Friday, March 4, 2011

Robin Hood Analysis Part IV - Structural Surgery

(SPOILERS:  Robin Hood)

In my last few posts, I suggested that the makers of Robin Hood (story by Brian Helgeland and Ethan Reiff & Cyrus Voris, screenplay by Brian Helgeland) were telling the story of Robin saving England from Godfrey and the French invaders.  I based that on their climax for the movie.  Then I pointed out that they don’t tell that story very well.  So how could it have been told better?

First of all, let’s recap the structure as the movie stands:

Catalyst/End Act One – Robin agrees to return sword (30 minutes)
Midpoint – Robin agrees to continue pretending to be Loxley (60 minutes)
End Act Two – Godfrey invades Nottingham
Resolution – Robin defeats Godfrey at coast

As I suggested in my analysis of the first act, the first change I would make is moving the catalyst up to about ten minutes into the movie (instead of thirty minutes in where it now falls, in the same scene as the act break).  And I would move the midpoint up and make it the end of Act One. 

So in my version, at the Catalyst Robin runs afoul of Godfrey and agrees to return the sword, putting him in harms way.  At the end of Act One Robin “takes on the problem” by agreeing to continue playing Loxley to protect Nottingham.  I’d make time for this by cutting a lot of the pointless subplot action with Richard and moving the character development that currently happens on the road to after Robin arrives at Nottingham.

But now we need a new midpoint.  Since one of the problems I’ve identified in Act Two is that Robin doesn’t play an active role in the main storyline, I’ll look to get him in on the main action.  I’m also looking for a midpoint that will align with the happy ending and mirror the end of Act Two, so I want a moment of success. 

I think I’ll have Robin bring proof of Godfrey’s treachery to John.  Currently that is done by the Chancellor and Queen – very minor characters.  But if we give this action to Robin then he becomes the active force in the story.  And this is a high point – John turns on Godfrey.  It fills all our needs.

Now let’s look at the end of Act Two and Act Three.  What I’d like to do is make the resolution more personal to Robin.  Currently he rescues Marion – that’s good, but the filmmakers have gone to implausible lengths to get her into the scene.  And, it’s a bit redundant considering Robin already rode in and rescued Nottingham a few minutes earlier.

Particularly ridiculous to me in that final beach battle is Marion’s arrival with the forest orphans.  Sure, we’ve seen that the orphans can rob an undefended shed and even sneak into town to help people escape a burning building – as long as nobody’s watching.  And we’ve seen that Marion can be pretty handy with a sword.  But do we really think they’ll be any match for trained soldiers?  When Marion rides in with the kids and lifts her visor, my thought wasn’t “Yay,” it was “What are you doing crazy woman?  Get those kids out of there!”  The truth is, that moment only exists to put Marion in harms way a second time so Robin can rescue her again.  Lame.

So how do we fix all this?  The main villain here is Godfrey.  The French army serves mostly as a powerful force for Godfrey to use to achieve his ends.  And it’s really Nottingham that we care about and that Robin is tasked with defending, not England.  So I’m going to suggest a flop in the order of the battles in the movie.

I’m going to have John and the English army, including Robin and his men, ride to defeat the French invasion at the end of Act Two.  But while they’re there, Godfrey takes Nottingham and captures Marion.  That will be our moment of “big failure.”  The French army is repelled, but everything Robin cares about is in the hands of his main enemy.

This is also a good place to put John’s betrayal to set up the franchise the filmmakers clearly desire.  So Robin asks John to help him retake Nottingham in return for aiding him in the battle with the French.  But now that John’s gotten what he wants, he refuses.  Robin and his small group of friends are on their own.

This also allows us to more elegantly integrate the forest orphans.  Robin can round up his friends, Friar Tuck, and the orphans to plan a guerilla attack and defeat Godfrey.  That sets up the Merry Men quite nicely for the sequel and gives us a climactic Resolution where the stakes are most high – Robin defeats his true nemesis and saves Marion in the place he swore to protect.

So, breaking down the story with my structure:
Catalyst – Robin agrees to return sword (about 10 pages in)
End Act One – Robin agrees to continue pretending to be Loxley (about 30 pages in)
Midpoint – Robin turns John against Godfrey (about 60 pages in)
End Act Two – Godfrey takes Nottingham and captures Marion while Robin is assisting in repelling the French.  John refuses to help Robin.
Resolution – Robin rallies his rag tag band of friends, rescues Marion and defeats Godfrey

With that I think we could have a movie that tells the same story as the existing movie, but solves the problems of the slow start in Act One, passive main character in Act Two, and confused third act.

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