After more film and TV adaptations than any character other than Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes, Syfy has come up with a rather nifty fantasy version in Beyond Sherwood Forest [tonight, 9/8C]. Even before the opening credits, it’s apparent that this not your standard Robin Hood movie.
In the first sequence, we see a young Robert [Rowen Kahn] practicing with a bow and promising a young Marian [Anna Louise Sargeant] that he will, one day, become the finest archer in Sherwood. Meanwhile, the Sheriff of Nottingham and his two deputies are chasing a dragon, which one of the deputies, Malcolm [Julian Sands, Warlock]] is sure he’s wounded. The dragon kills the sheriff and when the deputies follow, they come upon a young woman, wounded by an arrow. Young Robert arrives just in time to see Malcolm strike his father down and ride off with the wounded woman.
Several years later…
Marian [Erica Durance, Smallville]] runs away from home after her father forces her to become betrothed to an Austrian prince. About the same time, Robin Hood [Robin Dunne, Sanctuary]] and his band of outlaws rob a group of travelers of their gold and an expensive looking chest. Shortly thereafter, Robin encounters a disguised Marian and they fight with staves [instead of the classic Robin/Littlejohn confrontation] before she goes to their camp with them.
Prince John [David Richmond Peck] learns of the theft and orders Malcolm [now the Sheriff of Nottingham] to apprehend Robin and retrieve the chest – or it’ll be hanging for him. Malcolm visits his dungeon, where he orders Aline [Katherine Isabelle, Ginger snaps] to terrorize the town and find Robin and Marian. When he allows her to leave her cell, she becomes the dragon and flies off. Weirdness ensues.
Chase Parker [Reign of the Gargoyles, Basilisk: The Serpent King] has written a script that juggles a number of arcs pretty well. Besides the Robin Hood arc, he also builds a compelling backstory for Aline and the world of the Dark Woods from whence she comes – a half-breed cross of what amounts to immortal druid and human. He also takes some liberties with the fates of Robin’s band of outlaws.
Peter DeLuise [various Stargates] knows that this is more a fun B-movie than anything else and gives it a very brisk pace, broken only for key emotional beats and short, to the point exposition. He gets better than average performances from his cast, many of whom he’s worked with before. The non-English cast members all manage credible and, for most part, consistent accents, to boot. Even the special effects and CG work are much better than average [the dragon is very effective, and some snarly beasts that Littlejohn and Will Scarlett encounter in the Deep Woods are fun, too].
Beyond Sherwood Forest is well made and pure fun. It has no pretensions beyond that and, to be blindingly honest, I enjoyed it a great deal more than either Ninja Assassin or The Road – both of which feature big budgets and much hype.
Final Grade: B+