TL;DR – Of this films many, many failings, is the fact that you can see a kernel of a good idea here, that they refused to commit too and thus made it a film about nothing.
Score – 1 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Oh wow, and I mean wow, how do you stuff this up as badly as you do here. For a lot of people, there is this annoyance that film companies keep going back to these public domain properties because it is just a cheap option, and I get that. But because these stories are so well known, you can use them as a basis for doing something novel or even experimental. In years past, we have gotten the full-on epic with Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves all the way to the absolute farce that is Robin Hood: Men in Tights. However, there was room for another film to take the mythos in a new direction … well, this is not that film, which somehow fails at being both a re-telling of the original myth and also an abysmal attempt at modernising the story for a new audience.
So to set the scene, Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) is a Lord living near Nottingham the sort of pseudo-capital of England … wait you say what, well that is how it is presented, it gets a bit weird with its history. He is madly in love with a local commoner (sort of, maybe not a commoner, the film is not quite clear) Marian (Eve Hewson) and they will marry because we are ignoring the fact that for nobility arranged marriages were the norm. Well just when all is rosy the evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) ‘Drafts’ Robin into the Third Crusade, and off to war in the Middle East he goes. I use the term the Middle East here on purpose, and you’ll see why in a bit. However,to the Holy Lands he goes where he fights, fails, tries to stop ‘John’s’ (JamieFoxx) son getting beheaded and then get shipped back to England where he has apparently been dead for two years, the Sheriff has ceased his manor, and Marian has gasp moved on … dude, you were dead … and ‘dating’Will ‘we are not calling him Scarlet but you know what he is’ Tillman (JamieDornan). So what do you do, well you team up with John and decide to fight the Bourgeoisie for the Proletariat while pretending to be the biggest Bourgeoisie to cozy up to the Sheriff to get to know what is really going down but you still kind of want to be Lord.
Just from here you can kind of see what a mess this film is, but Brian, you ask,surely a film that has the best casting idea of the 21st century by having Tim Minchin be Friar Tuck can’t be all that bad, well reader hold on to your hat because we are going for a bumpy ride. Now because of how this film works and because of how little it cares about the source material or even the audience that paid to go see it, we can’t really explore it without getting into spoilers. So, since I do care for you dear reader, please let it be known that from this point onwards there will be [SPOILERS].
Okay now where do we start, well let’s talk about the things that they did right, and well look I do want to give credit to all the artisans who created costumes, who dressed the sets, who located areas to film in, who helped stage and create many of the film’s actions scenes. It is clear that a lot of hardwork has gone into the creation of this film and even though I am going to be quite negative about it, I do thank you all for your contribution in making it as beautiful as you possibly could given the circumstances. As well as this, while it does not ever land, the casting in this film is fantastic. I think Taron could have been a great Robin Hood if they had given him a bit more to work with, Jamie is incredibly charismatic and it shines through even with all the awful dialogue he is given, Ben is the best actor in the world for that high energy bad guy, and he very extra in this film and I am here for it, also as I said Tim as Friar Tuck, amazing. However, that is about it.
Well,let us begin with the story because here is the biggest offender of them all. The biggest problem with the story is that I can see a kernel of a good idea here that is completely wasted by the final product. As I said one of the things that you can do with a product in the public domain is use it to experiment with and much like the first season of Sherlock and adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, it really feels like the first script of this film reinterpreted the story and set it in modern times. That would have been a genius idea, Robin a Lord goes off to fight a war in Iraq and come home suffering from PSTD only to discover that the government that sent him to war did it for nefarious reasons and as such he has to fight to bring them down. But to do a film like this, it forces you to make a stand on issues, issues at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds, and so they went with the safe option, that said nothing, took no stand, and means that it ended up being a nothing film.
I posit this scenario, because you can see echoes of this in the film, indeed if you have even a passing understanding of modern asymmetric warfare then you will see it all in here. There are the outfits that look less like the amour warn in the 1100s and more like the military garb used by militaries today. In the first battle, they are a squad on patrol in an occupied city, which comes under fire from an insurgent nest that is using what for all intents and purposes is a machine gun. There are flanking maneuvers, covering fire, signalling flares, artillery barrages, private military contractors made up of veterans, and so on. These anachronisms permeate throughout the film and make it difficult to watch at times because it is so in your face. Now anachronisms in films is not necessarily a bad thing,if your story is good you don’t care about it. Or you could be like A Knight’s Tale and you use it in such a way that it is an integral part of your film and it makes the film better for being there. This is not the case here, much like the rest of the film it is a wasted opportunity. Like for example, they hint that Robin has PTSD but it comes up like once in the film,it is not an integral part of the character, so why bother adding it if you are not going to put the effort in.
Add to all this is the fact that none of the film really makes all that much sense. I mean, I can maybe get on board with the Sheriff’s plan to fund the enemy under the guise of “supporting the troops” to keep the government distracted while he takes over … maybe. But how they go about implementing the plan is just nonsense,which has no rhyme or reason to it. Like how Rome sends The Cardinal (F. Murray Abraham) to Nottingham, first there is not just ‘a Cardinal’ there are hundreds, it feels like they were going for the Pope but had to dial back because that would be too controversial. They set up Nottingham as almost the capital of England when it was not even the biggest town in its region at the time. Then there is the industrial revolution 600 years early, as if we wouldn’t notice, like the fact that part of this was clearly filmed in a modern warehouse, I mean come on, random flames jumping into the sky for no reason can’t cover everything up. There is no sense as to what the social relationships are between the Sheriff, the Lords, or the commoners is,like they were planning to set it in modern times but couldn’t. Also styling the Sheriff after Trump or other conservative politicians might not be so much on the nose if they were not clearly doing it as a cheap shorthand.
In the end, do we recommend Robin Hood? No, no we do not. I would go as far and say that if you are someone who has studied or just has an interest in medieval history, or mythology, literature, asymmetric warfare, post-conflict treatment of veterans, or just someone who loves good films you should actively stay away because this film will only infuriate you with its rubbish.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations,or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Robin Hood
Directed by – Otto Bathurst
Story by – Ben Chandler
Screenplay by – Ben Chandler & David James Kelly
Based on – The Robin Hood myth
Music by – Joseph Trapanese
Cinematography by – George Steel
Edited by – Joe Hutshing & Chris Barwell
Starring – Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Tim Minchin, Jamie Dornan, F. Murray Abraham, Paul Anderson, Josh Herdman, Cornelius Booth & Björn Bengtsson
Rating – Australia: M; Canada:PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M;United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13