Robin Hood (2018)
The Legend You Know. The Story You Don’t.
Whoever thought it was a good idea to give the timeless tale of outlaw Robin Hood a modern makeover is an absolute boob. For starters, the legend has already been explored a number of times in a number different films. We’ve had the 1938 Errol Flynn-starring classic, Disney’s 1973 cartoon, the definitive Kevin Costner portrayal in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), and Mel Brooks’ parody Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). Irrespective, every so often some bonehead tries to revitalize the old myth for a whole new generation to, err, I don’t know, endure. Disney’s Princess of Thieves (2001) saw Keira Knightley don the hood as Robin’s daughter Gwyn (yawn), while Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe had a crack at adapting the public property in 2010, with regrettable results.
Enter Otto Bathurst, Peaky Blinders (2013), the latest filmmaker to have a swing at reworking the story of the celebrated hero who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, this time by giving us an origin offering or prequel or modernized reinvention or whatever. The movie opens with a hackneyed voice-over that tells us to ‘forget history,’ and ‘forget what we know’ about the legend — I honestly wish I could just forget about this whole darn film.
Set in some unknown period of history, Taron Egerton, Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), stars as Robin of Loxley, lord of Nottingham, a young aspiring nobleman who falls in love with sassy thief Marian (Eve Hewson) when she tries to steal a horse from his stables. Instead, she winds up stealing his heart (awww), and the pair sets off into the sunset to build a life together. Naturally, their days are like an episode of a steamy CW drama, that’s until Robin or Rob (as he’s offensively referred to here) is drafted into service to fight in the Crusades against the Moors, where he’s expected to die, in turn allowing the mustache-twirling Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) to declare him dead, so that he can take his money and property to pay back taxes.
Over in the Middle East, where arrows tear through the sky like bullets being fired from a machine gun and pierce through metal armor like it’s made of paper — you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re in the Iraq War — Rob prevents his pompous commander, Guy of Gisborne (Paul Anderson), from beheading a young boy, this after the kid’s father, a Moorish fighter named Yahya (Jamie Foxx), pleads for his son’s life. As you’d expect, Gisborne cracks the shits and sends good ol’ Robbo back to England for trying to thwart the execution. Returning home via ship, Robin is shocked to learn that a lot has changed. For one, Nottingham is under martial law, with the sniveling Sheriff working together with the corrupt Catholic Church to fund the war effort by collecting taxes from the people, the tyrant ousting the citizens from the city and into the Panem-looking mines to work for peanuts.
That’s where he spots his beloved Marian, who’s slaving away at the mines feeding commoners while dressed in designer apparel. It gets worse, though, as she’s found another man in Jamie Dornan’s aspiring Antifa-type resistance leader Will Scarlet or Mr. Christian Grey himself, Scarlet essentially what you’d get if the playboy went bust — either way, it’s not pretty. Troubled by this discovery, Rob is trained by Foxx’s Yahya — whose name can apparently be translated to John (minus the ‘Little’) — after he follows the bandit back to England for some very vague reasons. A few Creed-esque training montages later and Robin becomes ‘The Hood,’ a rich boy by day and hero by night, who inspires the underclass to rise up and fight their oppressors; he’s basically DC’s Green Arrow aka Oliver Queen — I was half expecting him to utter the phrase, ‘You have failed this city.’
Although Egerton and Foxx share decent buddy-comedy chemistry, little else in this dodgy Robin Hood clicks, the script, penned by newcomers Ben Chandler and David James Kelly, an outright clunker. The love triangle between Robin, Marian and Will lacks any sort of emotional weight. Nothing is historically accurate, from the YA-inspired costumes to the ridiculous stunts and speed-ramped action, there’s little here that works — sure, a blistering horseback pursuit through the mines is kinda cool, but the whole thing still comes off feeling like empty noise. The film’s anti-establishment message doesn’t ring true either, the ‘mines’ and the money that they produce is hardly explained, while Robin’s gung-ho speeches on wealth redistribution fail to register.
Visually the film is also quite ugly, with Bathurst and regular cinematographer George Steel creating a bleak dystopian Nottingham that’s essentially a dingy mining town. Similarly, production design by Jean-Vincent Puzos, The Lost City of Z (2016), isn’t great, the whole world evoking a similar look to 2016’s insufferable Assassin’s Creed. The VFX and green screen looks rather cheap and nasty, too. Just on that, I remember the film’s trailers (here in Australia anyway) featured an intro where Jamie Foxx claimed that the movie had no visual effects. No visual effects! What’s the dude smoking? There’s a ton of video-game-looking GCI — and, no, not the good kind!
Even national treasure Ben Mendelsohn, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), fails to make any impact as the fascist leather-clad villain, a role he should have slaughtered in his sleep (blame the lazy writing), Mendo coming off as a larger-than-life cosplayer who’s playing dress ups for an easy paycheck. F. Murray Abraham, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), is completely wasted as the crooked Cardinal, who outright claims that the Church devised hell as a tactic to scare the people (lol), a statement that’s introduced then never expanded on — oh, the movie even tries to be ‘oh so’ relevant by hinting at abuse within the Church, another allusion that pretty much goes nowhere. Elsewhere, Eve Hewson, Bridge of Spies (2015), does absolutely nothing worthy of note as Lady Marian, her character regressing the #MeToo movement back about a decade, whilst Australian comedian Tim Minchin is completely miscast as an idiotic version of clergyman Friar Tuck.
Ultimately, while many have likened this dumpster fire to Guy Ritchie’s entertaining albeit unnecessary King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017), the aforementioned was at least fun, and never tried to make any sort of social or political statements, unlike this soulless trudge. While Robin Hood finishes with a hilarious sequel hook, I’m happy to report that given its poor box office run, we’ll never have to revisit Bathurst’s world, or any of its crummy characters again. Frankly, given how much dough the movie’s lost, I’d suggest the outlaw reconsider parting with any of the cash he steals as he’ll need it to recoup the studio’s losses.
1.5 / 5 – Poor
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Robin Hood is released through Studio Canal Australia