One of the well known British legendary heroes, Robin Hood has been the subject of theatre, film (both drama and comedy), TV and even a Disney animated film with anthropomorphic animal versions of the characters and the latest telling of the story comes from director Otto Bathurst in partnership with Lionsgate and Appian Way, Leonardo Dicaprio’s production company. While giving a somewhat different spin on the story, the film is disappointing in being made into a by the numbers action movie and rather than utilise its sold cast more effectively Robin Hood is more set up as a platform for I assume planned sequels given how the film’s story ends.
The film begins with Lord Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) meeting Marian (Eve Hewson) for the first time and their relationship before he is drafted to fight in the crusades against Muslims in the Holy Land. We see some of his time there and then his return to discover what has happened to his home now under the iron fist rule of the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn). Upon returning home he finds Marian now involved with Will Tillman (Jamie Dornan) the outspoken representative of the common people. Robin begins his quest to protect the people of Nottingham and realises he can best do this by being Lord Loxley by day to get into the Sheriff’s good graces to figure out what his plans are and by night utilising his skills as an archer to steal the wealth gathered from high taxes and give it back to the people. Doing all of this while being aided by Marian, Little John (Jamie Foxx) and Friar Tuck (Tim Minchin).
The story of Robin Hood has been adapted in many productions over the years but has always been a skilled archer and either a commoner or minor noble turned outlaw dedicated to supporting the common people against the greed of the rich. This has expanded to the mantra steal from the rich and give to the poor he is best known for now alongside Maid Marian and his band of merry men. Taron Egerton is well cast in the role bringing the same on screen charisma seen in Kingsmen but his Robin Hood wasn’t enough to save the film instead barely made the film bearable. Similar to the recent King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Bathurst and Lionsgate miss that the reason these characters have remained popular is what they stand for but instead the film forces them into a big budget action movie going as far as to cram in an extreme carriage chase around Nottingham, the heart of the main character feeling secondary.
Those same aspects of the film are the reason that the supporting cast are wasted on this film. Oscar winner Jamie Foxx incarnation of Little John portrays him as a skilled Muslim warrior who becomes Robin’s mentor and this becomes his only real role with his backstory being coincidental to the overall plot. Foxx was the other part that allowed me to keep watching with also having a great on screen presence let down by the film’s script. Eve Hewson as Marian does well as Robin’s love interest and did have some chemistry with Taron Egerton but felt more relegated to the love triangle aspect and her own person rebelling against the sheriff could have been explored more and felt like Marian more of a damsel in distress at times. Now well known for playing villains, Ben Mendelsohn is very ham fisted and all over the place with the characterisation of the sheriff of Nottingham. Mendelsohn gives a great performance but sadly the words and plot given to him seemed out of place and extreme so left me confused as to the motivations within the story that was aimed for.
A significant component of Robin Hood’s story is the struggle of the poor majority against the rich and powerful minority is a key part of the plot but it taken to the extreme with the former seemingly all working in a mine and living nearby in a sort of shanty town but is a novel way to physical way to show the stark differences between the 2 groups. Thinking on it, the film is really set in only a few locations but the aforementioned mines and the holy land were large locations and did work well for what was intended including for the many fight and chase sequences including that extreme carriage chase/battle. The backdrop against the crusade allowing the sheriff to take control of Nottingham is another common factor but one part of the plot I did find interesting was the behind the scenes role of the Catholic church. The crusades being a war of religion it makes sense but from the previous adaptions of Robin Hood I can’t remember the church having such a significant hand in the events of the story. It also gives a fresh change of pace as I was expecting this all to be done to assist Prince John in a plot to overthrow King Richard.
Knowing the story in broad strokes meant you do know roughly how the story will play out but without spoiling it the ending does have a couple of twists and surprising moments that in hindsight do make sense. Believing it to be stand alone the ending also lends itself to being open to further films which I can only assume is the intention but sadly at this point with globally grossing $24 million against a budget of $100 million this likely won’t happen.
Despite having a great cast with Egerton, Foxx and Mendelsohn, Robin Hood overall is a poor film with its redeeming features being far outweighed by the bad ones. Missing out what makes Robin Hood with over the top action sequences in its place means it is all over the place with what was intended. Definitely skippable but may want to see to get your Taron Egerton fix who apparently will be absent from Kingsmen 3.