Or, hey, nobody remembers the 13th century anyway!
If you haven't seen the new Robin Hood movie, you may want to skip this post. I'll do my best not to go into any real spoilers, but you may not want to be spoiled by my opinions, either.
There was plenty of action, no doubt about that. One thing this movie didn't lack was a lingering, loving look at the grit, blood and horror of medieval warfare. Real? I'm no expert, so don't ask me. Grim? Well, it came very close to my own personal limit of grimness. There's only so much I can take before I wonder why I'm still watching.
Fortunately, there were moments of relief. I loved the scenes between Robin and Marian. It would have been a much different movie if they'd expanded those moments and limited the battle and gore--a movie not made by Ridley Scott. Que sera, sera.
Still, that's not what bothered me. What bothered me were the things I was being asked to suspend my disbelief about. The loving detail with which the movie tried to portray the "reality" of 13th century life created the false expectation that, a) the characters would act in ways "true" to the way life was then, and, b) historic events would be portrayed at least somewhat accurately.
If this is the "real" 13th century and not some fantasy world? Give me a better foundation to believe a common archer in Richard's crusading army would know how to read and be able to impersonate a nobleman. And while we're at it, stop with the handwaving of history in order to make your hero more Heroic. Wasn't there enough of a reason to find Robin Hood heroic when he was saving the people of Nottingham from oppression? Maybe if it had been done with more finesse, I wouldn't have had a problem with it. I don't know--I'm still trying to figure it out.
YMMV, but I just couldn't take that leap. Don't get me wrong, I'm not sorry I saw Robin Hood in the theater. I (mostly) enjoyed it. I just didn't love it. I don't doubt that in a few months the most I'll remember about it is a vague sense of disappointment. Heck, even Kevin Costner's disaster gave us Alan Rickman's delicious scenery chewing turn as the Sheriff of Nottingham--a performance I still remember with glee.
And that brings me around to writing. If you write about historical events--ancient or otherwise--how do you prefer to handle them? I know some of this will depend on the story, whether your characters are inserted in the event or the event is part of the background. Or do you try to avoid real events at all costs? The question for me is, how far can you go before you risk throwing your reader out of the story? Or maybe that's the wrong question to ask?