The Rich and the Rest of Us
Robin Hood is directed by Otto Bathurst and stars Taron Egerton, Jaime Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Tim Minchin, and Jaime Dornan.
It is completely normal nowadays to watch a trailer for an upcoming film and expect the absolute worst. From cringe-worthy dialogue, to unimpressive visual effects, and all the way to a bland explanation of a premise that doesn't sound the least bit interesting, creating convincing and compelling movie trailers has become something of a dying art. I can't say exactly when Hollywood and other filmmakers started losing their touch with getting people excited to go see their films, but it seems like nowadays more than ever, movie trailers are more like an annoyance that you pray gets done with as soon as possible, as opposed to an exciting warm-up before the main feature. That's not to say that bad movie trailers always equate to bad films. Plenty of good films, heck, even some great ones, gave out bad first impressions with mediocre trailers. On the flip side, there have been plenty of promising looking trailers, only for the movie to fall flat on its face.
You're probably wondering why in the world am I talking about good versus bad movie trailers in a review for 2018's Robin Hood. The reason I start with this discussion is because not only is it the only way that I feel comfortable opening up this review; it's because 2018's Robin Hood serves as a prime example of when a movie trailer looks bad (and I mean really bad), and the resulting film is....well, really bad. Is it too arrogant of me to say that I knew this film was going to be a flop from the moment I saw the trailer in theaters some months back? Right from the get go, this looked like another foolish attempt at starting another action-driven medieval film franchise in the same vein as 2017's wretched King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and, wouldn't y'know, Robin Hood tanked at the box office, thus, saving us the displeasure from ever having to sit through multiple of these films. I can at least sort of get what Warner Bros. was going for with King Arthur: the 2004 King Arthur film was not a raging success by any means, and there was plenty of historical King Arthur lore to dig into and make movies out of, so we can say there was at least potential. Robin Hood, on the other hand, got his modern-day film upgrade not even ten years ago with Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott, so that automatically left the 2018 edition with basically nothing new to offer.
The story is about as basic as you can get with the Robin Hood legend: Lord Robin of Loxley (Egerton) is drafted by the greedy, no good Sheriff of Nottingham (Mendelsohn) to fight in the Third Crusades, thus, separating him from the love of his life, Marian (Hewson). Four years later, Robin has grown dissatisfied with the war, and he gets himself sent back to England by trying to prevent the execution of prisoners. After returning to Nottingham, Robin finds out that the Sheriff had declared him dead, and that Marian is now in love with another: the leader of the common people, Will Tillman (Dornan). Before he can show himself to Marian, Robin is greeted by John (Foxx): one of the war prisoners who had stowed away on the ship back to England. John proposes that he and Robin fight together to end the war. How exactly? You guessed it: by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.
I am no expert whatsoever with all the details surrounding the Robin Hood legend, and even if your own knowledge of this subject matter doesn't transcend past, "Guy who shoots arrows and steals money from rich people", you will quickly realize just what a brainless and ill-fated film we are dealing with here. This is not a Robin Hood character of great moral complexity nor a Robin Hood character who embodies any thought-provoking ideals from the Crusades period; this is a Robin Hood that talks and acts like a 21st century brat who is trying to audition to become Marvel's next big superhero. I think that's one of the best ways to describe what this version of Robin Hood is like: extremely imitative of MCU films, except under the impression that action and one-liners are enough to sell. The most egregious part of this Robin Hood character though is how the movie consistently refers to him as, "The Hood" or just, "Hood", which sounds more like terrible 21st century slang as opposed to an inspirational nickname. I'm probably going to be saying 21st century at least a few more times later on, because, oh man, have we only begun to scratch the surface of all the bone-headed decisions this movie makes...
- Robin Hood fails in many, many, many film-making departments, but luckily, the film avoids ever being straight-up boring: a luxury that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword absolutely did not have. In a movie like this one that's desperate to get to the action as fast as possible, I'm a bit surprised that none of the arrow-firing by Robin or any fighting between the common people and the Sheriff's army ever grew tiresome. A part of it is a morbid fascination in seeing in what ways the action will fail, such as an embarrassing green screen or atrocious-looking CGI. There's quite a bit of both, and there's also a lot of Zack Snyder speed up and slow down bits that made me want to cry and never watch an action film ever again. The truly fascinating thing though is that Otto Bathurst and his crew sometimes come very close to generating a few compelling seconds of action, and those few glimmers of hope are what keep you engaged and optimistic that something good will turn up sooner or later. There's a scene where Robin, John, and Marian are fleeing on horseback from the Sheriff's men, and I will admit that there were a few seconds where I could feel just a little bit of excitement stirring up inside me: the music by composer Joseph Trapanese speeding up the tempo, which coupled extremely well with the sound of running horse hooves. That was it, though: just a few precious seconds of potential. It was sad that the action never upgraded into the category of decent, but at least Robin Hood was flirting with it for a few stretches.
- While I'm still sort of on the subject of the film's action, it is mind-boggling how the action can be so bloodless, like they're so scared to show even just a drop of blood when someone gets hurt or killed. I know it's a PG-13 film and they can't be too graphic with the action, but everything about the action is so sanitized that Robin Hood could warrant just a PG rating. There's nothing else in the movie that would keep an eleven or twelve year old up late at night. How different could this movie be from a PG rated film that contains action of some kind?
- The lack of blood is more of a nitpick and pales in comparison to the other places where Robin Hood really drops the ball, such as the acting. It is kind of amazing that a cast with this many talented people can completely fail to show an ounce of charm or decent acting chops. Taron Egerton and Jaime Foxx aren't necessarily bad: they seem like they're trying, when in reality, they're only doing enough to ensure they can walk away feeling as if they didn't lose one bit of their acting dignity. Ben Mendelsohn is a comedy: a cartoon-y bad guy that shouts a lot and at times sounds like he's cursing under his breath, like Harry from Home Alone. There's nothing intimidating or frightening about him. He's just a big ol' meanie who is incredibly silly and a complete waste of Mendelsohn's talents. Meanwhile, Eve Hewson is impressive with how much she is so not trying: speaking her lines and looking at Taron Egerton with all the enthusiasm of a moldy potato. I'm also impressed by how, for playing a character who's supposed to be basically stricken with poverty, Hewson wears make-up and costumes that make her look like a contest on Miss America. It's an incredibly thankless role for Hewson anyway: Marian is never given the chance to be something more than Robin's love interest, so it's not like Hewson ever had the chance to do anything significant.
- Oh, the costumes. This brings me to the other thing about Robin Hood that drove me up a wall: the glaring and seemingly intentional anachronisms. How in the world can this decision be justified? What sort of artistic or entertainment value is there to be had in having your movie take place during the Crusades era, and yet, people are inexplicably wearing suit jackets, beanie hats, and other outfits that look like they were brought from the clearance section at the thrift store? Is this supposed to be some clever way to complement the 21st century-style action? The anachronisms only serve to distract from everything else that's going on, and it's not like there's any unintentional laughs to be had. This is not the fun kind of absurdity where you gladly accept it and roll with it. This is the kind of absurdity that feels completely out of place and makes no sense whatsoever, thereby never lending itself to anything resembling humor. The very least that Robin Hood could do to address its anachronism issue is to be a bit more self-aware about how ridiculous it is, but no, the film can't even do that much.
I'm thankful that Robin Hood was not ever straight-up boring, because no one wants to waste two full hours on a movie that does a better job of putting you to sleep as opposed to entertaining you. It may come close at times to being a little exciting, but Robin Hood is ultimately an aimless misfire that wastes its decent cast, while being further weighed down by its inexplicable anachronisms and its bloodless action that taps into almost every annoying 21st century action movie technique that refuses to die (screw you, Zack Snyder). I don't care how arrogant this may sound: I knew this movie was going to be bad the first time I saw a trailer for it, and damn it, was I right. Robin Hood was 2018's greatest example of a movie that looked very bad and ended up being very bad. Hopefully now, after the failures of King Arthur and Robin Hood, people will stop with this, "taking fictional medieval legends and turning them into multi-film franchises" BS.
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