Robin Hood Steals, Gives Little in ReturnNov 20, 2018
Directed by: Otto Bathurst
Written by: Ben Chandler and David James Kelly
Starring: Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson
Photos Courtesy of Lionsgate
The Robin Hood story is a rich and mythical tale with a mixed big-screen history. This new version of the epic hero who robs from the rich and gives to the poor turns out to be little more than a petty thief. I can attest to this: “Robin Hood” stole 1 hour and 56 minutes from my life that I’d like to have back.
There are so many problems with Otto Bathurst’s (episodes of “Black Mirror” and “Peaky Blinders”) retelling of the Sherwood Forest legend that it’s hard to know where to start. Perhaps the biggest problem is the uneven story. It feels as if screenplay writers Ben Chandler and David James Kelly had an outline to follow but were completely unable to come up with logical ways to get their characters from point to point. Their solution: just throw in ridiculous plot devices with complete disregard to logic and flow.
The second major problem is Taron Egerton, who was quite appealing as the young spy-in-training from the “Kingsmen” movies. While Egerton is more than charismatic and athletic enough to pull off the role of Sir Robin of Loxley, it’s difficult to see him as the sole lord of an English estate and impossible to believe him as a weary and scarred warrior returning from the Crusades.
The final major problem is that “Robin Hood” tries to be “A Knight’s Tale” (Heath Ledger, while pretending that it’s not anachronistic. The charming thing about Heath Ledger and Brian Helgeland’s 2001 medieval fantasy is that it wore its modern references proudly on its sleeve, mixing soundtrack choices from David Bowie and Queen with dialogue drawn from more modern sensibilities. Ledger, Helgeland, and the rest of the cast of “A Knight’s Tale” are clearly winking at the audience. “Robin Hood” tries to mix in such flourishes, but does so while attempting to keep a serious face. This is most clearly seen in the fight scenes and chases where you end up with horse and carriage chases that wind up staircases and across rickety scaffolding, complete with leaps across empty spaces that defy the laws of physics. This final problem actually works against the one historically accurate but mostly forgotten facet of medieval archery. While watching Egerton in action you might find yourself skeptical that an archer could fire multiple arrows within a few seconds. It turns out that this is exactly how archers fought in medieval times, using a technique where they hold up to 5 or 6 arrows in their firing hand. It’s a remarkable feat, but one the director and writers never really take full advantage of.
Bathurst and the writers also take some liberties with the rest of the classic story, casting Jamie Foxx (Ray, Collateral) as Little John who, this time around, is a Muslim warrior, Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Perversion) as Will Scarlett, a weak, politically-minded traitor, and Eve Hewson as a capable Maid Marian. The one spot-on casting decision is Ben Mendelsohn as a tortured and slimy Sheriff of Nottingham. While he doesn’t measure up to Alan Rickman’s brilliant villain in the Kevin Costner version of Robin Hood, Mendelsohn channels a certain orange-tinged American president in the role, a decision that will thrill some and anger others.
In short, “Robin Hood” is a disappointing mess of a movie that makes one long for the Kevin Costner or Russell Crowe versions of the tale. But if you really want to watch a definitive big screen Robin Hood, you’ll need to go all the way back to 1938 for Errol Flynn’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood.” The dialogue is as sharp as the point of any arrow and Flynn fills the iconic swashbuckler’s role effortlessly and with charm. It’s worth the trouble tracking down this version and skipping the latest effort.