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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

This movie takes me back to my childhood. I saw it in theaters with my mom. I was very quickly obsessed. I went down a rabbit hole of reading (and watching) all the different Robin Hoods I could get my 7-year-old hands on. I dreamed of living a life worthy of sharing this brilliant score (that I had on cassette and listened to constantly). My earliest indication that I'd go into any kind of costuming work was needing to be Maid Marian for Halloween but not just any Maid Marian. It had to be her wedding look. And this, my dear readers, was well before the internet as we knew it. No pictures to print out. No cosplay instructions. Hell, I don't even think the VHS had come out yet so we had to go off my memory and I think one tiny picture on the soundtrack but I needed it to be correct. (Sorry, Mom.)


I'm delighted to tell you that, for me, this movie mostly holds up. It was a little long. I expected to find Azeem a little cringey but honestly? He's pretty well written and Morgan Freeman is only surpassed by Alan Rickman in acting chops in this movie. He's got depth and dignity. Granted, I know shamefully little about Islamic and Moorish culture, but for a 1991 film, it felt surprisingly earnest. Morgan Freeman has some incredible, subtle side eye for Kevin Costner and we were living for it in this viewing.


Alan Rickman was a transcendent being of pure light and delight and I'm just so grateful to have lived in his timeline. My understanding is that he was given a pretty long leash on this film and the result is campy perfection. He's in a totally different movie from everyone else, which I usually hate, but he ends up being the glue that holds it together? From his rants to his quips to the quiet moments like when he's picking something out of his teeth while the Celts brutalize Sherwood. His death is hilariously drawn out. I think his Out There performance gave license to the rest of the film to be funny and I don't think I ever really appreciated that until now.



I don't totally understand why people rip on Costner's total lack of accent when his decision to deliver so many lines like William Shatner is right there! That's what you should be ripping on. But truly, I love how Robin is portrayed, I just also love line deliveries like "THEN IT BEGINS!" And "either we face the ghosts OR BECOME GHOSTS OURSELVES". Like, how can you not delight in that?


I thought a lot, while watching this, of the many iterations of Robin Hood I've come across in my life. The Disney (which is on this list). The Flynn (swoon). The Egerton (???). The book that broke my young heart with the story of Robin Hood's death. (I won't go into all of it but as he is dying, he looses an arrow from the window and tells Little John to bury him where it lands in Sherwood. Something simply lovely and sad.) I think why I love this version so much is because it is brimming with hope and the courage/audacity to want better for yourself and others. Our current culture is so fixated on gritty "realism" and heroes doing things because it's "what heroes do" and it feels so out of touch. Cynical, really. This movie shows a man who has grown, has regrets, and wants to build a better world than the one he bought into. I adore that this movie includes the Crusades and doesn't pull any punches about how horrible the Crusades were. We don't ever see the knights in shining armor that fables of that time touted. We see prisoners, disease, cruelty, death. And we see how it all changed the "spoiled bully" of Locksley. He's not hardened. He's longing for the peace he was told he was fighting for and he's fighting for it in a new, hopeful, and probably foolish way. I love it.


And Michael Kamen's score. Goodness. Probably tied with Braveheart for my favorite (they're similar). There's something joyful about it. Romantic. Daring. Triumphant. It's swashbuckling decadence. The hours I spent listening to it and imagining the courageous things I'd do. I never wanted to be Marian, really. I just knew that's what was expected of me. I wanted to be Robin Hood. I wanted to stage a daring rescue of the boy I love. And part of me was a little sad as I watched this movie, thinking I let little Shannon down. I haven't picked up a sword in years (I used to do fencing and medieval combat). I barely practice my archery any more. I don't dress like a pirate queen (which, if I'm being honest, is probably how I would dress if I were bolder). 30 years on and I let go of some of those things and that feels silly. I can still be that person. I just have to do those thrilling things I love that I am capable of. Watercolor.


Takeaways:

-Must. Fix. Image. Capturing. Procedure. ...Later.

-It's pretty cool to see my drawing and painting take leaps forward like this. Miles to go, of course, but this is lightyears ahead of the renderings I was doing this time last year.

-I've always loved this look and as I painted it, I kept thinking of Sean Connery's rough, "You look radiant, cousin." She really does. It's a lovely setting but it's kind of drab. [Insert joke about England here] Everyone is dressed colorfully, more colorfully than we've seen but Marian shimmers. I tracked down an auction of this ensemble and wow was my perception of it was waaaay off as a kid, but of course, what did I know? All of Marian's costumes are lovely and detailed but this one is the loosest fitting we've seen and most delicately adorned. And I'm crazy about the headpiece. Floral crowns are so last year. MAKE ME AN AUTUMNAL QUEEEEEEEEEN!

-I've been on the fence with "pearlescent" watercolors but I really liked working with them. I don't think they photograph or scan well but the luminous quality they have is lovely.


This was not the piece I wanted to make this week (though I'm very pleased with it!!). I have an embroidery in mind, an idea Ben had, that I'm stoked to do but after an embroidery last week and lots of fabric work for my jobs this week.... I'm a little tired of fabric and thread. So look for bonus Prince of Thieves content in the future!


Coming up next: Van Helsing. Another banger of a score, another costume I attempted, another delightfully campy romp.


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