Robin Hood (2018) Review
MISSES THE TARGET
The man, the myth, the legend of Robin Hood. Derived from English folklore (most notably in the Late Middle Ages), Robin Hood is a heroic outlaw from literature, who (as the story goes) was from noble birth and fought during the Crusades before returning to England to find his lands taken by the sheriff, which made him turn against the greedy aristocracy of England and “rob from the rich and give to the poor”. It has also been said that he is highly skilled archer and a swordsman as well as being traditionally depicted in green garb. In addition, through its countless retellings and variations, familiar additions have been added to the Robin Hood lore, including a love interest with the fair lady Maid Marian, his band of outlaws “The Merry Men” (who live in Sherwood Forest), and his main antagonist the Sheriff of Nottingham or even sometimes in association with Prince John (in usurping the rightful but absent King of England (King Richard III), to whom Robin Hood remains loyal. While some tales are more extravagant than others, the common theme that runs through all is the character of Robin Hood is a sort of “champion” of the common people, fighting against the “injustice” in England, while remaining loyal to its rightful ruler. Thus, given his popularity in folklore and in the literary world, it came as no surprise that Hollywood would want to delve in the Robin Hood myth and project that image onto the silver screen. Throughout the years, there have been many adaptations (both live-action and cartoon series meant for the big and small screen, including 1943’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (starring Errol Flynn), Disney 1973’s animated feature Robin Hood, 1991’s Robin Hood: The Prince of Thieves (starring Kevin Costner, Alan Rickman, and Morgan Freeman), Mel Brook’s comedic representation in 1993’s Robin Hood: Men in Tights, the BBC’s TV series Robin Hood (2006-2009), and Ridley Scott’s 2010 epic prequel Robin Hood, and many others. Now, Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate) and director Otto Bathurst present the newest cinematic iteration of the folklore outlaw hero with the 2018 movie titled Robin Hood. Does this movie add a new layer to the every-growing Robin Hood myth or does it completely flounder and miss its intended target?
Robing of Loxley (Taron Egerton) is living the good life as an English lord of a manor and falls in love with Marian (Eve Hewson) when she tries to steal one of his horses to give to her neighbor. The somewhat blissful life for Robin is suddenly shattered when he is drafted to fight in the Crusades, leaving the manor in Marian’s hands until he returns. After four long years of fighting in the war, Robin breaks when he sees his commanding officer, Guy of Gisborne (Paul Anderson), ruthlessly killing prisoners to extract information on the enemy. Robin attempts to save one (the son of another prisoner), but Guy dismisses the young lord, sending him back to England. Once home, Robin learns that the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) seized the Loxley manor (believing that Robin was dead) and had Marian thrown out. Visiting Nottingham, Robin quickly learns that life for the common folk is difficult as the Sheriff is taking all their money for his war tax, which funds the Crusades, as well as lining the pockets of the church. To make matters worse, Robin learns that Marian has fallen in love with another man, Will Scarlett (Jamie Dornan), when she believed Robin to be dead. Frustrated with all these events, Robin is approached by the man whose son he tried to save in the Crusades, who goes by the English name John (Jamie Foxx). With John’s help and training, Robin becomes a local vigilante known as the “Hood” who steals from the Sheriff and gives to the commoners, while he continues to keep up appearances as lord Loxley in front of the Sheriff and the other lords. However, when Robin and John discover what the true goals for the Sheriff’s war taxes are, they realize they’ll have to do more than simply thieving…. becoming a symbol for the people of Nottingham.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Like I said…. the man, the myth, the legend of Robin Hood. It goes without saying that many out there know of the name and already have clear picture of the iconic fictional character, with many drawing the same imagery in their minds (i.e. medevial-ish man in green garb, a band of “Merry Men” outlaws in Sherwood Forest, the fair Maid Marian, and the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham). As I stated, there have been countless iterations of the Robin Hood story, finding the character to be a literary classic in his various adventures throughout the span of time and history. Even in today’s world, people (both young and old) are still being introduced to the legend of Robin Hood, which (if you think about it) is quite remarkable. For me, I remember reading several children stories of Robin Hood during my elementary school days as well as watching the old cartoon series Young Robin Hood (1991-1992). However, probably my biggest (most poignant) introduction to Robin Hood was from both Disney’s 1973 animated feature (always watched that one when I was a kid) as well as 1991’s Robin Hood: The Prince of Thieves (my parents only allowed me to watch a few parts of that movie when I was little, but was able to watch it all when I got a few years older). Suffice to say that the tales of Robin Hood (in all its various media outlets and mediums) are always a pleasure to explore, treading back into familiar territory of heroics and adventures that many of us long for in our daydreams.
This brings back to talking about to 2018’s Robin Hood, the latest iteration to iconic fictional character from Hollywood. Awhile back, I remember hearing that they (Hollywood) were gonna make a new Robin Hood movie. Given the all the various film adaptations of the past (the last major one being Ridley Scott’s 2010s prequel version), it was almost inevitable that movie industry would once again turn their attention towards the lore of Robin Hood; repurposing the classic story of a new cinematic endeavor. This was then followed by the movie’s various trailers and marketing campaigns that I saw, which sported some “flashy” heroics and stylish reimagines of the fictional outlaw hero. Of course, like many out there, I did have some pre-conceived lingering doubts before heading into watching this movie, with the most notable one being that the film looks too similar to 2017’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword; a movie that “looked” good, but was woefully messy and did little to engaged or entertain. However, I do like Robin Hood’s cast (i.e. Egerton, Foxx, Mendelsohn, etc.), so I was still curious to see the movie (even though my expectations were so high). Thus, I went go see the movie with a “hope for the best, but expecting the worst” mentality. What did I think of it? Well, it wasn’t as bad as King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, but it was far from being something great. Despite a strong performance from the film’s lead (and a few other nuances), Robin Hood doesn’t really offer anything creatively new to the mythos of the legendary archer / outlaw, with majority of the film relying heavily being flashy and stylish rather than being something wholesomely entertaining.
Robin Hood is directed by Otto Bathurst, whose previous directorial works includes several episodes from TV shows like Peaky Blinders, Criminal Justice, Black Mirror, and Hustle. Thus, it goes without saying that Bathurst makes Robin Hood is his most ambitious and largest directorial project of his career. To his credit, Bathurst makes the most of his feature length project, envisioning a large-scale endeavor when approaching the source material of the famous Robin Hood story. As to be expected, Bathurst presents his own spin on the classic narrative, approaching the Robin Hood lore as if one would expect from a modern-day superhero origin tale. Much like CW’s Arrow, Bathurst makes Robin (or rather “The Hood”) feel more like a masked vigilante masked avenger archetype character that becomes a symbol for the people to spark a revolution against the tyranny of the Sherriff and of the Church. It’s a tried and true method of storytelling (especially in the superhero world) and Bathurst does mostly succeed in capturing that endeavor in Robin Hood. Where Bathurst succeeds the most is in the action presentation, staging a lot of fight sequences that are large in-scale and full of “big, bang, boom”. It’s effect as a sort of “double edge sword” motif (more on that below), but Bathurst seems really comfortable in this particular area. Thus, if you’re a fan of stylish action scenes, you’ll find Robin Hood more satisfactory than others. Underneath all of these nuances, Bathurst still makes the movie focused on Robin’s plight of being an outlaw hero, seeing the origins of the character as well as several iconic characters to the legend and how they play a part in the movie’ story.
Aesthetically and in the technical presentation, Robin Hood looks takes a slice of the modern age of moviemaking, providing enough visual representation throughout to make the feature appealing to the eye and ears. The film’s setting is set in England (during the time of the Crusades), but doesn’t have the feeling of the “classic medieval” backdrop, with the movie’s art direction team taking a more “fantastical” approach when reimagining Nottingham and the English countryside, which I did like. Thus, I do have to commend the efforts made by production designer Jean-Vincent Puzos, set decorations by Naomi Moore, and costumes by Julian Day (however, I’m not a huge fan of the “the Hood’s” costume attire. Looks awful). Given the stylish and action nuances in the movie, the cinematography efforts made by George Steel are pretty good, providing some slicky camera movements / angles as well as a few creative movements for cinematic purposes. Lastly, the film’s musical score, which was composed by Joseph Trapanese is good, offering up some melodic moments to add an extra layer of nuances to sequences …. be it dramatic moments or softer character dialogue scenes.
Unfortunately, despite Bathurst’s attempts, Robin Hood doesn’t quite measure up to what it wants to be, with the movie fumbling through its cinematic story rather than hitting its own stride. The biggest criticism that really does come to mind is how similar the movie is to Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword, which debuted in 2017 and was considered to be a box office bomb. Like this movie, The Legend of the Sword sought to update the old English tale by offering a different take on the familiar story. However, the similarities between the two ring true and not for the better as Robin Hood follows into many of the problems that The Legend of the Sword rang across. For starters, Robin Hood tries a bit too hard to be a “modern day blockbuster” with a plethora of big-time actions sequences and slo-motion cinematics scenes that feel too forced, especially a lot of those particular “gimmicks” have used time and again in movies that it’s becoming too much (almost like a distraction). The flashy action and razzmatazz fight scenes are okay, but each one feels pretty derivate with none of them really standing out or are even quite memorable as was planned when they were being l / filmed. For the most part, Bathurst, while capable of handling these action beats, tries too much to have a Michael Bay influence when crafting Robin Hood to a point that it becomes boring. It’s almost as if he couldn’t find his own personal style when approaching the source material, trying to find “movie magic” in others rather than his own (again, the film being similar to The Legend of the Sword). Personally, I think the movie succeeds a little bit better than Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur, but only slightly.
Another problem that the movie faces is in how unnecessarily bloated its narrative is. Like myself, many out there know the basic premise of the Robin Hood story (i.e. Robin Hood becomes an outlaw, steals from the rich and gives to the poor, etc.). Thus, the narrative should be something simplistic in nature. However, the film’s script, which was penned by Ben Chandler and David James Kelly, tries to project a lot more that what is necessary, trying expand upon the mythos of Robin Hood as well as trying to establish its own cinematic world. The end result is unfortunate as I love the whole legend / mythos to the Robin Hood lore, but there’s a whole convoluted nature to the film’s narrative that plagues the movie from start to finish. A prime example of showcasing Robin’s time during the Crusade. While meaningful (to a certain degree) for character purpose, this sequence runs too long and just adds more “filler” time for the feature; introducing a few forgetful characters and odd choice of having Robin carrying a sort of PTSD vibe (I guess Bathurst or Chandler / Kelly wanted to reflect upon today’s soldiers of fighting over in the Middle-East conflict). Sadly, the effect doesn’t work and sort of gets lost as Robin becomes more of masked hero. Additionally, there’s more to the Sherriff of Nottingham in this movie, but even his storyline gets too much bogged down “filler” (i.e. having an agenda with the Cardinals for nefarious deeds). I know that the movie is trying to bring its own “stamp” in the Hollywood iteration of Robin Hood, but the feature does little to revigorate the legend of Robin Hood itself.
To make matters worse, the script done by Chandler and Kelly is mediocre at best, providing little insight into some characters (i.e. Will and Mariam) as well as being vague on some plot points. It also doesn’t help that the written dialogue for the movie’s characters is average at best and clunky at its worst. Additionally, much like The Legend of the Sword, the movie tries too hard in trying to establish a cinematic universe to build upon for future installments (hinting at more Robin Hood adventures to come). This “franchise tag” move has been done before and usually ends up being withdrawn after the poor reception of the feature and I have a feeling that Robin Hood is gonna follow the same path; setting things up for a follow-up sequel that will most likely never materialize. All in all, majority of the film just feels simply generic, with not that much originality nor imaginative cinematic for the feature to carve out and make it its own. Thus, Robin Hood, despite some moments, feel utterly bland and derivative.
The cast in Robin Hood does boast a few big and recognizable names for its main principal cast of characters in the feature. However, while some good, majority of them fail to impress. It’s not so much their respective acting talents, but rather the characters that they are playing (and written) as well as Bathurst’s direction for them in the film. At the head of cast is actor Taron Egerton as the movie’s main protagonist character of Robin of Loxley (aka Robin Hood). Egerton, known for his roles in the Kingsman movies as well as Eddie the Eagle, and Legend, carries a lot of film’s weight on his shoulders and succeeds (for his part), shaping Robin with the same likeable tenacity and energetic bravado to his character portrayal of Eggsy from the Kingsman films. That being said, the character of Robin of Loxley (in the movie) is written pretty much “by the book”. What do I mean? Well, the character build for Robin (despite a few minor changes) is a straightforward hero and doesn’t really add much creative substance to what’s already been said and done from Hollywood’s iteration. Egerton does what he can with the material he’s given, but an actor’s charms can only carry a stale main protagonist so far. Thus, Egerton is probably the best fit (and suited) for this movie, but it’s hard not to overlook the blandness to Robin of Loxley.
Behind Egerton’s Robin, the other two prominent characters in the feature are John (i.e. Yahya in his native tongue) and the Sherriff of Nottingham, who are played actors Jamie Foxx (Baby Driver and Any Given Sunday) and Ben Mendelsohn (Ready Player One and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). Foxx is a capable and well-talented actor and I was excited for him to be in this movie (especially in the role Little John). However, despite his acting talent / presence, Foxx does little with the character of John other than being a “mentor” for Robin into becoming a masked vigilante. Thus, Foxx’s portrayal of the classic Robin character is nothing to get excited about. He certain gets the job done, but (again) feels like a side-kick / mentor character we’ve all know and expect from a superhero-esque story. Mendelsohn seems to relish playing the bad guy in the movie as the actor chews his dialogue (clunky as it may be) with glee, but his villainy character persona he channels seems too reminiscent of Director Krennic from Rogue One. Additionally (like I mentioned above), his character arc in the movie seems to convoluted than just wanting to “tax the poor” and becomes more problematic as the film progresses, hinting a larger plot / scheme than what’s intended.
The other largely supporting characters are some of the other classic Robin Hood characters from the stories, including Mariam, Will Scarlet, and Friar Tuck, who are played by actress Eve Hewson (Enough Said and Bridge of Spies), actor Jamie Dornan (the Fifty Shades movies and Once Upon a Time), and actor / musician Tim Minchin (Californication and Squinters) respectfully. Hewson is fine in the role of Mariam (she looks pretty enough) and gets the job down in the role, but there’s just something about her that doesn’t quite fit. I can’t place my finger on it, but there’s something there. It also doesn’t help that the love triangle between her Robin and Will is pretty weak and only further complicates an already bloated narrative unnecessarily. Dornan’s Scarlet is okay in the movie, but mostly seems like a distraction as he does little to make an impact on the film’s narrative with only a few minor plot beats (most of these trying to find a feigned love triangle with him, Mariam, and Robin). Although, I have to admit that I felt that Dornan gave more of a dynamic performance as Will Scarlet in this movie than he did as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades movies. As for Minchin, he gives an even-keel performance as Friar Tuck, offering up some comedic levity bits here and there whenever he’s on-screen. However, that’s the only thing that makes him memorable in the movie…and nothing else. Altogether, these three characters, though while known in the lore of the legendary outlaw, have little memorable impact on the feature, finding them all to be okay-ish in their respective roles and weakly written in the character builds department.
Rounding out the cast are minor characters, including actor Ian Peck (Peaky Blinders and Doctors) as the Arch-Deacon (who the Sheriff of Nottingham answers to), actor F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus and The Grand Budapest Hotel) as the Cardinal, actor Cornelius Booth (Pride & Prejudice and Tulip Fever) as Lord Pembroke, and actor Paul Anderson (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and The Revenant) as Guy of Gisborne. These characters make-up for some secondary / minor players in Robin Hood and (for the most part) fill their roles good…nothing really to complain about.
The legendary outlaw from English folklore returns to the silver screen once again in the 2018 movie Robin Hood. Director Otto Bathurst latest feature film sees to reimagine and reframe the familiar tale of the classic Robin Hood character for a modern age of moviegoers, providing flashy aesthetics and action sequences to appeal to the masses. Unfortunately, while some of that works, majority of the film, which is bogged down by a mediocre script, a bloated / convoluted narrative, unimpressive characters, and bland performances, fails to ignite cinematic satisfaction within this updated retelling. Personally, I thought this movie was pretty “blah” and forgetful. Sure, there were some parts of the movie I liked (again, I thought that Egerton and Mendelsohn were great in it), but it lacked that wonderous fascination / romancing of the Robin Hood lore and just felt like another boring and big budgeted remake from Hollywood. Again, I liked it better than King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, but I was still disappointed with the movie. Thus, my recommendation for this movie would be a definitely “skip it” as there’s little to get excited about this movie (just simply watch one of the other Hollywood iteration of the classic outlaw character). The film’s ending hints that there’s a possibility to more future installments in this cinematic universe, but given the movie’s critical reception and box office failure, this scenario seems unlikely. In the end, Robin Hood ends up being a dull adventure of heroics, romance, and villainy; finding the movie to be unmemorable and missing its target.
2.6 Out of 5 (Skip It)
Released On: November 21st, 2018
Reviewed On: December 24th, 2018
Robin Hood is 116 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive references