I live about 25 miles from Sherwood Forest, and have visited the mythical “Major Oak” plenty of times. The only real benefit to me is being able to identify when they’re filming in some Eastern European fern-filled wood rather than Sherwood itself; but it’s fun to see what is, to me, a local legend, being told and re-told all over the world.
It’s also fun to see a SyFy Channel movie that is genuinely entertaining! I’m not sure of its provenance, as it was made by Starz Media (the boobs-and-swearing US cable channel), but it seems to have been made for SyFy. It’s got a cast that, for this channel, is like that of Ocean’s Eleven, and at least has a reason to spend most of its time filming in the woods unlike every other damn movie they show.
I don’t remember any origin stories for Robin Hood. He really just appears fully formed in the woods with his band of merry men, but “Beyond Sherwood Forest” puts an interesting twist on it , with Robin’s father being one of the old Sheriff of Nottingham’s deputies, killed by the other deputy (who becomes the villain we know and hate), as they find a mysterious woman in the woods who is seemingly immortal and invulnerable. The new Sheriff wants to kill Robin to tie up the loose ends, so he runs away, leaving his sort-of girlfriend (they’re pretty young) and as he wakes up from dreaming about all this, we see a few decades have passed and that kid is now the adult Robin Dunne.
Dunne, or Replacement Pacey as we know him (thanks to him replacing Joshua “Pacey” Jackson in two different film franchises, as well as being in Dawson’s Creek too, way back), is an ISCFC favourite thanks to his roles in “Supercollider” and “Space Milkshake”; he is but one of the “big” names we see in this movie. Okay, none of them are likely to win an Oscar any time soon, but they’re overqualified for stuff like this – Erica Durance (Lois Lane in “Smallville”); Julian Sands; Katharine Isabelle; David Richmond-Peck (from “Orphan Black”); and Richard De Klerk (from the fascinating “Repeaters”), among other unnecessarily good actors.
Isabelle is Alina, and if you need a clue, she’s on the front cover of the DVD case at the top of the page. As well as getting a bit of the traditional Robin Hood story, where he and his friends rob from the rich and give to the poor, there’s a mysterious dark portal in the woods, and that leads to the other side of the story, which is certainly an original spin on the legend. Sands chews scenery with great pleasure, Dunne shows a gift for comedy he’d also use on TV show “Sanctuary” and is a great swashbuckling-type (he’s been working out, too, as he displays his ripped chest in one scene) and while the CGI is definitely ropey as hell, the cast looks like they’re having a good time swinging and firing arrows at things.
I want to point to one scene as an example of something that other films of this type just don’t do. Alina, betrayed by the Sheriff and captured, is sat tied up next to Marian (Durance). They don’t talk about how Robin will save them, or romance. While staying fully clothed throughout, they talk about their roles as women in the society of the time. It’s just a little bit, but it’s around the same time as a rather clever scene of two different characters in different locations giving the same backstory from different perspectives so it really elevates the movie.
I think you’re going to enjoy this, should it be on the SyFy Channel one evening. This is definitely among the very best of their “original” movies, and while, okay, it’s got some flaws (the portal is never explained, and the CGI isn’t great), it’s also a genuinely entertaining story. The characters feel at least a bit realised (taking their dialogue and putting it in the mouth of another character wouldn’t really work, unlike so many other SyFy movies). In “huh, really?” news, this was directed by Peter DeLuise, who you may remember from “21 Jump Street” (and his brief appearance in the recent remake), “Stargate SG-1” and probably being a relation of the great Dom.
Rating: thumbs up
PS – Several of the negative reviews of this have focused on its messing with the legend. Hey, other reviewers! You know none of it’s true, right? He didn’t really exist (almost certainly) so whether they make a story with dragons (which also didn’t exist) or a very faintly based on fact Sheriff of Nottingham makes absolutely no difference to me whatsoever.