Who Profits from an Uninspired Robin Hood?
Robin Hood never manages to catch a break. It was a mere eight years ago when director Ridley Scott envisioned the timeless subject matter as a medieval war drama. Maybe times have drastically changed since 2010. Would audiences rather watch yet another adaptation highlighting more style over substance? Didn’t King Arthur: Legend of the Sword already answer that question little over a year ago?
Young Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) was born to a life medieval privilege in Nottingham. Be that as it may, Robin is still drafted into the Crusades, sent to combat Muslims across the globe in Arabia. Presumed dead after a few years in service, Robin’s estate is seized, Maid Marian (Eve Hewson) in the arms of another and Nottingham ultimately is a worse state of affairs. Fueled by vengeance, Robin teams with warrior Yahya aka Little John (Jamie Foxx) to bring down the economic system. It’s the tale as old as time. Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor.
Perhaps this rendition of Robin Hood speaks louder to the justice-seeking youth. In a world full of injustices and corruption, its message does boast some merit. However, there’s nearly not enough confidence to amplify a major call to action. While Egerton was a charming surprise in Kingsman: The Secret Service, Robin Hood does him no favors. There’s no natural rally of leadership surrounding the Nottingham pretty boy. And as this season’s big-screen bowman, playing the action star side of the coin is slightly more rewarding. He’s the rich, masked vigilante not called Batman. But that’s not enough for an installment deemed “the story you don’t” know. We’re running through a familiar gauntlet we’ve seen countless other times, albeit blander.
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Director Otto Bathurst has plenty of talented leads on his hands. Jamie Foxx has vast range, playing it straight as Ray Charles and Django. At the same time, Foxx hit those over-the-top notes in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Horrible Bosses. Here it’s the latter without the goofy fun. He’s nothing shy of a motivational device and mentor figure for Robin. Outside of teaching Robin how to efficiently use a bow and arrow properly (we’re talking 3-in-1 shots), we’re grasping at straws for adequate depth. Ben Mendelsohn remains in his comfort zone as the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham. While Mendelsohn is a born on-screen villain, his mannerisms differ little from his roles in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story or Ready Player One earlier this year. The screenplay by Ben Chandler and David James Kerry offers a safe route for Mendelsohn here.
That’s a running theme throughout Robin Hood. From the Crusades in the Middle East to uprisings within Nottingham, stakes are often interpreted as muted. Violence is dialed down even for a PG-13 rating. Hewson’s Marian gripes with the Sheriff of Nottingham about dire conditions for the townsfolk, yet she’s dolled up like a medieval runway model. Go figure. There’s probably about as much cinematic energy as a discount cosplay. To be fair, Bathurst is driven more by style over substance than a cohesive finished product. There’s no hiding inspiration and ambition from renown style over substance directors like Guy Ritchie, Baz Luhrmann or Zack Snyder. Though vast improvements in editing, visuals and screenwriting could have paved the way to appreciating his style a bit more. Robin Hood’s one of those puzzles that’s difficult to salvage unfortunately.
Despite that, Robin Hood adorably lays the groundwork for future adventures from Robin and his merry band. After two hours of an awkward origin story, there’s little reason to venture from the confines of Sherwood Forest. Even for the likes of Robin Hood, there’s limits to how many ways the timeless tale can be contorted without breaking the creative bank. This may have done the deed.