Robin Hood is extremely frustrating.
You get the feeling whilst watching the latest incarnation of the hooded outlaw that this film could and should have been so much better.
The film begins with a narrator boldly claiming that this version of the story will not be bogged down with history or realism but will be instead focusing on the myth of Robin Hood (who is fictional after all).
This is an approach which, in theory, could have been quite interesting. At this point, the story of Robin Hood has been told and re-told countless times. I was all for the film opting to do something a little different with the mythos and maybe even try and reinterpret the character for modern audiences.
Unfortunately, the film’s claim that it is ‘not a bedtime story’ is only skin-deep.
Robin begins the film by falling in love with Marian in what can only be described as a two-minute montage of Taron Egerton and Eve Hewson getting off in dimly lit rooms. He is then quickly whisked away to fight in the crusades against his will. After the obligatory ‘four years later’ title card is shown Robin finds himself injured and returning to England with stow-away John (Jamie Foxx).
Upon his return, Robin realises he’s been assumed dead for years, his home has consequently been abandoned and more importantly Marian is now in a new relationship with the politically ambitious Will Scarlett (Jamie Dornan).
The architect of this dismay is of course none other than the evil Sheriff of Nottingham this time played by Hollywood’s new go-to bad guy Ben Mendelsohn.
The film is the directorial debut of Otto Bathurst who has proved himself as a great director on television with shows like Peaky Blinders and Black Mirror.
In fact, the visuals of Robin Hood likely owe a lot to Peaky Blinders as it too leans into dark and brooding locales which always seem to feature sparks and flames and a more than liberal use of slow motion.
But what worked so well for TV doesn’t translate well to the big screen on this occasion.
One of Robin Hood’s most identifiable features is his Englishness, but throughout the film, I was hard pressed to find anything particularly English about it, the dark CGI filled backdrop that perpetuates the action was so generic that it really could have been set anywhere vaguely medieval. That coupled with the paint by numbers action sequences left the film fighting an uphill battle from the start. It would have been so much easier to identify and empathise with Robin Hood if the film had any sense of place. Unfortunately, the actors are simply flung around digital sets that have little to identify them other than a studio executive might have thought they looked cool.
The films most noticeable faux-pas is its script. The screenplay by Ben Chandler and David James Kelly is so clunky and full of played out cliches that it makes a very talented cast look amateurish. The plot seldom does anything interesting or intuitive and instead slowly plods along as if it is checking items of a shopping list.
Tim Minchin is a bit of light relief as Friar Tuck, although I wish he featured more prominently if just to stop everyone else looking so serious all the time. It was also mildly refreshing to see Robin Hood played by a younger man for a change. Taron Egerton is easily the youngest incarnation of Robin we have seen in a while although that part of his character was frustratingly overlooked in the script.
A shameless sequel set up in the films dying minutes really pushed me over the edge. Whilst I am aware we live in an era of franchises and reboots I can’t help but harken back to a time when films needed to earn a sequel instead of being gifted one.
Overall Robin Hood is not unwatchable, it just reeks of a missed opportunity. If you’re in the mood for an outlaw adventure you’re probably better off watching 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for the umpteenth time instead.