Why I hated it the first time is not entirely clear to me. It may have simply been the lack of good company. Or perhaps it was that initially I was focused too closely on the typically lifeless acting of Mr. Crowe, and less on the other characters or Ridley Scott’s creative take on the Robin Hood story.
Either way, I’m certain that I enjoyed it more because I was watching it through the lens of a blog article I’d recently read: George Donnely’s Are Minarchists Worse than Socialists?
*SPOILER ALERT* Do not read further if you haven’t watched the movie yet.
What struck me this time was how Thomas Longstride, a radical who died for his notion of political equality, was both supported and betrayed by those who lauded his ideals. It would be a stretch to claim he was an anarchist. But his recognition that a king needed his subjects as much as the subjects needed their king was a step in the right direction.
The Barons and Longstride’s son, Robin, on the other hand, are clearly minarchists. They want to reduce the power of the Crown, not eliminate it. Near the end of the film, Robin explains to King John that all men are entitled to certain things. He’s quite verbose at this point, but what they amount to are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What they do not do is demand an end to the Crown. Instead, they make the same mistake all minarchists do—they demand that Power limit itself. Robin declares to the King that they want “Liberty by law!” Ridley Scott no doubt envisioned this to be a crowning moment of the film, but for me, this was its near ruin.
What transpires at the end of the film would never have happened had the Barons not kept Thomas Longstride’s dream alive. There would have been no confrontation with the King with demands for “liberty”. His notions would simply have been forgotten. However, the Baron’s failure to live up to that dream’s potential with consistency, or even comprehend the logical contradiction of their minarchist position, is what led to their little revolution’s abrupt end. The minarchists both saved and sabotaged the struggle for liberty.
Of course, there is still hope, for this is where Robin Longstride becomes the infamous Robin Hood—living off the grid, so to speak, and causing havoc for King John’s tax-men. All in all, a decent film and a good lesson about the disastrous consequences of compromising one’s moral ideals.