Directed by: Otto Bathurst
Runtime: 116 minutes
Robin Hood has cemented itself as a mainstay in Western mythology and, by extension, blockbuster film-making. The tale of the revolutionary outlaws who redistribute the wealth of the ‘evil’ elite has had a multitude of adaptations (some more serious than others) each trying to bring something new to the hooded hero. Meanwhile, it is the year 2018, and the most bankable properties hitting our screens revolve around a pantheon of shiny, new, mythological figures – superheroes. In this manner, Robin Hood (2018) tries to bring the titular protagonist into the realms of our new premier heroes. It isn’t trying to achieve anything new or groundbreaking—it is merely trying to make Robin of Loxley cool again. Judging from the general consensus of the critical landscape so far, this is a complete failure by all accounts. But in my humble opinion, despite knowing the film is dumb, trope-filled, and overzealous—Robin Hood succeeds in its aims and I enjoyed every minute of the ride.
The plot is, essentially, exactly the same as any other Robin Hood film. A man who is a dab hand at archery decides to rebel against the 1% and, in true socialist fashion, steal from them in order to inject some wealth into the lower classes. Aside from the usual themes of revolution, liberalism, and corruption of powerful forces, Hood is also known for being able to shoot arrows like a badass, win the heart of Marian, his love interest, and lead a group of outlaws known as ‘The Merry Men’. This film gives Robin Hood the ‘origin story’ treatment—we get a tragic backstory, a training montage, and some slow-mo action shots. Really, this is same plot we’ve seen in a multitude of superhero films over the last five years, but the pure ridiculous spectacle of Jamie Foxx coaching Robin Hood through shooting arrows as fast as bullets is definitely worth price of admission.
Taron Egerton does a good job of making our protagonist likeable, giving him the right amount of James-Bond-esque charisma for his scenes as Lord Loxley, before he turns into a full-blown quippy action hero. Tim Minchin provides capable comic relief as Friar Tuck, and Eve Hewsen is fine as Marian. The highlight of the cast is definitely Ben Mendelsohn as the Sheriff of Nottingham: he drips with a villainy so deliciously over-the-top that I lamented any scenery he left unchewed. Most of the actors seem to understand what movie they’re making when acting in this film—Jamie Dornan in particular (playing Will Scarlett) actually seems to put in a little effort here and, oddly, seems to be genuinely enjoying himself on screen. I hope all the actors who made this film had a good time, as I like to imagine the set had a lot of breakable objects and a fantastic buffet.
The set design and costuming of the film were so oddly stylised and over-the-top I couldn’t help but love them. I would say the Sheriff of Nottingham’s grey leather coat wins the fashion award for this one, but I will give an honourable mention to Robin’s hoodie and Marian’s crop-top. It was a wonderfully bizarre decision to make the land of Nottingham a fantastical, almost timeless spectacle rather than just turning back the clocks on the real-life Midlands city. What we end up with are some gloriously extra set-designs, with the mines in particular looking like a steam-punk industrial hell. I have seen some comments speaking against the gaudy production design, but the complete obnoxiousness allowed me to take the film even less seriously—allowing me to enjoy it far more.
Is the film good? Oh, definitely not. It is a trope-laden, visual mess with too much slow-mo and a dash of terrible CGI. It was a stupid, dumb movie that I loved wholeheartedly. When I am choosing a film to see at the cinema, I need to make a tough decision: should my brain be off, or on? Sure, some things can challenge me, make me see a new perspective on humanity or our place in the universe… but that can be exhausting, sometimes. When watching Robin Hood, I was relieved to finally be able to keep my brain powered down, munch on some popcorn, and laugh at some awesomely ridiculous set-pieces. If you don’t want to be forced to think on your next cinema-trip, I highly recommend giving this a viewing; if not, Widows should be playing instead.