Photo Credit: David Appleby/Universal Pictures
In Ridley Scott’s swashbuckling Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe in full-on Gladiator mode, the good news is that Cate Blanchett’s Lady Marion Loxley is the empowered damsel instead of the damsel in distress. What a relief!
As The Hollywood Reporter critic Kirk Hunnicut wrote, “Crowe's masculine swagger is certainly matched by Blanchett's feminine bravado. She's his match any day.”
We first see Lady Marion -- a politically correct shift in title that leaves her virginity out of the equation -- she is running out of her crumbling country estate at night during an attack. She grabs a bow nearly as tall as she is, tests it, and shoots an arrow at a band of grain thieves.
Why’s it up to her to defend home and hearth? It turns out her father-in-law, Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow) is blind, elderly and ineffectual. Her husband has run off to the Crusades with Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) and by the time we meet Marion again we know he’s not coming back.
So, there’s Marion holding down the farm and trying desperately to manage 5,000 acres, a community that depends on her economically, the onerous taxation levied by King John and the come-ons of that eternally smarmy Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen).
And Blanchett, as always, plays her part with a keen integrity. She’s not trying to be younger than she is, because each of those fine lines in her fair face is a lesson won. And she’s clearly learned many lessons. She vigorously rides horses. When Robin comes on the scene, he finds her cleaning out the hoof of one large animal. Out in the fields, she even helps the farmers tilling the land while she worries where she will get the grain to line the furrows.
Still, with all Marion’s backbone, and the movie’s allowance for the empowerment of women, it apparently wouldn’t be a swashbuckler if the heroine’s sex weren’t at one time or another threatened by unwanted affection. In a climactic scene, a scarred villain pauses his raping and pillaging to retreat with Marion to a private hut. He clearly underestimates this Lady Loxley: She lures him close then lodges her concealed blade in the back of his neck like a bullfighter in the ring.
In the end, Blanchett as Marion even puts on chain mail and fights the French in front of the white cliffs of Dover. Overkill? Perhaps. Damsel in distress? Hardly!
Are you happy to see an actress NOT playing a damsel in distress? Chime in below!