I love the moment the lights dim, the curtain widens and the movie starts. Going to the cinema is one of life's great activities and should be enjoyed as much as possible.
Published December 4th 2018
Robin Hood steals from the history and gives to no one
Robin Hood has graced the silver screen many times in different forms. Errol Flynn famously brought the character to life in colour in 1938's Adventures of Robin Hood. In the 1970s, the character featured in the popular 1973 animated Disney film Robin Hood and that was followed by the 1976 film Robin and Marian, starring Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn, in which we saw the final days of Robin Hood. He returned to the silver screen in 1991, with the massive hit Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Kevin Costner, playing the classic British character, threw convention out the window by not worrying at all about his American accent. He and Christian Slater duked it out to see who could sound more out of place in 15th century England, whilst Alan Rickman chewed up the screen in every scene he was in, stealing the movie as the sheriff of Nottingham. Since then, Robin Hood has appeared in the comedy flop Robin Hood Men in Tights, had a cameo in the original Shrek movie, and then appeared in the 2010 Ridley Scott movie that was seriously devoid of the archery action one expects from the character.
And so, we arrive 110 years after the first ever Robin Hood film (1908's Silent film, Robin Hood and his Merry Men), with another film simply titled, Robin Hood, directed by Otto Bathurst. The $100 million film has been a bit of a financial disaster so far, struggling in most countries at the box office.
The film stars Taron Egerton as Robin Hood. Egerton is best known for the two Kingsmen movies and is quite adept at over the top action scenes. He is joined by the ever interesting Jamie Foxx, who has a similar role to that of Morgan Freeman in Prince of Thieves. Marian is played by Eve Hewson and the Sheriff of Nottingham is played by Ben Mendelsohn. Tim Minchin pops up as a surprise casting choice, as Friar Tuck.
The film opens with narration which tells us that we don't need to know what time period this story is set in. There is a reason for this, as the film doesn't want to be bogged down with historical accuracy, as well as being defined visually by what's expected in a Robin Hood movie.
The costume and set department told to make everything 30% 15th century, 30% modern times, and 30% futuristic. It's an understandable decision, in that the filmmakers are desperate to make this film stand out from the rich history of what has come before it. However, the modern take may cause you to feel disconnected from the story, as the costumes, in particular, are very bizarre and personally I found them very distracting (my wife disagreed with me on this one). The action scenes also have much more modern in feel than your traditional Robin Hood, with a lot more explosions and slow motion summersaults through the air, and firing of multiple arrows at once.
We begin on the crusades, as Robin shows his honour in trying to save a young Muslim boy who is murdered by Robin's British commander. This opening scene is shot very much like a war film about the gulf war. However, at this point, the movie felt solid and despite the ridiculousness of much of the action, I was still on board at this stage. From this scene, Robin is joined by Foxx, who actually turns out to be 'Little John', and father to the boy who was killed.
About a third of the way through the movie, the film struggles to find the right balance between everything it is trying to do. It feels very influenced by other movies and throws many different ideas and concepts into the mix with each passing scene. The dialogue struggles with its political message, especially with Mendlesohn spewing out over the top villainy in every scene, greatly undermining the church corruption subplot. The classic elements of the Robin Hood storyline don't naturally fit with the over the top action moments, and as I said, the costumes and sets just take you out of the story with their distracting contrasts. Mendlesohn's sheriff looks like he just walked off a fashion runway in Milan.
Whilst some of the action is well done, some of it is terrible. Most notably, a chase scene involving horses and carriages, in which the image is extremely blurring as if the film has suddenly become a 3D film, but you don't have any 3D glasses.
Taron Egerton is adequate as Robin Hood, but the character isn't overly interesting, despite some attempts at showing a bit of PTSD. Jamie Foxx is good but underused and his mentor role doesn't carry the same weight as Morgan Freeman's performance in Prince of Thieves. Eve Hewson has a vastly different role as Marian than previous incarnations, but again, her character isn't written well enough to really tie together all the different aspects the film is trying to pull together. Tim Minchin adds some light comedy to the whole thing but also feels a bit goofy for the storyline. And finally, Ben Mendelsohn is in danger of becoming typecast in these types of fascist villains that feel very similar to his role in Star Wars: Rogue One. In the same way that Johnny Depp has become a bit of a cliché Tim Burton dress-up character in recent years, Mendlesohn is fast becoming overused, as he has cornered this part of the Hollywood blockbuster market.
Overall, Robin Hood is a disappointing addition to the history of the character on film. With the changes they made to the storyline and the path they wanted to take, it felt to me that maybe it would have been better to make this a Green Arrow movie rather than a Robin Hood movie, since the DC comic book character is basically Robin Hood anyway, and it might have assisted with allowing the film more room to breathe, as it wouldn't have been as reliant on shoehorning in so many story plots.