Not that folklore legends are licence free or anything but good golly, here is yet another Robin Hood movie. The question you have to ask yourself when Nottingham’s finest comes back around is ‘what’s different this time’? In the case of 2018’s Robin Hood, starring Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, and Ben Mendelsohn, the answer is ‘very little’.
Ordinarily, in a review I would provide a little précis of the plot, but this is Robin Hood. You know the plot. Robin of Loxley fights in the Crusades, comes back to find his land taken by the Sheriff of Nottingham, and gets all ‘steal from the rich to give to the poor’. Along the way there is Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, Little John and so forth. Most of the players are introduced but there is an element of getting the gang together that suggests 2018’s effort is striving for an origins story angle – Sherwood Forest only getting a look in for the closing moments.
So if there is no Sherwood, then how does director Otto Bathurst fill the movie’s run time? We do spend more time with Robin in his ‘pre-vigilante’ soldier time than usual. The opening segment shot through a very modern war lens. The camera gets down and dirty in the dust before rising up to show quickfire sniping angles. You could replace the bows and arrows with modern weaponry and the style would not be out of place. Indeed, the destructive power of the quickfire crossbows and explosive arrows dabble only weakly with period reality. Much like the 2011’s Three Musketeers, Robin Hood is going for all the action movie tropes draped around the core of a well-known story.
The cast is mostly wasted here. Taron Egerton tries to give his Robin a reluctant hero edge but fails to imbue the character with any of the charm he so often brings to a role. Jamie Foxx’s intense performance is certainly memorable and with the prospect of vengeance set up early on he at least has some narrative drive. But his Arab companion / Little John take is also bereft of any warmth beyond righteous fury.
Marian has the usual Hollywood issue of getting a by the book ‘strong woman’ start – stealing from Robin’s estate – only to devolve into love interest there to be passed around the male character’s motivations. Only Mendelsohn manages to craft some depth out the script with a few scene-stealing moments.
Overall, Robin Hood is fine. Its action sequences are fun, if hardly original, and there is enough going to throw popcorn down your gullet and entertain your eyes. It won’t engage the brain by any means and once the credits roll its unlikely to make any lasting impact on you. It’s a movie that presumes you know what it’s doing and so rushes through any of that pesky character development, instead shooting for the Big Moments. But these moments are not earned. It’s a movie stolen from a rich past in order to give us something poor. Best keep your hood up and move on.
Words by Michael Record