Released: 21st November
Seen: 12th December
A little over a year ago I watched a film called King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, a retelling of the iconic tale of King Arthur and how he became the legend that we know him as. It was a very fun, albeit critically panned, film that utilized the director’s style to try and breathe some new life into a tale that’s been told so many times that it’s almost comical to think that someone decided that they really needed to retell it… it also bombed spectacularly. SO, what if we did the exact same thing, didn’t use Guy Ritchie as the director and picked that other famous and well-retold story about the medieval era hero who’s pretty good with a weapon? Oh, that would be a bad idea because of obvious reasons? Well, screw that, let’s do it anyway because there is no possible way this could go badly.
Robin Hood goes badly by doing nothing new with the story. Nothing whatsoever. Have you ever heard the story of Robin Hood? Good, then you know exactly what you’re going to get with nothing new or interesting to add to it. What’s that? The tagline says this is the story you don’t know? Yeah, they lied, it’s literally the story you know with, at best, surface level changes that mean nothing in the long run. At best the only things that got added to this version of Robin Hood is that everyone is sexy (the camera would like you to be aware of how sexy everyone is, it will make sure to linger on body parts as needed) and that this version of the movie is totally cool and hip. At least, it tries to be cool and hip, to the point where you can actively see how desperate they are to look cool. Slow motion scenes are everywhere, even more gratuitous than they were in the King Arthur movie. This one could easily be trimmed down to an hour 15 if you speed everything up to normal speed. They might think it’s super cool showing a slow-motion dramatic arrow/gun fight (Because the bow and arrows are basically guns, they even make similar sounds) but that slow-mo means we see every single bit of the awkward expressions on the main actors face and while Taron Egerton is a great Robin, seeing him pull so many awkward faces while the film tries to be cool ends up removing all the coolness they were going for.
In fact, before I continue my general feelings on the film, I have to admit that the cast is quite good. Notable standouts being Taron as Robin, Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck and Jaime Foxx as Little John… oh, sorry, Yahya, because Jaime Foxx is playing a muslim who’s son is murdered by the crusaders and decided to train Robin as vengeance and so he must have a complicated name that sounds foreign enough to sell the idea, but also can be translated into John so he fits the Little John role in this story. Other than that, everyone is delivering an acceptable performance but none really stand out. Not even Jaime Dornan as evil Will Scarlett, which should’ve been a much more interesting performance than it was. Hell, even the Sheriff of Nottingham isn’t that exciting. Sure he does villainous things and I guess you kind of hate him but I want to despise him. It’s a big meaty role that’s meant to bring out your most gloriously evil. It’s a role that gave us one of Alan Rickman’s most gloriously evil performances, it allowed Roger Ree’s the chance to chew every bit of scenery available in Men In Tights… Ben Mendelsohn was loud, but that’s about it.
A lot of this film feels like it’s loud and that’s about it. It tries to have social messages about redistribution of wealth (It explicitly says that phrase), social justice, the corruption of the church, basically every single message that Robin Hood has always had as a story but this one does them much worse because it wants to make sure you notice them. It’s always about two seconds away from kneeling while singing an anthem and while there is nothing wrong with a film having a political idea to it, it’d be nice if it did it with at least a hint of subtlety. When the Sheriff of Nottingham gives his first grand speech, I’m amazed it didn’t end with him yelling out Make Nottingham Great Again, it’s that on the nose. There are moments when the film might as well just have the characters turn to the camera and state explicitly “People of the world, you should not be giving money to rich people in order for them to send you off to war, viva la resistance”. Again, there is nothing wrong with a political message in a film. Indeed, often a film is enhanced with a strong political message helping drive the creative ideas, but here there are no creative ideas because this story is so well worn that the only thing that’s left is blunt political grandstanding and it’s boring… and these are politics I agree with, I can’t imagine how irritating it’d be if you don’t agree with them!
You know the hardest part about reviewing this film? It’s forgettable as hell. I’m writing this after coming home from the movie, I left the cinema about an hour and 15 minutes ago, I know the Robin Hood story pretty damn well and I’m struggling to remember things about this movie. There really isn’t much about it that’s memorable, in part because while the film want’s to be cool and in your face there is a lot of strange restraint here. It’s an almost completely bloodless film, which is not normally something to complain about unless you’re doing a film that has a big war scene where people get hands and heads cut off. Then I have to question why you don’t try and at least make it a little gritty. Instead, it’s so strangely clean that when someone’s hand gets removed I couldn’t resist saying “It’s just a flesh wound” out loud… if your film pulls a Monty Python reference out of the audience, you have done something very wrong.
I’m sure this idea could have worked, there could have been some potential enjoyment here but as we learned last year, we’re sick of retelling these old tales that we’ve heard a thousand times. We’re certainly tired of seeing them told almost exactly the same way, just with everyone sounding a bit more modern and being a bit sexy. That’s not new, that’s not interesting. If you’re desperate to kill 2 hours, there are worse ways to do it I suppose… but honestly, just go watch the King Arthur movie because at least that one has giant elephants in it.
What did you think of Robin Hood? What’s your favourite version of this classic? Mine would probably be Men in Tights, but let me know yours in the comments below