The story of Robin Hood is one that has been ripe for re imaginings over the years. From the brilliant Disney version, to the entertaining but stupid Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, to the awful Ridley Scott film, there will always be different ways to tell the story of Robin Hood. Now, we’ve got an attempt that puts it along the lines of the superhero genre and, whilst it is entertaining, it’s not because it’s good. This is a disaster, but one that’s incredibly entertaining because it’s such a disaster.
The film mostly follows the traditional story of Robin Hood with Lord Robin of Locksley being conscripted to fight in the Crusades, returning to find Nottingham overtaken by the Sheriff who has instituted a massive tax on the population. Getting the help of John, in this version being similar in conception to Azeem from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Robin becomes a thief, stealing from the Sheriff and the Church and giving the money to the poor. The way the film fails though is in the other details surrounding the main story. For starters, there is no character progression throughout the film. Maybe there’s some for Robin but, aside from being more competent with a bow, there’s no real difference between the Robin at the end of the film and the Robin at the start. Any character development that is in the film, mainly with Will Scarlett, is nonsensical and just doesn’t work. The villains meanwhile are a mess. Now the Sheriff of Nottingham being an over the top cartoon is not a bad thing, Alan Rickman was brilliant in that role in Prince of Thieves and I have fun with Keith Allen in the 2006 TV series, but those embrace making the Sheriff a cartoon. Here, there seems to be an attempt to make the Sheriff sympathetic to an extent by having it be that he was abused as a kid by the Church, but it doesn’t really go anywhere and makes his involvement in the scheme of the Church idiotic. It also doesn’t help that I had no idea what the villains’ plan was throughout the film, it being way too convoluted for its own good.
The biggest issue, and what made me laugh the most, was the lack of subtext or subtlety. Firstly, there are a lot of plot points that are downright stolen from the Christopher Nolan Batman films, and even some scenes are identical. Then there’s the theme which isn’t so much spelt out as it is hammered into you. Every line of dialogue is so on the nose and there is no subtext at all. Honestly, it’s kind of like the Robin Hood film Garth Marenghi would make. However, all of this works in some weird way. None of it is good, but there’s a charm in how bad it is and I was consistently entertained.
The performances meanwhile are a mix of okay to terrible. On the okay side, Taron Egerton and Jamie Foxx are decent, even if there is nothing for them to do character wise, they are charismatic enough to carry the film, whilst Tim Minchin steals the film as Friar Tuck (it seeming like he’s the only person who’s got the tone of the film). Eve Hewson and Jamie Dornan meanwhile are pretty bad, given bland dialogue and having no emotional resonance to what they say. Ben Mendelsohn as the Sheriff of Nottingham meanwhile is entertainingly over the top and is obvious casting, even if I think he did a better, more interesting take on this role as Nolan Sorento in Ready Player One, whilst F Murray Abraham shows up to ham it up to high heaven and he’s a lot of fun.
On a technical level the film is a mess. The way the film is shot is more like a modern war film, the scenes in the Crusades resembling the way films set in Iraq and Afghanistan now are shot. The costume design in these scenes has leather flack jackets and the bows and arrows and held and fired like machine guns, there’s even an arrow rocket launcher. All of it is so ridiculous that it works in a ‘what were they thinking’ kind of way. This goes true for the rest of the production design, feeling a bit too modern but working in an insane way, with Nottingham itself being a complete hodge podge of Middle Ages and modern architecture, with a wild party scene in particular being a mad example of this, being framed as a Las Vegas casino more than Crusades era parties. The action though is shot with way too much shaky cam and way too darkly so I couldn’t make out anything that was going on. The music meanwhile, like the plot, is trying desperately to ape the style of the Christopher Nolan Batman films.
Overall, Robin Hood is a complete mess and a terrible film, but one which I had a lot of fun with. This is one of the rare examples of a blockbuster film which is so bad it’s brilliant. Every decision made in the film was wrong, but unlike films like Venom or Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald, there’s not this air of cynicism. It feels like there was this genuine attempt to make a modernised Robin Hood film that fell apart so spectacularly that it’s an entertaining train wreck. This film is a disaster, but I am kind of recommending it so you can see for yourself just how insane this is.
My Rating: 2/5