Flynn, Costner and now Egerton, Robin’s hood is a threadbare thing these days. Over a century since cinema first told the story of the Nottingham based vigilante and his merry men, it really was about time the well worn formula was gifted a shake up. Just…not like this.
From erstwhile promising director Otto Bathurst, Robin Hood is the antithesis of Matthew Vaughan’s Kingsman franchise, the spy series also led by the charismatic, chiseled but boyish Taron Egerton. Whereas the Kingsman films pair contemporary action with old school sensibilities, Robin Hood is set in ye olde England, yet plays like a twenty-first century video game adaptation. It’s an unholy mix and proves all too reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s recent King Arthur flop, Legend of the Sword. Within just half an hour of Bathurst’s film, the comic novelty wears off and viewers are left to snooze through a long, boring, contrived and dim-witted attempt at modernisation. Needless to say, this is a target well and truly missed.
The plot is thus: Robin, the self-proclaimed ‘spoilt toff’ of Loxley, falls head over heels for local wench Marion (Eve Hewson) when he finds her attempting to steal one of his many horses. Within the blink of an eye, the pair are wed but it’s not long before Robin is whisked off to Arabia to fight in the Third Crusade, here reimagined as the Iraq war and shot with the flair of a ‘Call of Duty’ instalment. Two years later, Robin returns to find that the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelssohn) has declared him dead, seized his mansion and forced all his friends into the slums; Marion, meanwhile, has shacked up with absurd wannabe politician Will ‘Scarlet’ Tillman (Jamie Dornan).
Fret not, for a beefy, one-armed Arabic stowaway called Yayha (Jamie Foxx) believes that Robin is the chosen one, who can end tyranny across the world: ‘you’re only powerless if you believe you’re powerless.’ Hoorah! But can Robin save the day, win back the girl and dish out some dosh to the poor before the credits…?
Oh…where to begin?
Precious little on screen or off works in this all round drab effort – or lack of it. The script, by Ben Chandler and David James Kelly, is appalling (‘you are completely beautiful’) but appears particularly so due to how little Bathurst’s cast appear to care. Accents fly left right and centre from the likes of Foxx, Hewson and Tim Minchin, whilst Mendelssohn, looking for all the world like Rogue One let him keep his costume, is criminally one-note. Only Egerton presents as engaged but perhaps that’s because this is a role far too easy for his talents; his Robin would get on with his Eggsy. All are dressed in some of the worst costumes in recent memory – some catalogue, others charity shop and each heinously anachronistic – and made up to within an inch of their lives. Around them, a Nottingham, modelled on the Birmingham of Bathurst’s ‘Peaky Blinders’ days and Mordor, utterly fails to ring true. Not once will you believe that any of this was filmed in the UK. Heck, even Ridley Scott got the setting right.
In the production team’s meagre defence, this is not a film with realism as a mission objective. ‘Forget history’ says the risible narrator, as a dusty old book opens to reveal its comic book interior. The problem is that Robin Hood’s world is too far removed from the realms of sanity to enable any meaningful degree of audience engagement. Laden with computer generated backdrops and effects, the film looks fake, even before characters start firing arrows as though through machine guns.
Further still, it is hard to root for a film that assumes its audience is essentially brainless: ‘I would bore you with the history but you wouldn’t listen’. The irony is that boring you is just about all the film achieves.