“Robin Hood 2018” reboot is an unworthy bloody knockoff
The incomprehensible, ostensibly ‘hip’ new take on ‘Robin Hood’ is an unmitigated disaster. Why does Hollywood keep producing such dreadful takes on the man in tights?
The latest labored take on the old British legend, “Robin Hood” is little more than a pitch-black war film, complete with rudimentary medieval bombs and blood spatter on the camera lens.
Robin Hood (2018)—not to be confused with Robin Hood (2010), Robin Hood (1973), Robin Hood (2006) (TV Series), Robin Hood (1991), Robin Hood (1982) (TV Movie), or Robin Hood (1922) when you search for it on IMDb—is a war movie, then a superhero movie, then a heist movie, then a love story, and then, in the last few scenes you realize, “Oh, I see…it’s an origin story.” Then there’s the most cumbersome sequel set-up we’ve seen in a long time.
The pastoral green of Sherwood Forest has been replaced with urban soot, and there is not a single feather in a single pointy hat.
Instead, Robin (Taron Egerton) is a killing machine who piles up corpses in the city of Nottingham during medieval times. Trying to be super modern, the film no longer has Robin live by his “Steal from the rich, give to the poor” mantra either; the hero now hollers, “Redistribution of wealth!” like he’s a newly elected member of the House.
An origin story, the movie begins with a weighty instruction from Friar Tuck (Tim Minchin) to the audience. “Forget history,” he says. “Forget what you think you know. Forget what you’ve heard before.” aka forget Errol Flynn and the many far better Robin Hoods you’ve surely seen.
In this version, Lord Robin of Loxley is drafted to fight in the Crusades. So, off to Arabia he goes for some battle scenes that resemble “Call of Duty.” Four years later, he returns to find his manor destroyed by the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, his girlfriend — the staid Marian (Eve Hewson) — dating another dude, and the whole town thinks he’s dead.
Joining him on his at-home crusade is Little John (Jamie Foxx), an Arab soldier who stowed away to England in order to avenge the death of his son by helping Robin take down the ruling class of Nottingham. His rationale makes no sense and is almost never referenced again.
John does provide the movie’s most unintentionally funny scene: a training montage, in which he has Robin lift two wagon wheels like they’re a barbell. Things only get rockier from there.
The cast is uniformly terrible. Jamie Dornan (“Fifty Shades of Grey”) plays Marian’s new beau about as well as he played Christian Grey. Egerton, terrific in the “Kingsman” series, is bland here.
Most upsetting, the film features two Best Actor Oscar winners: Foxx (“Ray”), who growls and snarls, and F. Murray Abraham (“Amadeus”) as a throwaway Catholic cardinal. A true Robin Hood would steal these actors from this movie and give them to worthier projects.
This isn’t the first time somebody has tried to probe the dark recesses of this should-be charming action story. The 2010 film with Russell Crowe did it too, but at least that movie tried to approximate the time period. In director Otto Bathurst’s new “Hood,” Nottingham looks like a Roman fortress where everybody shops at Zara.
Robin Hood begins with the narration of its protagonist, played by Taron Egerton (the Kingsman films), warning us all to “forget history” and everything we know about the swashbuckling outlaw who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. “This is not a bedtime story!” he says, a frankly rude erasure of a certain beloved singing fox, whose popularity is one of the only reasons this character still inspires dozens of different boneheaded reinterpretations each decade.
Arriving with all the style and nuance of an early 2000s Mountain Dew commercial directed by a film grad that just watched The Matrix for the first time, the new Robin Hood doesn’t put a new spin on the same old story as much as it once again raises the evergreen, timeless question: Just…why? And, Who, exactly, is this for? (No offense to slow-motion bow-and-arrow-tracking-shot enthusiasts.)
There are, I am not exaggerating, roughly 100 previous film and TV adaptations of the Robin Hood mythology listed on Wikipedia. Three more are in the pipeline. Friar Tuck is shook!
Perhaps, then, Otto Bathurst’s often-baffling take—being sold as a Robin Hood origin story—aligns with one of the major talking points of the year in cinema: every generation gets its A Star Is Born, and every generation gets four-to-seven terrible Robin Hood movies.
It would be one thing if there was anything particularly interesting that this film was trying to say about the times we live in, any filmmaking decision not entirely derivative of dozens of action movies before it that weren’t even that good to begin with. There’s one big swing at cultural relevance near the end of the film—and, judging by the embarrassed laughter in response, a huge whiff—when Egerton’s Robin tries to pump up a peasant army he’s recruited for an uprising by bellowing, “I’m guessing you’d all be up for a little redistribution of wealth!”