Starring: Robin Dunne, Erica Durance, Julian Sands, Katharine Isabelle, Mark Gibbon, Cainan Wiebe, Richard de Klerk, Bill Dow, Brent Stait, Paul Lazenby
Director: Peter DeLuise
2009 | 93 Minutes | Not Rated
“You fight well… for a thief.” – Maid Marian
I’m on a bit of a Robin Hood kick as of late. I have always been a pretty huge fan of the character and have read a bunch of the books and comic books but have only managed to see a small handful of the movies. So I set out to right that ship and started tracking down some of my missing Robin Hood links, starting with one of the more recent – Beyond Sherwood Forest.
It is the year 1174 in England and King Richard is away fighting the Crusades. His brother, Prince John is in charge. Maid Marian (Erica Durance) is set to be married off to an Austrian ruler but Robin Hood (Robin Dunne) and his men won’t let her go without a fight. To combat Robin, the Sheriff of Nottingham has unleashed a cursed girl named Alina, who changes into a ferocious dragon.
Beyond Sherwood Forest is a SyFy TV movie that mashes dragons and magic into the classic Robin Hood legend. And… surprisingly… it mostly works. I still would prefer a dragonless Robin Hood story to this one but it isn’t the mess that most SyFy flicks are.
Our Robin Hood is younger than in most stories, as are his compatriots, Little John, Gareth, Will Scarlet and, of course, Maid Marian. Friar Tuck becomes more of an older mentor figure to the young group of ruffians. The performances are not the best anyone’s ever seen but they definitely aren’t the worst. Everyone involved seems to be putting forth their best effort to make this thing work.
The medieval skirmishes are OK. Some are definitely more fun than others. The Arrows look to be coming off the bow too slow, making things feel really fake when the greatest archer of all time is doing his thing. That’s kind of a cardinal sin when dealing with Robin Hood. That should have been one of the things they worked the hardest to get right.
Where things really fall apart is when it comes to the CGI of the magic and the dragon. I’ve seen far worse in SyFy productions but it still doesn’t look pretty. Not only does the dragon have an odd design and bad CGI but the fights with the dragon look like the characters are just swinging at air… as they likely were. And to top that off, the movie spends a good 10-15 minutes at the 2/3 mark to explain all the weird magic stuff. And it came close to putting me to sleep despite my interest in the rest of the movie. It’s just not at all interesting and poorly delivered.
For a low budget movie, Beyond Sherwood Forest is pretty decent. For a TV movie, it’s pretty darn good. And for a SyFy TV movie, it’s near a masterpiece. But when compared to the multitude of other fantasy and/or medieval type movies, it’s a middle of the road movie… if that. Beyond Sherwood Forest will never be the definitive Robin Hood story but that doesn’t have to mean it isn’t worth making and seeing.