked in bed. Eleanor of Aquitaine was awesome like that. John needs to put aside the French pastry (as Eleanor refers to Isabella), take up his lawful wife and save England. Phillip is looking for any reason to invade England. John argues with his mother that his first wife, Isabel of Gloucester is barren; he will seek an annulment from the Pope [historically, he did and it was granted. He did marry Isabella, but kidnapped her and war was declared against Phillip, but in 1202]. Eleanor had gifted her husband Henry II with eight sons, but only two remain; Richard and John, the runt of the litter. Richard is now forty and has no legitimate children. Isabella, John argues, is a queen in the making, his own Eleanor. [Eleanor of Aquitaine brought a lot of land as her dowry to her marriage to Henry II. Hence how they had control of land in France.]

But while the royal family is bickering, King Phillip of France is making a deal with Godfrey, John’s oldest friend, to make England ripe for invasion. Kill King Richard and turn the country against John; there will be no better time to invade. Phillip will richly reward Godfrey. (Hollywood is playing a little loose with history) Godfrey and his men ambush the knights escorting Richard’s crown back to England, including Robert of Loxley; one part of the French plan is already accomplished. The knights are slaughtered, Godfrey killing Robert. The horse carrying Richard’s crown bolts and comes upon Robin and his men. They find the ambush site and chase off Godfrey and his men. Robin catches Godfrey on the side of his face with an arrow. Afterwards, Robin goes to Robert. Robert asks him to return his sword to his father, Sir Walter of Loxely; he had taken it in anger and without permission. Robin promises then gets an idea. The crown still needs delivered and it could be their ticket home to England; all the trappings they need to pass as knights are about them. They arrive in England as wealthy men; Fate has smiled upon them at last.

Things are not well in Loxley’s Nottingham. The children had stolen the grain needed for planting and the church will not part with its share; it’s bound for York. The Sheriff of Nottingham visits Marion, inquiring about taxes to the crown. She has the ability to change her status; marry the Sheriff and she’ll have protection. Sir Walter has no heirs beyond Robert, who has been gone ten years to the Crusades and may already be dead and he and Marion have no children. Nottingham will pass to the crown and Marion will be destitute. Marion, a spirited woman, refuses.

At the boat bound for England, Robin takes Robert of Loxley’s name. His lads pass a merry night drinking and singing Row Me Bully Boys. Robin unwraps the hilt of Robert’s sword, revealing the phrase “Rise and Rise Again, Until Lambs Become Lions.” He has a flashback to his past; he had told Robert that his father abandoned him at the age of six. When they dock in London (not Robin’s original plan; he did not want to have to face the dowager queen), Robin, as Robert Loxley, presents the crown to Eleanor. She then crowns John as the new king of England. John goes to reward Robin, but recalls that Nottingham owes taxes to the crown. The reward will go towards that. Advisor to the king, William Marshal approaches Robin after the impromptu coronation; he is friends with Sir Walter. He may have need of the man soon and will visit. Godfrey is in the background, watching. John cheerfully greets him and Godfrey orders his man, Belvedere to get rid of Robin (he knows him as the man who ambushed his ambush).

A few extended scenes for the Director’s Cut show more of the boys of Sherwood forest. Marion recognizes them from her village, and the boys also sneak up on Robin and his men, intent on stealing their gold. That wakes Robin in time to hear Belvedere’s approach.

John argues with William Marshal on taxing the northern barons. He feels that the barons are hoarding their wealth. Marshal and Eleanor argue that the country is under enough strain from funding the Crusades. John’s retort is those were his brother’s problems; he is the new king, those problems are over (not really). John dismisses Marshal, gives his station to Godfrey and allows Godfrey to go north and harass the barons. Pay, or die (that was Godfrey’s idea).

Robin and his men arrive in Nottingham; Robin keeps trying to get his men to leave, it’s not their duty and they would be safer split up. The men stay with Friar Tuck, who offers them mead from his bees, while Robin rides up to the manor. He first meets Marion helping the servants with a horse. She agrees to take him to Walter where both Loxleys learn that Robert is dead. Walter invites Robin to dinner, but first he needs a bath. Marion ends up helping him out of his chainmail (that is why knights had squires). Over dinner, Walter has a proposal for Robin; the man gives the old blind man his time, and in return, Walter will give Robin the sword. But, he must also agree to pass himself off as Walter’s son, and thus, Marion’s husband. Walter knows something about Robin’s past; he recognized the name ‘Longstride;’ called it a common, but noble Saxon name.

russell and cate robin hood

The men really enjoyed Tuck’s mead and celebrate in a local pub [I like the music being played]. Marion is not pleased to have to pretend that Robin is her husband. She has him lie in front of the fire, on the floor, and warns him she sleeps with a dagger. In the morning, she is to reacquaint her ‘husband’ with the village. His men are formally introduced; Little John, Welsh Will Scarlett (though he sounds Irish, further, the actor, Scott Grimes, is American), and Allan A’Dayle (played by Alan Doyle, lead singer for the Canadian group Great Big Sea [they play some Irish drinking songs]). Robin fills them in that he is currently Marion’s husband and continues to use Robert Loxley’s identity. Robin also discusses the grain situation with Friar Tuck, threatening to tell the higher-ups in the church about Tuck’s bees, so they too can partake in its bounty. Tuck knows the grain should stay in Nottingham, quietly putting the question to Robin, “what if the grain didn’t make it to York?” That evening, Robin wakes his men; they had their chance to leave, they’re still here, they have work to do. They ambush the men taking the grain. When demanded who they are, Robin replies “we are men of the hood, merry now at your expense.” [There’s cheery music played in the background.] Friar Tuck suggests they plant the grain under the moonlight. That way, when it sprouts, he can claim it was a miracle; the church will not argue with a miracle. Marion is shocked to find out that the fields have been planted. That’s all Robin says.

But more trouble is coming; the French have landed in England. A spy for Marshal gets word to him. The French force attacks Godfrey’s English escort, taking their places. They attack the northern estates; Godfrey declaring to the barons, “pay, or burn.” The barons argue they have paid enough, for Richard and his war, they have nothing left to give. These taxes are for King John, Godfrey states. John is not their king, is the reply. The men attack the church in York (that’s when you know you’re dealing with ruthless murderers). A map burns in the background, spreading through the northern lands. Belvedere rides ahead to their next stop, Nottingham, to speak with the Sheriff. The Sheriff is Godfrey’s man, but warns that there will be trouble from Loxley; the Crusader son, Robert has returned. Belvedere knows that Robert is dead. He spots Robin and reports back to Godfrey. Nottingham is to burn. Godfrey sends word to Phillip that the time has come for the invasion.

William Marshal meets with Eleanor; the crown is in peril. Godfrey is plotting with Phillip. The northern barons will declare war on the crown due to Godfrey’s actions, and that will leave England open for invasion. But Eleanor cannot speak to John; he will not listen. She goes to Isabella, she is the only one John will listen to. If she wishes to be queen, she must save John and England. Isabella tells John of Godfrey’s betrayal; John is understandably upset. He declares it must be lies, but Isabella holds a dagger to her chest, swearing it is true. John next rides to Marshal, but whines that Marshal abandoned him. He also doesn’t listen to reason when Marshal counsels that the barons need to unite for the defense of England. John would rather meet them on the field of battle for daring to rise up against him.

Robin and Marion grow closer. He spots her in the forest (in an extended scene) tending to the Sherwood boys. He offers to teach them, how to fight, how to make proper bows and weapons. He is not the enemy. The evening after the planting, the village gathers for a celebration; they have hope again. Marshal arrives to see Walter (another extended scene), asking for help persuading the barons to stand with John against the French. Meanwhile, Walter informs Marshal that Robin’s surname is Longstride. Marshal speaks to Robin and says he knew Robin as a boy. When he and Walter returned from the Holy Land, they went to retrieve Robin, but he was gone. Later that night, Walter tells Robin his history. Robin’s father was a stone mason, and a visionary. He had the idea that a king needs his subjects, as much as subjects need a king. It was Robin’s father who brought about the phrase “Rise and Rise Again, Until Lambs Become Lions.” The grand idea was to give rights to all ranks; he drew thousands to his cause. A charter was created, and signed by many of the barons, including William Marshal and Walter Loxley. Robin’s father refused to give up the charter and names to the king’s guards; he was executed. And Robin was there. At Walter’s coaxing, older Robin remembers the events.

– This is why I don’t quite fully understand the added scene a few minutes before, of Marshal telling Robin they had come to fetch him home. It appears to be Loxley and Marshal who carry young Robin away from his father’s death. Does the added scene mean that afterwards, they had gone on an earlier Crusade and when they had returned, Robin had already run off?

The next morning, Walter shows Robin his copy of the original charter, but they’re interrupted with news that the barons have amassed an army in Barnsdale to kill John. Marshal requires Walter’s help. Walter sends Robin, like a father would send a son. Robin and his men ride to Barnsdale and we see the same Celtic cross that was in Robin’s memory. He removes a stone to reveal his father’s phrase, and his small handprint alongside his father’s. Barnsdale was where he was born. Marshal and the barons are arguing, Marshal still insisting that the barons unite with John to repel the French. John arrives and the argument continues. The barons insist they will be subject only to the laws they have a hand in making. John’s argument is that a king does not bargain for the loyalty he is owed by every man. Without loyalty, there is no kingdom. Robin chimes in, stating he speaks for Walter Loxley. The laws of this land enslave the people to their king. A king who demands their loyalty and offers nothing in return. But, if the king were to empower every man, the king would gain strength. Robin calls again for justice, for a charter of liberties; liberty by law. This will earn John the loyalty, and love, of his people. Marshal urges his king that this is his chance to unify his subjects. John gives his word that a charter will be written. [This argument is really the basis of the Magna Carta, which wasn’t written until 1215.]

They receive word that Godfrey has attacked Nottingham. Marshal and the king go to the French landing; Robin and a few other barons will catch up once they’ve settled matters in Nottingham. Godfrey’s men slaughter the people of Nottingham and demand taxes. Belvedere locks Marion away, fully intending to rape her. She uses her dagger to stab him. The boys of Sherwood come to the rescue of the village, helping Marion unlock the barn the French had shoved the villagers into, intent on burning it to the ground with everyone inside. The French even burn the Sheriff’s home, despite him being Godfrey’s man. Walter comes out and fights Godfrey, incensed when the man admits he killed Robert. Robin and a portion of the army ride in to settle everything. Robin wrangles the location of Phillip’s landing out of an officer. Then finds out that Walter is dead. After the funeral, Robin must ride with the army. He parts with Marion, who has already said goodbye to one man riding to war, saying he loves her, and kisses her.

The French landing craft look an awful lot like the landing craft used by the Allies during World War II at the Normandy landing. Robin and Marshal help the king direct the archers to the cliff, the cavalry to the beach. John is eager for his first battle. He refuses to stay behind the army; it was never close enough for Richard. Well, look what happened to Richard, Marshal points out, but John still rides ahead. Marion, dressed as a knight, arrives with the boys of Sherwood. Robin’s not pleased that she’s come, but directs her to join the rest of the cavalry. After several volleys of arrows, the cavalry charge. Phillip notes that this does not look like a country at war with itself. Marion goes after Godfrey for Walter’s death, but she’s no match. Robin takes up the fight (while Marion was knocked into the water and the unfamiliar weight of the chainmail keeps her from rising and in danger of drowning). When Robin ends up between two boats, Godfrey takes off on his horse. Robin emerges from the water, grabs his bow, and nails Godfrey in the throat. The French yield, to Robin Longstride (how and when they found out his name, I’m not sure), not to John.

The day John is due to sign the charter, he changes his mind. “I did not make myself king, king john outlawGod did. King by divine right.” [Historically, yes, this was a common notion, but it didn’t really become a major political theory until the seventeenth-century]. This document before him seeks “to limit the authority given to me by God.” He burns the charter amidst the barons protests. He then charges Robin Longstride of theft and incitement to cause unrest. The man pretended to be a knight, a crime punishable by death. John declares Robin and “Outlaw!” (he gets really angry on that word). In Nottingham, the Sheriff reads the decree and an arrow is shot to hold the paper when he asks for a nail. Robin of the Hood now dwells in Sherwood alongside Marion, his men, and the boys. The film closes with the script, “and so the legend begins.”

So, the story of this film manages to explain why Robin Hood was both gifted at archery and a noble [nobles were typically more skilled at sword fighting, since they had the money for a steel weapon, than archery, a poor man’s weapon]. It shows how Robin ended up in Sherwood forest and had so many followers. It works in his conflict with the Sheriff and John. John was definitely more accurate and played a bigger role in this film; which I can appreciate as a historian. He lived in his brother’s shadow for years. He’s not a buffoon; neither he nor the Sheriff are evil for the sake of being evil, they have a reason. Godfrey, as some fans have pointed out, ended up incredibly powerful on his own in England, why did he need to ally with France? My guess, maybe he just didn’t like John and finally figured out how to get rid of him without having the blame cast on him. Didn’t work out so well.

Marion is not related to royalty in this story, which actually makes more sense; that was always one of those dangling plot points in typical Robin Hood legends. Like, why was she a royal ward, or how was she related to King Richard? It gave a more believable relationship growth between Marion and Robin, rather than she falls in love with him in like a day (looking at you, Errol Flynn, Prince of Thieves, and Men in Tights). It’s a grittier story, like a lot of Ridley Scott films, most certainly not a happy romp through the forest. We didn’t get a lot of back story on Alan A’Dayle, Will Scarlett, or Little John; but they weren’t the focus. I appreciated the inclusion of Eleanor of Aquitaine and other historical supporting members. I’m not as keen on the whole subplot of the charter of rights, since that didn’t happen until later, but again, Hollywood is not known for its historical accuracy. It gives Robin something else to fight for, yes, and a reason for Prince John personally to be set against him (because typically, why would the ruler of the entire country be worried about one thief in a forest?)

The action is great, the costumes are wonderfully accurate, I like parts of the soundtrack. Overall, this is my favorite Robin Hood movie.

Who is your favorite Robin or other character? Do you like a happy tale or a gritty tale?

Up Next: To France for Alexander Dumas’ tale The Three Musketeers

(No, I’m not doing the most recent rendition. Two reasons: one, not on DVD yet for me to be able to pause or anything, and I haven’t seen it. Two: it’s like the most recent King Arthur movie, which is just a way to get people piqued enough to watch an action movie. Just make the action movie and leave historical characters out of it. They were not all secret assassins or whatever you’re trying to do.)

Disney’s Second Attempt at the Robin Hood Legend, or, That Time Disney Tried to Re-Write English History

Princess of Thieves

Produced by the Wonderful World of Disney, it tells the tale of the daughter of Robin Hood and Maid Marian. Stuart Wilson (who is Don Rafael Montero, the antagonist of The Mask of Zorro) is Robin Hood and Kiera Knightley is Gwyn (ironically, she will play Guinevere in 2004’s King Arthur). This is the movie that really got me thinking of a kickass heroine who fights like a man, the starting point for my fantasy series [it will get written, someday] This is also the movie that really got me into the legend of Robin Hood.

Opening narration claims that history has forgotten the tale of Robin Hood’s child. It places the story in 1184, which is oddly before a lot of other Robin Hood tales take place. And historically, before King Richard even took the throne. (But, we don’t tend to count on Disney for historical accuracy). Cardaggian, the Sheriff of Nottingham’s man, reports to his master that Robin Hood has had a child, should they put a price on the infant’s head. Equal to the one on his father’s, the Sheriff declares. “Robin Hood will not have a son.” The Sheriff misunderstood Cardaggian, the baby is a girl. They laugh and apparently do not put a price on the infant’s head. We never see Marian, but we hear her ask Robin to protect their daughter. I am assuming this is a polite way to show that Marian died as a result of childbirth. We do see a cute transition of Gwyn growing up; she appears to have lived at an abbey with Friar Tuck. Her best friend is a young student, Froderick (and reminds me a bit of Ever After, which came out three years prior to this film); she later tells Friar Tuck she does not view Froderick as husband material, though it is evident that Froderick has developed feelings for Gwyn. Gwyn has grown to hate how often and how long her father is gone and wishes he was not so loyal to the king. She can count his visits on one hand, now she’ll need two for he and Will Scarlett are on their way home.

However, their world is about to be thrown into chaos; Richard is dying. And the king has apparently stated he wants his illegitimate son, Phillip to take the throne over John. John disguises himself as a messenger and rides to Nottingham to deliver the news to the Sheriff. Phillip is due to land in England soon and the natural assumption is that Robin, as supremely trusted by Richard, will greet the boy and secure his passage through England. John wants Phillip dead. The Sheriff charges Cardaggian with the task. They will know the young man by his signet ring.

Gwyn happily greets her father, who is surprised to see how much his daughter has grown. But he quickly passes her over and cheerfully greet his friends. Robin gets the notice to help Phillip and so must leave again. Gwyn begs her father to let her accompany him; he refuses and even makes comments that she will have other chances to meet the prince. She doesn’t want to go to meet the “absent son of an absent king;” she wants to help her father; she’s as good as a son. She’s willing to fight, and possibly die, for his cause. He orders her to stay at the abbey, where she belongs. Later, to Frodrick, she complains that father and daughter shouldn’t be fighting each other, they should be fighting side by side against Prince John. She’d rather be the master of her own destiny, than a slave to her fears. So, she cuts her hair that evening and sneaks into Frodrick’s room to borrow his clothes; she can pass herself as a boy (that only works if you do not have a lot of curves).

Gwyn princess of thieves

In France, Phillip is journeying to the coast to make his way to England. He’s in the company of a French countess and his valet, Conrad; the two men share a strong physical resemblance to each other. Phillip has no desire to wear the crown; as king, he would be expected to do something about war and plague and uprisings. When they stop for the evening, Conrad overhears their escort discussing Phillip’s murder. He sneaks his friend out and they make the crossing on their own. Phillip lends Conrad his jacket when the other man gets cold.

In the neighboring shire where Phillip is to arrive, Gwyn mimic’s her father’s heroics and stands up for a hungry child to a nobleman. She leads the guards on a merry chase, which ultimately acts as a perfect distraction for Will and Robin to sneak in. Frodrick followed her and they meet up in the forest, where the Sheriff’s men are searching for Phillip. They have to separate and Gwyn is soon outnumbered. Two men jump to her rescue; Will and Robin. Robin is displeased at his daughter’s disobedience. They agree to find Frodrick. The young man was captured, but Nottingham has him released and followed, figuring he’ll lead him to something. Robin meets Frodrick in the chapel that evening, which turns out to be a trap. Frodrick and Gwyn escape, but Will and Robin are captured and taken to the Tower of London for questioning. Gwyn sends Frodrick back to the abbey for help, she will follow her father.

Phillip and Conrad have landed in England and go to meet “Robin Hood.” Cardaiggan stands in, giving the secret phrase. Phillip had let Conrad lead the visit and they’re about to switch back, passing off the signet ring, when Conrad is shot in the back. Phillip escapes. Gwyn eventually comes across his horse. They scuffle for a bit, but Phillip quickly realizes that Gwyn is a woman, not a man as she appears. He’s willing to give her the horse; a lady should not have to walk, he states. Do women not have legs and feet, Gwyn argues. Very well, they will share the horse.

In London, John and the French countess examine the body of “Phillip.” The countess realizes that it is Conrad they had killed; Phillip is still alive. John is furious. He tortures Robin for Phillip’s whereabouts.

Meanwhile, Gwyn and Phillip end up in an argument over Robin Hood. Phillip believes that he killed his friend; he’s continuing the charade that he is the valet, Conrad. Gwyn states that it’s not possible and reveals that she is Robin Hood’s daughter. This carries on into a discussion on John and England. “Conrad” (aka Phillip) feels that John may be the better king, since he knows England and Phillip doesn’t want the crown. Gwyn tells her companion about the hardships the English people face under John. A prince has an obligation to his people. They hear about an archery tournament in Nottingham, where they assume Robin was taken. The winner will be able to get into the castle. In true Robin Hood style, Gwyn ultimately wins by splitting the Sheriff’s arrow. The Sheriff notes the similarity in style. At the feast that evening, Phillip recognizes Caradiggan and they have to leave before he’s spotted. They run into the friars. Phillip ends up in a discussion with Frodrick and thinks that the two are brother and sister. Frodrick claims they’re betrothed; he sees the way Gwyn looks at Phillip.

The friars have managed to capture the Sheriff, who is out looking for Phillip. Frodrick is tasked with guarding the Sheriff overnight. The older man wiggles his way out of the ropes and knocks out Frodrick. (Um, he didn’t get hit that hard, I don’t know why he didn’t just get back up and was out until morning). Gwyn is angry at Frodrick. “Conrad” keeps his promise to rescue Robin and still heads out for London. “Conrad” and Gwyn step away for a few quite moments; Gwyn sets the record straight that she is not betrothed. Conrad is pleased and kisses her. However, when they get back to the main camp, word has spread amongst the people that Phillip is still alive. Conrad reveals himself to be Phillip, the proof is his signet ring. He had hoped to get back to France quietly and live out his life. But they have shown him that he needs to take the crown and help them. Prince John’s army attacks. In the fray, Gwyn notices that the Sheriff takes aim at Phillip. She calls out a warning, but Frodrick is closer and takes the arrow for the prince (the lad lives, ’tis a shoulder wound).

Phillip and Gwyn continue to the Tower to rescue Robin while John proceeds with his coronation. They find Gwyn’s father, and he orders them on to stop the coronation. He’ll find Will. In the castle yard, the friars take on the guards and Robin battles the Sheriff. Caradggian catches Robin and suggests the Sheriff shoot him with an arrow, how poetic. But the arrow is caught by another, by Gwyn. The Sheriff is now the one outnumbered. Phillip breaks into the coronation and demands the crown, as Richard’s chosen successor. John is correct that he is king by law (and historically, Richard never had Phillip crowned king; there has never been a King Phillip of England [queens have married a Phillip, Mary I did, as has Elizabeth II]). He then shouts for everyone to kill Phillip. They won’t listen to him anymore; they have another prince to back, one who won’t tax them into poverty.

The film ends with Phillip about to be crowned. Gwyn has her hair done prettily and is wearing a fancy dress. Phillip has give Frodrick a job on his council, but Gwyn will not marry Phillip, claiming she is a commoner (a bit of a break from traditional lore, since Robin is typically viewed as a noble and Maid Marian is almost always viewed as nobility and a relation of some sort to Richard). Phillip wishes they could be Conrad and Gwyn again, if only for a minute. Gwyn vows to serve Phillip the same way Robin served Richard. Phillip accepts, and Robin and Gwyn will both serve their new king. Closing narration states that history will forget Phillip (um, yeah, cause he was never king) and he never married, instead, he pledged his heart to a common woman, of uncommon valor.

The movie is good as a Wonderful World of Disney production. The fight sequences are nothing spectacular. Costumes are closer to period accurate than some. Gwyn and Phillip were well developed; it’s a Disney production, so of course, there had to be a bit of romance. Honestly, the film would have been completely fine without that little niggle. Gwyn is aware of her shortcomings and apologizes when she does wrong. Robin learns to accept the child he has; even though he wanted a better life, his daughter grew up to be just like him; he cannot protect her forever. I like Gwyn’s spunk and as I already stated, it was an inspiration to characters I write. An enjoyable watch, but not a favorite.

Up Next: 2010’s Robin Hood

“Always On Guard, Defending the People’s Rights”

Robin Hood: Men in Tights

Another of Mel Brooks’ spoofs (like Spaceballs was of Star Wars). Stars Cary Elwes (most famous for Princess Bride, but I also knew him from Lady Jane [he plays Guilford Dudley, husband to Lady Jane Grey, the nine days’ Queen of England between young Edward VI and Mary I]; and Elwes later plays the conniving villain in Ella Enchanted) as Robin, a whole bunch of actors that I should know, but don’t. I do know that Eric Allan Kramer, Little John, goes on to play the dad in Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie. It took me a while to accept to watch this movie originally; I’m not that big into parodies. But now I watch it and chuckle.

The film opens with flaming arrows, recalling the flaming arrows from Prince of Thieves. Except now we see the other side; the village that gets burned. The brief intro and back story are given by Merry Men rappers, interspersed with “hey nonny nonny,” (an Elizabethan expression). Similar to Prince of Thieves, we next see a prison in the Holy Land, that they try to run like a hotel. Robin quickly escapes, this time with everyone. His compatriot, Asneeze, asks Robin to look after his son, Achoo, an exchange student in England. Robin kisses the shores of England (again, a call to Prince of cary elwes robin hoodThieves), though there’s a Hollywood-like “England” sign (and Rule Britannia playing). He obtains a horse (muttering “my kingdom for a horse,” a line from Shakespeare) and is now in familiar brown and green garb, including tights; an homage to Errol Flynn’s costume. He comes upon a young lad being beaten by guards and figures it’s Achoo. He unleashes several arrows tied together to chase the guards away.

They walk to Loxley Hall, only to find that it’s being carted away. Robin’s blind servant, Blinkin (again, taken from Prince of Thieves), informs Robin that his entire family, including pets, are dead. But they left him “the key to the greatest treasure in the land,” worn on a cord around the neck. The trio next encounter the Sheriff of Rottingham, who speaks out of order when he gets flustered. It’s rather hilarious. Robin soundly sends Rottingham on his way.

Marian sings a song of finding her true love (well, at least she’s honest about what role she plays in the story). She wears an Everlast chastity belt and is overseen by Broomhilda. Prince John does appear in this film; he and Rottingham interact like John and Gisborne did in Errol Flynn’s film. Mortiana is now Latrine, not quite as creepy; she lusts after Rottinghamn, instead of serving him.

Little John and Robin indeed fight on a bridge (though as Achoo points out, the stream is barely a trickle; they could simply walk across). The staves get shorter and shorter as they keep breaking them, until they’re hitting each other’s knuckles. Robin wins. He then meets Will Scarlett…O’Hara, who’s from Georgia; this was preceded by a joke between Blinklin and Achoo, over the misinterpretation of “Hey Blinklin,” as “Abe Lincoln.” Robin crashes the Prince’s party alone and that scene is a strong takeoff of Errol Flynn’s portrayal: bringing in a wild beast for the feast, charming John and Marian. Why should the people of England listen to Robin to revolt against John? “Because, unlike some other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent.” This is calling out Kevin Costner for not having an English accent in Prince of Thieves. It’s been said that he tried, but it came out really bad. Also, I certainly hope Elwes can speak with an English accent; he is English! Rottingham really gets his words mixed up when Marian likes Robin’s flirtations. He challenges Robin to a duel, just them, and Rottingham’s guards. They all line up, knights in armor. Robin swings into one and they go down like dominos. He and his men escape and rally the villagers in Sherwood forest, Robin parodying Winston Churchill speeches from the second World War. They get their uniform: green tights, brown tops, and pointy hats.

The Sheriff asks for help to get rid of Robin. I’m sure it’s a play on the Godfather; not my favorite part; it’s different, it’s funny (I guess), but it comes across like Rottingham and Prince John can’t come up with the idea on their own. Marian overhears the plot and rides to warn Robin. His Merry Men just finished singing about their tights (it is a rather hilarious ditty). He does not really promise to not attend the archery tournament, but he steps away with Marian for some romancing. There’s an overdone song (if it wasn’t obvious, neither Marian nor Robin do their own singing. They hired professional singers). Broomhilde still interferes with them kissing and the ladies return to the castle. The next day, his loyal followers wear dresses to sneak in while Robin wears an obvious disguise, looking like Mark Twain (all these calls to the future…this is why I don’t watch parody movies).

Shock of shocks, Robin loses the archery tournament! Wait, breaking the fourth wall, pull out the scripts. He’s in luck, he gets another shot! This time, he pulls out the big arrow, the Patriot Arrow (based off the Patriot Missle), it pulls some physics-defying stunts and he wins! Rottingham captures him, but Marian offers herself as Rottingham’s wife if he spares Robin. As John states, there will either be a wedding or a hanging.

Robin is strung up, ready for the hangman. Rottingham has the alter set next to the gallows, so Marian will be less inclined to change her mind. There’ a “Hey Abbot!” joke [I have never seen that show, but I know of it] along with historically inaccurate organ and Mendelssohn’s Wedding March [again, this is why I don’t watch parodies]. Rottingham’s first name is Mervin, poor sap. Achoos shoots through Robin’s rope just as Marian has to vow to obey Rottingham. Well, Rottingham will have her, whether they’re married or not. He carries her off and Robin gives chase, rather like Prince of Thieves. “Prepare for the fight scene,” Robin declares; and it turns out rather good. Cary Elwes does have experience fencing from his time in Princess Bride. A little break for shadow puppets and the cord around his neck is cut, releasing the key that fits perfectly into Marian’s chastity belt. Robin unknowingly stabs Rottingham, but Latrine to the rescue, if Rottingham promises to marry her instead. He agrees, then changes his mind when she drags him off.

Outside, Robin prepares to marry Marian, since Broomhilde insisted. Rabbi Tuckman, a play on Friar Tuck, and portrayed by Mel Brooks himself, performs a very short ceremony, but he’s interrupted by a Scottish voice. Sir Patrick Stewart cameos as King Richard, like Sir Sean Connery did in Prince of Thieves, hence the Scottish accent. A few things he has to take care of; John has surrounded his name with a foul stench and thus, all the toilets in the land will now be called “johns.” He knights Robin. Then, it is his royal right to kiss the bride. As Rabbi Tuckman mutters, it’s good to be king. Robin and Marian are wed and happily ever after! (Though they have a bit of difficulty with the key their wedding night.)

Overall: the “Men in Tights” song is funny, I like the dig at Costner for not having an English accent, the sword fighting sequences are good. But, if I’m going to sit down and watch a Robin Hood movie; and I actually want a plot and drama and a story, it won’t be this one. The bad guys are complete idiots (and if they’re bad guys worthy of the caliber of intelligent heroes, they have to have some brains). Marian is simply the swooning damsel in distress. I understand the film is wholly comedic and I also know that I don’t tend to get humor. I’m more of a fan of snark and sarcasm and witty banter. Give me best friends bickering and I chuckle.

So, what is your opinion of parody films? Love ’em, hate ’em?

Next Time: Princess of Theives

“Why a Spoon?”

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

A 90s action take on the Robin Hood legend, it was a favorite in my house until the Russell Crowe version came out. It features an all-star cast, headed up by Kevin Costner (decorated for Dances with Wolves – have not seen) as Robin, Alan Rickman is his equal as the Sheriff of Nottingham, Morgan Freeman as Azeem, Christian Slater is Will Scarlett, Brian Blessed as Lord Locksley, Michael Wincott (he’ll later show up as Rochefort in Three Musketeers) as Guy of Gisborne, and Michael McShane (I recognize him as funny Professor Keenbean from the Richie Rich movies) as Friar Tuck. The theme from the film is now used by Disney promotions on their DVDs (no, this is not a Disney film).

The background to the opening credits is the Bayeux tapestry, an embroidered cloth that depicts the Norman conquest. This rendition is set in 1194 and starts in a prison in Jerusalem. English war prisoners are tortured and the guard turns to another man, claiming he stole something, of which the punishment is to lose a hand. Another prisoner speaks up to spare the man, but they’re both unchained. He does not flinch from the sword, displaying “English courage.” At the last minute, he pulls back, causing the guard to lose his hand. He fights his way out, aided by a Moorish prisoner. The three make it out, but the leader’s friend is killed topside. With his dying breath Peter requests his ring be taken back to his sister and the man is to promise to protect her. The two men left introduce themselves as Azeem, the Moor, and Robin of Locksley. Since Robin saved his life, Azeem will follow him until the debt is repaid.

Back in England, Lord Locksley is writing a letter to find out what has befallen his son in the Holy Land. He’s interrupted by his servant Duncan and another man who says that his family is in danger. The Lord rides out, to find a crew of men in white cloaks (who look disturbingly like the KKK) waiting for him. They’re headed by the Sheriff who gives Locksley the choice, join us, or die. Locksley declares “never” and rides to meet them.

Four months later, Robin and Azeem land on English shores at the White Cliffs of Dover. Robin is so pleased to be home, he kisses to ground. He keeps trying to send Azeem home, but the Moor is determined to fulfill his oath. Azeem is an educated and wise man; he stays a few steps behind Robin, stating it is safer to appear his slave in this land than his equal. He maintains his prayers, even when Robin is fighting the Sheriff’s men, led by Guy of Gisborne. Robin does defeat the men and sends Gisborne back to the Sheriff with the message to stay off his land. Unfortunately, Robin arrives home to find the castle burned and his father decaying in a hanging cell. Old Duncan, now blinded, reports that Locksley was accused of devil worship and supposedly confessed to the crime. Robin now will not rest until he has avenged his father, swearing it in blood.

Gisborne reports to his cousin, the Sheriff at Nottingham castle. An eye is watching through the wall and we shortly meet its owner, Mortiana, a creepy, creepy witch. I do not watch how she scries for the future, nope. But she foresees that the Lionheart (Richard) is proceeded home by the son of a dead man (Robin). The Sherriff asks if that will affect their plans. She’s seen their deaths, at the hand of a painted man, who they determine is the Moor traveling with Robin [um, did Gisborne even see the guy? How do they know this?].

Robin next visits Peter’s home to deliver the news to his sister. He’s brought in to see “Maid Marion,” who has changed since they were kids. A masked guard attacks and when Robin holds their hand over a fire to relieve them of their sword, a feminine scream emits. This is the real Marion, who is a cousin to King Richard. She remains at her ancestral land to take care of the people and only sees Robin as the spoiled son of a lord who used to bully her and burn her hair. She insists that she does not need Robin’s protection. Their conversation is interrupted when Gisborne and his men approach. Marion urges Robin to leave and forces him to by claiming he stole her horse. Robin, Azeem, and Duncan escape into Sherwood forest, which is supposed to be haunted. ‘Tis not haunted, ’tis overrun by bandits. Robin must fight Little John to cross the river; he ends up dunked a few times, but they laugh and become comrades.

After we witness the Sheriff’s true devotion to the Old Ways; he was raised by the witch rickman sheriffat his parents’ dying wish, he attempts to charm Marion (she knows not to trust him). Meanwhile, Robin visits the church to gather information. The bishop stands by the story that his father was a devil worshipper. Robin does not believe it (nor does Marion or anyone who truly knew the man). On his way out, Robin runs into the Sheriff and cuts his cheek. The Sheriff’s yells “I’ll cut your heart out with a spoon!” Later, Gisborne inquires “why a spoon?” “Because it’s dull and will hurt more, you twit!” (Such a memorable line!)

Robin now plans to lead the outlaws of Sherwood forest. Will Scarlett doesn’t trust him and some of his fears are founded when the Sheriff begins terrorizing the people, looking for Robin. The Sheriff is puzzled why the people love Robin when their love causes the Sheriff to hurt them and tax them. Robin steals from the Sheriff and redistributes to the poor. The Sheriff is so put out, among canceling kitchen scraps and merciful beheadings, he “calls off Christmas.” Robin and the outlaws of Sherwood continue to attack wagon trains of the Sheriff, including one containing Friar Tuck. He is, at first, wary of the outlaws and tries to make a run for it, but soon settles in and preaches beer. Guy of Gisborne has no luck catching Robin and eventually cries to his cousin. His cousin soothes him, then stabs him, remarking, “at least it wasn’t a spoon.”

Marion and her servant Sarah are out riding one day through the forest when two of Robin’s dimmer men attempt to attack them. The two women fend for themselves, but Marion insists on seeing Robin. She catches him bathing, but once he dresses he shows her around the village. He has collected blood money that the Sheriff intended to use to buy the barons and unite them against Richard. His father taught him that nobility is not a birthright, it’s action. Robin is trying to live up to his father’s example after parting with him before the Crusade in anger. Robin also shares the tale of his father seeking comfort with a peasant woman after Robin’s mother’s death. Robin was an angry and hurt twelve-year-old boy and his father gave up the woman to please Robin. As Robin sends Sarah and Marion on their way, he asks Marion to first, look after Duncan. And second, get word to Richard about the events in England. She agrees, for Robin’s sake.

The Sheriff continues his plans, Mortiana advising him to use the Celts to take care of Robin. The barons are not willing to blindly follow the Sheriff, since he can’t produce the promised payment. To secure his throne, he must wed royal blood. He intends to marry Marion. Mortiana had suggested the same idea, after revealing that she is actually the Sheriff’s mother (the Sheriff had discovered her spying on him and demanded answers). She had killed the babe of the real Sheriff (and probably killed the parents later as well). If her son lies with the royal line and a child is produced, her blood will eventually end up on the throne.

Marion drafts the note to Richard and insists that Sarah accompany the messenger. The messenger later knocks Sarah out and the note ends up in the Sheriff’s hand and also revealing that the bishop works for the Sheriff. The Sheriff has Marion abducted from her home and holds her captive at his castle. Duncan runs to get Robin, not knowing he’s been followed. The blind man inadvertently leads the Celts and the army to the camp, where the army lights the camp on fire. Several men, and a boy, are captured and Robin is presumed dead after he falls from a burning rope.

The Sheriff offers Marion to spare the captive children’s lives, as a wedding gift. He shows her Robin’s cross as proof that the man is dead. He then tortures the rest of his prisoners to find out if the hero really is dead. Will Scarlett has no love lost for Robin and offers to be a double agent; he can get close to Robin and if Robin doesn’t trust him, then the Sheriff needn’t worry. The Sheriff still has him lashed, to make it believable.

Robin is not dead. And he correctly suspects Will when he returns to camp. When asked why he hates Robin so much, Will reveals that he is the son of the peasant woman Robin’s father had spent time with. He is Robin’s half-brother. Robin is so pleased to have kin, he embraces his brother and swears that he will finish the fight he started. He comes up with a plan. Azeem knows how to make black powder (historically inaccurate for that time period; yeah, BBC’s Robin Hood also got that wrong), so he and the Friar set barrels of it around the scaffolding. Other men sneak in weapons and get into position. Will is flaming arrowrecognized and captured at the public hanging and gets tied to one barrel. The Sheriff orders the executions to begin, starting with Little John’s son. The first plan is now out the window, but Robin has to act. He shoots the rope strangling the boy, revealing himself to the guards. But Azeem is ready to light the powder kegs. Many awesome explosions and arrows flying, the theme plays in the background. Little John crashes into the scaffolding. Robin shoots a flaming arrow (the scene that’s in every promo) to save Will. Marion screams for Robin and he’s off to rescue his lady. Azeem rallies the English to fight back against the Sheriff’s troops, then joins Robin inside the castle.

Mortiana insists that the Sheriff wed and bed Marion immediately; the time is ripe. The bishop hurriedly performs the ceremony, while Azeem and Robin pound on the door. – There’s so many things wrong with that scene, mainly ‘let’s show a woman married against her will and what follows.’ [I know somewhere there is a medieval law that forbade women being married unwillingly.] Mortiana goes to stop the men and encounters Azeem. She stabs him, but he impales her in return. Robin takes an alternate route, swinging in through the window. The bishop rushes out, only to run into Friar Tuck who assists in packing his gold, then pushing him out a window. Robin and the Sheriff face off, the Sheriff gleefully using Robin’s father’s sword against him. Marion helps distract the Sheriff a little, but mainly stays out of the way. John eventually has Robin pinned; when he rears back for the fatal blow, Robin pulls out a dagger and stabs the Sheriff. It’s a slow death, the Sheriff even pulling out the dagger. When we think it’s all through, Mortiana pops back up (where did she come from, wasn’t she dead?). But Azeem to the rescue again, finally breaking in the door and throwing his sword. He has fulfilled his vow to save Robin’s life.

Robin and Marion kiss and we next see their wedding. When Friar Tuck gets to the “speak now” part, a man commands them to hold. Everyone turns; it’s Richard! (Cameo by Sir Sean Connery!) His only objection is that he gives away the bride. He thanks Robin, Lord Locksley, for without him, Richard wouldn’t have a throne. Very well, Friar Tuck announces them man and wife. The couple may kiss.

My take: the action is good, I mean, explosions make everything more exciting (when used in moderation). The Sheriff’s and Robin’s duel is not my favorite sword fight, but still decent. Alan Rickman plays an excellent villain; he’s just smarmy (a bit like Snape, though the Sheriff ranges between quiet and deadly and loud and demanding). Mortiana is creepy and can we get a decent portrayal of a complex witch? Are they all supposed to be creepy and pure evil, or simply funny? [I do have a fantasy series in very early development stages that will involve women using magic, so it’s topic that I take interest in]. Azeem is a well developed character, a bit ahead of the English characters in his thinking. Marion and Robin are a bit flat, and I wish they had delved more into the connection between Will and Robin.

There are funny bits, some superb one liners (mainly Alan Rickman’s). There are creepy bits. I don’t believe the Celts were well represented, but that was a standby enemy for storytellers to use for that time period; oh, the murderous Celts, wild animals they are. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall for a reason. Sean Connery playing King Richard was cool. Though it was odd that Prince John was never mentioned; I guess they wanted to make the story more insular, keep it as trouble within Nottingham. Watching it now, as an adult, having come to age with growing special effects, I say “it’s okay.”

Next Time: Some humor with Men in Tights

“Be as Strong as the Seas are Stormy, and Proud as an Eagle’s Skeen”

Brave

Pixar’s contribution to the Disney princess line, the film did win a Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Oscar for Best Animated Film. It features an all-star cast, headed up by Kelly Macdonald (Evangeline from Nanny McPhee and Helena Ravenclaw from Death Hallows Part 2), who voices Merida; Billy Connolly (Il Duce from The Boondock Saints [I’ve seen that movie precisely once, and loudly exclaimed – at ten ‘o’clock at night – “That’s Dain!”] and Dain from Battle of the Five Armies) is her father, Fergus; the ever-brilliant Emma Thompson (amongst other roles, the titular Nanny McPhee, also Professor Trelawney in the Harry Potter movies) is Queen Elinor; Julie Walters voices the witch (I did not know that; and Julie Walters may be most recognized as Mrs. Weasley), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid, and an ally-of-sorts for James Bond) is Lord Dingwall; and Lord Macintosh is voiced by Craig Ferguson (Gobber from How to Train Your Dragon and host of his Late Show).

The film takes place in a mysterious age in Scotland [which is a huge reason why I love the movie]; there are elements of Scottish history and culture from every age thrown into the movie (i.e. Vikings and corsets are not from the same era). It’s not a true musical, as the characters don’t sing to further the plot, but it does feature three songs on its soundtrack and piqued and interest in Julie Fowlis. There is also a fun drinking song that the men sing; and a lovely lullaby that mother and daughter share; overall I simply love the soundtrack – I love Celtic music.

The story opens on Elinor playing with a young Merida on her birthday. Her father gifts her with her own bow and the little red-head eagerly practices firing arrows. One goes astray and she ventures into the woods to fetch it. She encounters will o’the wisps that lead her back into camp. Just in time, for a hulking scarred bear emerges behind her – Mor’du. Fergus and his men attack as Elinor and Merida ride away. Merida narrates as we fast forward in time (while watching beautiful vistas…visiting Scotland is top of my bucket list)

“Some say our destiny is tied to the land, as much a part of us as we are of it. Others say fate is woven together like a cloth, one’s destiny intertwines with many others. It’s the one thing we search for, or fight to change. Some never find it. But there are some who are led.”

merida family
Clan Dunbroc Family Portrait

Fergus lost a leg to Mor’du, but cheerfully vows revenge on the beast. Elinor bore triplet sons, who are the definition of mischief. And Merida is in training to become a proper princess; she has duties, responsibilities, expectations; her whole life is planned out. And she sounds none too pleased about it. But on her birthday, she can do whatever she wants, which means riding her horse Angus through an archery course. At home, her mother chastises her for setting her bow on the table; in her opinion, a princess should not have a bow. Important mail is delivered; all three clans have accepted their invitations. Invitations to what, Merida asks. Fergus hems and haws about telling her, so Elinor simply states that all three lords will present their sons as suitors to win Merida’s hand in marriage. This is news to Merida; she does not want to think about betrothal or marriage. She storms off in a huff, working out her frustration by hacking at her bedpost with a sword.

Elinor tells the legend of an ancient kingdom, ruled by a wise and just king who was much beloved. When it came time, he decided to split his kingdom into four equal sections and give a part to each of his sons. But the eldest, wanted to rule all the land by himself. “He forged his own path and the kingdom feel to war and chaos and ruin.” When Merida passes it off as a simple story, Elinor chides that “legends are lessons.” The two women separate, venting their frustrations to their companions. They insist that the other does not listen. Merida does not want to get married yet, or maybe even at all. She feels like marriage is an end; she does not want her life to be over. Elinor maintains that marriage is not the end of the world, this is the culmination of everything they have been preparing Merida for. [Personally, I think it was an unwise decision to spring the whole concept onto Merida suddenly. It should have been discussed prior to the invitations being sent.]

The gathering continues as planned and Elinor stuffs Merida into a new fancy dress and corset [as someone with a bit of experience in a corset; they take some getting used to and another thing that should have been prepared in advance. The dress is beautiful, but not Merida’s style.] The visiting clans: MacGuffin, Macintosh, and Dingwall, compete against each other in rowing before they even arrive. They compete in announcing their respective sons, making each to sound like the finest warrior. The triplets get bored and cause mischief which sets everyone to fighting. Fergus shouts “Shut It!” and all is still for a moment. Then one man lets out a yell and it all starts back up. Elinor calmly settles everyone and announces the rules. Merida perks up when she discovers that it’s all first born who have a right to compete; and she gets to pick the challenge. She announces archery.

Young MacGuffin misses, young Macintosh just misses the bull’s-eye, but young Dingwall happens to hit a bull’s-eye. Fergus leans over to jokingly congruatluate this daughter, shootin for own handonly to find her not there. Merida steps out, hair freed from its wimple, annoucning “I’ll be shootin for my own hand!” She has to tear the dress at the seams in order to allow arm movement, then proceeds to shoot three bull’s-eye in a row, splitting Dingwall’s arrow. Elinor is furious and throws Merida into a room in the castle. They shout at each other and Merida calls her mother a beast; she will never be like her, and slashes a tapestry. In retaliation, Elinor throws Merida’s bow into the fire. Merida rushes off in tears and Elinor realizes what she did. She pulls the bow out, but it’s too late; it’s cracked.

Angus and Merida pelt across the landscape and Angus throws Merida. She’s inside a standing stone circle and Angus is not pleased. She spots wisps again and follows. They lead her to a cottage in the woods. Entering, she discovers its filled with bear carvings, a crazy old woman working in the corner. Merida’s already wary of the place, then witnesses the woman’s broom sweeping on its own and the crow talks. She calls the woman a witch and barters for a spell the change her mum in order to change her fate. (She buys the whole lot of bear carvings with a pendant) The last customer the witch had was a young prince who wanted to change his fate as well and wished for the strength of ten men. Merida receives a cake and mysteriously ends up back at the standing stones.

Elinor greets her return in the kitchen and Merida persuades her mother to try her cake as a peace offering, pestering the whole time if she’s changed her mind. Elinor gets sick off the cake and the two women retire to her chambers (Fergus is “entertaining” their guests with The Song of Mor’du). Underneath the covers, Elinor rumbles and grows, emerging as a bear. Merida screams and backs away and the bear reacts as Elinor would. It takes a few confusing moments before Elinor realizes that she’s been turned into a bear. Merida blames the witch. Elinor is not impressed. They have to sneak out of the castle and get the witch to turn Elinor back. Along the way, they bribe the triplets for help after Fergus has caught the scent of bear.

The two ladies manage to find their way to the cottage, but it’s empty. A cauldron issues a message from the witch, something she forgot to tell Merida earlier; the spell will be permanent by the second sunrise, unless they med the bond torn by pride. They can’t accomplish anything that night, so Merida erects a shelter. A memory comes to her as it rains, of another storm years ago, being comforted by her mother and sung a lullaby, Noble Maiden Fair (A Mhaighdean Bhan Uasal). In the morning, Elinor has attempted to gather breakfast, but didn’t realize that they were nightshade berries, which Merida informs her are poisonous. The water was also dirty. Merida shows Elinor how to fish and the two share a pleasant morning. Though as they’re getting ready to leave, Elinor’s eyes change, growing darker and for a moment, she wasn’t human inside. She shifts back quickly, but they understand that time is urgent. They follow the wisps that have appeared, hoping they’ll lead to answers. They enter a ruined kingdom and Merida falls into an old throne room. A carving is smashed, showing the eldest prince separated from three brothers. Merida realizes that all the tales are joined, the ancient kingdom and the prince wishing for the strength of ten men, meaning the prince became Mor’du. Who appears. Merida escapes and she and Elinor end up back at the stones. They must now sneak into the castle and mend the torn tapestry.

Elinor leads them into the castle, but the clans are fighting in the great hall; the visitors insisting Fergus decide which of their sons marries Merida, Fergus declares none of the boys fit. Taking inspiration from her mother, Merida calmly enters the fray, allowing Elinor the opportunity to sneak upstairs. When the clans gets restless again, she now takes after her father and yells for everyone to “Shut It!” She opens with the legend of the ancient kingdom and continues to say that she has learned her lesson. Their kingdom is young and while their stories are not yet legend, a bond was struck when they joined together to repel invaders. Each clan leader saved the other (sometimes by accident) and when Fergus rallied all their forces, they made him king. Now Merida will do her part to mend the rift that was created, but her mother stops her and pantomimes a new idea. They will break tradition – and let the young people choose their own love, write their own stories. All three sons agree and everyone is happily onboard. Before Elinor can be discovered, Merida sends everyone to the cellar for spirits to celebrate. Elinor pantomimes how proud she is of Merida and they head to the tapestry chamber.

Before they can stitch up the tear, Elinor reverts back to a true bear and attacks Merida. Fergus has come looking for Elinor and discovers the scene. Merida tries to stop Fergus from unknowingly attacking his wife. Elinor comes back to herself and flees. Merida takes a moment to attempt to explain the situation to her father, but Fergus doesn’t believe her. He’ll avenge his wife, and locks Merida in the room. Three little bears wander by a few minutes later; the triplets found the cake. Merida once more enlists their help and they’re soon racing back to the stones, the boys steering as Merida sews.

merida fight

Elinor is surrounded at the stones; they manage to tie her down, but before Fergus can strike a killing blow, Merida shoots the sword out of his hand (Cool!). Fergus pushes Merida aside, letting Lord Macintosh hold her. She flips him, draws a nearby sword and takes down her father (also cool!) “I’ll not let you kill my mother.” The three bears jump on their father and he realizes that they’re his sons, making Merida’s story true. Mor’du shows up and the clans rally again. Deprived of a weapon, Fergus declares “I’ll take you with my bare hands!” Merida tries to assist, but her arrows are no good against the large bear. Elinor has the most luck against Mor’du, coming to her daughter’s aid. The two bears have a go at each other, though Elinor ultimately outwits Mor’du and has one of the standing stones fall on him. The ghost of the prince rises, nods to Merida, and turns into a wisp.

They haven’t much time now, the second sunrise is fast approaching. Merida drapes the mended tapestry over her mother and the light touches the mend. However, Elinor’s eyes darken. Merida heartbreakingly apologizes to her mother; “you’ve always been there for me.” “I love you.” She cries and everyone around her gets teary-eyed. Then a hand rests on her hair. Elinor is back! She kisses her daughter’s face and Fergus cheers and kisses his wife and they’re soon joined by three naked boys.

The movie ends with Elinor working on a new tapestry with Merida. The clans are leaving (the boys trying to sail away as well). Merida echoes her opening speech while riding with her mother,

“There are those who say fate is something beyond our command, that destiny is not our own. But I know better. Our fate lives within us. You only have to be brave enough to see it.”

brave ending
Notice Elinor’s new hairstyle; an indication that she has relaxed

Overall, I like this movie. I love the message of choosing your own destiny; that Fate is not set in stone. It’s actually akin to story lines that I have been reading for years [I will admit, I read Scottish romances; that’s where my interest in Scottish history developed]. I think it was great that the movie did not end with Merida choosing one of the suitors, a break with Disney tradition. The dynamics between Merida and both of her parents is nicely complex: she seems to take more after her father and he indulged in teaching her to use a variety of weapons, and the mother/daughter relationship is shown to have gone through stages. They were close when Merida was young (as shown in the flashback), then they became strained when Elinor became more demanding on Merida to conform to tradition. At the end, they’re on their way to a close relationship again. Even the relationship between Fergus and Elinor is adorable; Fergus doesn’t mind when Elinor takes over duties he’d rather not do and they seem to genuinely love each other.

As already stated, I love the soundtrack and the animation. And I don’t mind the mixture of Scottish elements. However – I have a few small points of contention. I got so excited before the movie to see this action princess who shoots arrows…and then the story revolves around bears. Yes, the way that both Elinor and Merida have to save each other is wonderful, but I just found Merida whiny at times, and as already mentioned, Elinor and Fergus could have brought up events earlier. My biggest peeve about the movie is the witch. They’re in a land with a history of wonderfully complex witches [Arthur’s sister, Morgause, was married to King Lot of Orkney; the Orkney Isles are under the jurisdiction of Scotland]…and we get a joke. I realize a lot of this was done to make it acceptable for kids; I wish they’d make version of the film for adults with a proper witch that you can’t decide if she’s good or bad and a truly kick-butt princess. Thus, Brave still ranks high on my list, but does not hold the top position.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Up Next: Frozen

Post Script: I remembered that there is a huge crossover that came about between Rise of the Guardians, Brave, Tangled, and How To Train Your Dragon, called either “The Big Four,” or “Rise of the Brave Tangled Dragons.”  It’s not sure how the crossover was started; crossovers are not uncommon in the fandom and fanfiction worlds; we can cross anything over.  My guess is that they were all popular at the same time, all depicted as teenagers, and all willing to fight to change their futures.  So, fans figure out a way to team them up to fight a big bad.  There’s a whole slew of fanart [some of it is saved on my Pintrest boards].  Some fans also pair Hiccup with Merida [I saw a video somewhere years ago, of a fan asking Merida at Disney if she had ever heard of Hiccup; I don’t think the actress had].  At one point, I was a fan of that; historically, Vikings had invaded Scotland, then settled, so not that outside the realm of possibility.  But, Astrid and Hiccup make such an adorable couple!  For me, a cool idea, but I’m also fine just enjoying each movie on its own and exploring those worlds.