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My wife and I saw the new movie Robin Hood with Russell Crowe last week. Most of what I had heard about it was just so-so. Ebert thought it was too realistic and not fun. Someone else said it was too predictable. The previews with Russell Crowe rising out of the water made me laugh and think it should have been called “Gladiator 2”. On top of that, it was another Robin Hood movie.  How many predictable Robin Hood movies do we need? We had the disney cartoon, Men in Tights, Kevin Costner, and more old school Robin Hood movies I haven’t seen. Well, I think this one was worth it, especially because Russell Crowe absolutely destroys Costner in terms of acting chops and machismo. Crowe is the main reason I wanted to see this one; I knew that he would play the role well. As much as the guy is hard to like in real life, I have a hard time not appreciating his skills as an actor (even if it is the same role! See: Gladiator, Cinderella Man, Robin Hood). (Spoiler Alert!! for rest of this post)

But this movie, to me, is not really about Robin Hood. He’s just a part player who has a cool story – the fatherless wayward man who gets adopted into a family and then restored his true legacy to his true father who he never knew. It’s awesome how the true Lochsley son gets killed and Robin gets “grafted” in in his place.  He then takes on that identity, wins the heart of the lady, and is a key catalyst in defending England from invasion. Robin then becomes an outlaw because of his politic views (about half a century too early…) that he inherited from his father and because his leadership is a threat to the king. That’s a good story. But Robin Hood was not the key to the bigger plot of this movie:  a devious plan to destroy England. Who is the key? A man named Marshall played by William Hurt.

Marshall is the key advisor to the king, Richard the Lionheart and was adviser to Richard’s father as well. King Richard is killed and his brother John becomes king. The storyline is straight out of 1 Kings. John is young and foolish, and immediately kicks Marshall out and make the lying snake Godfrey his adviser. Godfrey then hatches the plot to help France invade. What would you expect Marshall to do next? Fade into the background, go off to pasture for sure. Nope. Marshall stays loyal to the king and to the big picture of protecting the country and keeps an eye on Godfrey. Marshall discovers the plot to invade, wisely figures out the best way to tell the king, and does his best to unify the country as Godfrey turns everyone against the king. Even in the midst of this, when King John learns of France’s invasion, he still balks at Marshall’s counsel. What is Marshall’s attitude? He still fights for him, works for the king’s best, and subjects himself to the king, who gets more prideful and foolish as the film goes on.

Marshall is such a good character. He is a man who seems to seek no glory for himself. Even at the end when all is settled, he gives all the glory to Robin. All Robin does is make one good speech and lead the men to battle, a battle that is pretty much settled once England unites. Marshall then becomes the official adviser to King John once again. This man pretty saves the country by discovering the deception and helping avoid civil war to then defeat an invasion and he just steps back into his old role that the young king embarrassed him in previously. Does he whine, complain, or seek recognition? Nope. Does he slander the king, a terrible and prideful leader? Nope. Does the king deserve to be followed like this? No way.

Though Marshall is an older character with no route to kingship, the way he supports the king and fights for the kingdom reminds me of Jonathan, the son of King Saul, and best friend to David (see 1 Samuel). King John reminds me of Rehoboam, the foolish son of Solomon (look it up in 1 Kings 12). Jonathan is the rightful heir to the throne but seeks not his own glory but the best for David, whom he knows is destined to be king. At times, Jonathan is ust as much of a warrior with heart for God as David is. You could argue that Jonathan would make a better king than David even – Jonathan walks in integrity, leads men by word and example, trusts God to enable to do what it takes, and is loyal and self-sacrificing. In all this, Jonathan walks in utter humility and deference of power to be a friend to David and to see God glorified not himself. This is Marshall. Except Marshall is a friend to the king and kingdom with no reward and no return. He essentially helps a king who practically acts like an enemy. The character of Marshall makes Robin Hood a really good movie.

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