Screenwriter and Director: Bill Thomas
A new interpretation of an old story, The Adventures of Maid Marian takes us beyond outlaw fantasy and into an imaginary future.
Partly inspired by the 1976 film Robin and Marianne, which sees Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn portray the couple later in life, Bill Thomas’ version begins three years after Hood’s successful defeat by the Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin fought abroad with Richard Coeur de Lion while Marian is sequestered in a convent. In Richard’s absence, England descends into anarchy, the sheriff eager to take advantage.
Marian (played by Sophie Craig) is not a simpering young girl, but a girl with serious skills. Quick on her feet and skilled with weapons, this Marianne needs no protection. The story begins when a letter arrives at the convent, announcing the death of Richard Coeur de Lion. Robin returns home. Marian’s lack of religious devotion has not gone unnoticed, and the prioress (Jennifer Matter) releases Marian from her commitments. On their way to the forest, Marian and Robin meet. News of his return reaches the sheriff and the pair are ambushed. Robin is seriously injured, but they escape, the sheriff’s men hot on their heels.
With a fairly basic plot, the focus is on the character. Craig makes the most of his role, with Marian becoming a heroine out of necessity. She is built to survive and, in a reversal of gender roles, is the support Robin relies on. Dominic Andersen’s Robin is sweet and childish, too much for someone who has witnessed three years of war. Her beauty still charms Marian, and it’s a relationship built on old loyalties.
Thomas’ twelfth-century world, with its shaky lines between authority and Hood’s band of outlaws, is the film’s most successful element. There’s a built-in moral slippery everywhere, and we never really know who to trust. We’re on safe ground with Robin and Marian, but it’s Marian at the center of the action. She is both a warrior and a strategist.
While Marian’s character experimentation pays off, Thomas’ villains don’t get adequate development. Despite a solid performance, Bob Cryer’s Sheriff feels two-dimensional, which is frustrating because Cryer has the ability to create a monster of his own. It’s also a problem with small roles: there’s a budding chemistry between Robin, Marian and Little John (John Lee Pellet) who never gets enough screen time. From this point of view, the film seems unbalanced.
There are parts of The Adventures of Maid Marian that really come together, and Craig’s no-frills performance is at the heart of it. But by using a story that is more guesswork than fact, the possibilities to expand and color the narrative should be an open invitation to any filmmaker. The resulting film does not take us on the promised adventure. It’s an earthy, entertaining cat-and-mouse tale, but the sketchy characterization and reluctance to be bolder means that The Adventures of Maid Marian never fully realizes its potential.
Signature Entertainment present The Adventures of Maid Marian on digital platforms on May 9.