'Robin Hood' at Cannes Film Festival: 'Batman Begins' meets 'Men in Tights'
Ridley Scott's 'Robin Hood' made its debut Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie takes a page from other Hollywood 'prequels,' but how far is too far when Hollywood rewrites popular myths?
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The story has something for everyone. “Robin Hood continues to be a story that everyone can relate to – conservatives, liberals, adults, children,” says University of Rochester’s Tom Hahn, a Robin Hood scholar, “because the story and the outlaw hero is constantly re-shaped by popular culture, media, and the movies.”Skip to next paragraph
That capacity to appeal to completely different fantasies and encompass those values and the various projections an audience brings in is what makes people willing to pay money, he says, adding that whether or not Robin Hood actually existed matters little. “It is his meaning to people that matters,” says Mr. Hahn.
Updating a well-worn icon such as Robin Hood works when you rely on the origins of its mythic power, rather than on the veracity of its historical details or character backstory, says Villanova University film and culture professor Susan Mackey.
She points out that the mythic structures of classic tales – the fight between good and evil or the struggle to come of age – underpin timeless figures such as Robin Hood. Referring to the author of “The Hero’s Journey,” a tome that has become a Hollywood handbook, she says “that Joseph Campbell believed that mythic stories, if they are truly mythic, are the only stories worth telling. Walt Disney knew this instinctively and built an entire global empire on that knowledge."
Hollywood, when it hits it big at the box office with films like, “E.T.," or “Close Encounters of The Third Kind,” or “Star Wars,” or “The Natural,” or “Titanic,” or the “Batman” and “Spiderman” series, is also cashing in on this mythic awareness.
Can a mythic story be stripped so completely that it is unrecognizable and meaningless? asks Mackey. Absolutely. Must it constantly be remade to be kept fresh and relevant? Absolutely.
“Some of the most powerful mythic films actually push the boundaries of more traditional stories,” says Mackey, “but this simply speaks to the idea that myths are alive and evolving, soft clay to be brought to life in the hands of an insightful artist – not static, inscribed in some dusty book to be preserved or endlessly intoned.”
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