Robin Hood Review
And the prize for worst remake/reboot of the year goes to...
Kingsman’s Taron Egerton stars in yet another reboot of the Robin Hood saga… with even less charm than usual.The title of this film doesn’t really leave much to the imagination. It’s another one of those ‘why though?’ moments that seem to be becoming increasingly frequent in modern filmmaking. Robin Hood is, clearly, a pretty old tale – and it’s not even new or under-developed in cinema; Robin of Loxley has been played by everyone from Errol Flynn and Kevin Costner to a cartoon fox, and we’re all at least a smidge familiar with Maid Marian and the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham.
So, it follows that the only logical reason to turn to the quintessential philanthropic thief is if you’ve got a spectacularly innovative new take on it. Perhaps an uproariously comedic turn, or a socially-motivated caper, or even just a gripping thriller. Sadly, this iteration of Robin Hood isn’t much of any of those. “Forget what you think you know,” the narrator begs us at the beginning of the film. This proves impossible, as the film rolls on as a pale imitation of Robin Hoods of years gone by.
The idea was Robin Hood for the modern filmgoer, but the result is an action movie with no excitement, a love story with little romance and an historical epic that’s no more epic than it is historical.
At least visually, there are a few attempts at innovation. This version of Nottingham looks a bit gritty, a bit dark, a bit menacing – to be honest, it’s at least a little reminiscent of the Birmingham portrayed in Peaky Blinders, also directed by Otto Bathurst, not least in its industrial revolution-esque design. But even here, there’s just not enough exploration and explanation to make things tick.
The narrator informs us that he doesn’t know what year the action is set in, which is just as well given that the set design is decidedly more contemporary than historians suggest the 12th century would have looked. That we don’t get much context for Nottingham’s apparently prolific coal mine is just the beginning of unresolved plot points and story elements that just don’t quite gel.
Bathurst’s work on Peaky Blinders is renowned for its slick realism, and it does shine through in a few of the (many, many) action scenes, but elsewhere falls flat, along with a script that seems partly too keen to combine genres into something new and partly devoid of new ideas.
Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) is a big man about town, until he’s dispatched off to fight in the Crusades. Upon his return, he discovers that his home has been looted, his love Marian (Eve Hewson) has fallen for Will Scarlet (Jamie Dornan) and all of Nottingham is under the thumb of the evil Sheriff (Ben Mendelsohn). Naturally, Robin and his pals have to take back control of their city.
“Forget what you think you know,” the narrator begs us at the beginning of the film. This proves impossible, as the film rolls on as a pale imitation of Robin Hoods of years gone by.
Robin Hood on the big screen has typically included at least a little bit of joy – think Alan Rickman’s sensational Sheriff, or even jolly Friar Tuck in Disney’s cartoon – but there’s not much to go around here. Presumably, the idea was a ‘grown up’ Robin Hood for the modern filmgoer, but the result is an action movie with no excitement, a love story with little in the way of romance and an historical epic that’s no more epic than it is historical.
Taron Egerton is part of the reason it’s so disheartening how bad this film is. He’s charming, funny, likeable and charismatic – he deserves so much better than this and the equally dire Kingsman 2 . Though action scenes are variously well done, the film is over-saturated with them, and there’s only so many times you can watch someone slow-motion firing arrows through the air before you start stifling yawns.
Jamie Foxx (an absurd John, a soldier from the crusades who stows away with Robin to a foreign land and then proceeds to educate Robin on England’s political system) and Tim Minchin (Friar Tuck) are both hugely underused, while Mendelsohn’s villainous Sheriff isn’t really given much to work with, and there’s lots of pontificating to rooms full of Nottingham natives for no apparent reason. Hewson gives it her all as the only named female character in the film, though she’s clearly there to function as the love interest and not much besides.
At the very least, it makes us appreciate the old Robin Hood films that much more (yes, even the Russell Crowe one).
As mentioned, the countless action and fight scenes are delivered well, and provide enough realistic violence to placate any cinemagoers keen for a bit of combat. Plus, Egerton’s Robin Hood – clearly designed as a modern-day superhero type, with ‘The Hood’ as his alter ego – is a little more in the Errol Flynn mold than Costner and Russell Crowe’s more sullen iterations.
As for 2018 Robin… I suppose we should commend the filmmakers for seemingly trying something new with classic material? At the very least, it makes us appreciate the old Robin Hood films that much more (yes, even the Russell Crowe one).
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