If you thought Mel Brooks had tarnished the legacy of Robin Hood with his parody Robin Hood: Men In Tights, think again! To be fair I have a soft spot for Brooks’ irreverent comedy, but i’m sure there are many purists who appreciate their Robin Hood tales based in tradition and gravity. This is not one of those tales.
Coming off like a story pitch where other cinematic properties like Marvel, The Matrix and Kingsman were mentioned, with a “what that Baz fellow did with The Great Gatsby” suggestion thrown in for good measure, the 2018 incarnate of Robin Hood is a genre mash-up mess that wastes proven talent (Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx and Ben Mendelsohn all deserve better) and near-squanders the potential of others (director Otto Bathurst making his feature-length directorial debut here).
As we’re told in the opening via narration by Friar Tuck (Australian comedian Tim Minchin) that he “could tell us the year” but he “doesn’t actually remember” – not the most promising start when even your scriptwriter can’t be bothered to lock down a certain period – Robin Hood‘s general lack of concern for specifics is obvious from the get-go. The usual lush greenery of Sherwood Forest has been replaced by a more dystopian setting, our characters all go by more shortened riffs on their names (Robin is simply Rob, or The Hood when his heroic alter-ego is in play, Marian or Mare for Maid Marian, and Friar Tuck is merely Tuck) and, in perhaps the most bizarre story additive, the wardrobe on-hand looks like someone raided New York Fashion Week by way of H&M; I swear the Sheriff of Nottingham (a scene-chewing Mendelsohn) rocks up in a Chanel suit at one stage.
But what of the story? Well, after the briefest of meet-cute’s between Robin (Egerton, using his boyish charm and enviable jawline to overcome the hot-mess of a script) and Marian (Eve Hewson aka Bono’s daughter), the supposed lovers are torn apart when he is drafted to fight the Arabs in the crusades. Not long after this Robin meets Yahya (a questionably-accented Foxx), the story’s Little John, and before you can say “training montage” the two are testing Robin’s combative abilities with a seemingly endless supply of bow-and-arrows.
Once we’ve gotten up to speed with Robin’s Hawkeye-like precision in shooting, Ben Chandler and David James Kelly’s script sets us on what should be a mildly-entertaining path towards a revolt against the Sheriff, its just a shame that we don’t really care how we get there. The whole stealing-from-the-rich-giving-to-the-poor aspect is pretty much a non-issue here – Robin’s already well-to-do when we meet him – as apart from him leaving a decent sum to Marian, who throughout the film shacks up with Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan doing his best brooding as Will Scarlett) when she believes fair Rob has perished, the film appears more concerned with making Robin a hero for the people through action rather than reward.
It’s rather ironic that Robin Hood‘s insistence on wanting to be something new leaves it ultimately feeling like something we’ve seen countless times before – last year’s ill-advised King Arthur go-around from Guy Ritchie being the most likely comparison piece. We’re warned at the film’s opening to “Forget history, forget what you believe, forget what you know”…it almost seems too easy to state that we should forget this film entirely too.
About Robin Hood
Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) a war-hardened Crusader and his Moorish commander (Jamie Foxx) mount an audacious revolt against the corrupt English crown in a thrilling action-adventure packed with gritty battlefield exploits, mind-blowing fight choreography, and a timeless romance.
Robin Hood (M) is screening in Australian theatres from November 22nd 2018.