Updated: Feb 7, 2020
The story of Robin Hood has been told from nearly the beginning of the cinema. The first adaptation came in 1908, with countless more in the 110 years since. There is something romantic in the journey of a once wealthy man who dedicates his life to taking down the corrupt and help those in need. Additionally, the legend is flexible enough that he can be a care-free adventurer, a hardened soldier, old, young or a fox. The latest take on this tale, Robin Hood, is less influenced by its predecessors as it is by the most popular movies at multiplexes these days. It is basically a superhero origin story, showing Robin’s transformation from disillusioned soldier to vigilante. The action is alright and Taron Egerton brings some nice charisma to the title role. But it does not come close to the best theatrical versions of this story.
Robin of Loxley is sent back from the Crusades to find his home destroyed, the love of his life with another man and the people of Nottingham broke due to forced donations in the name of the war effort. Angry and heartbroken, Robin teams up with a former enemy soldier who trains him to be a master thief so they can defeat the sheriff and he can win back his girl.
Robin Hood (105 minutes without the end credits) feels like an attempt at superhero style myth-building in the hopes of starting a franchise. Robin returns from the war lost and finds his true calling as a masked vigilante hero to the downtrodden. He is given a mentor, a noble love interest and a power-hungry villain. It is certainly a different idea to stick these well-known characters in a formula similar to that of a Marvel movie, but the execution is off. Though there are a couple of nicely choreographed action scenes and the drama is paced decently enough, the story is extremely dull and the characters have no depth. That is unfortunate since one of the main reasons to adapt this is the colorful personalities.
Because his arc is what the story is about, Robin gets backstory, motivation and development. Granted, none of it is very exciting, but at least it is there. Egerton plays him in the same mode that he played the lead in the Kingsman franchise; with the air of someone too cool to care that he is in over his head. He shows he could have charmed here if he was given the opportunity.
Little John is now a Moor who feels he owes Robin a debt. It is a complete waste of Jamie Foxx who can do way more than look stoic and give cliché advice. Eve Hewson as Marian has no chemistry with either man in the poorly established love triangle (her boyfriend is Jamie Dornan’s self-righteous Will Scarlet). She is ostensibly part of a rebellion, but her primary task is to smile lovingly at Robin, which she does a lot. Ben Mendelsohn fares best as the sneering Sheriff, even if the movie never really lets him cut loose.
Robin Hood is a not particularly successful shot at creating a new action series. At least artistically. Commercially, who knows, but it will likely have difficulty attracting viewers in this busy holiday season. I cannot imagine word of mouth is going to be too strong. It is extraordinarily derivative with a story that does not make me eager to see more. However, action buffs and fans of the characters may find some things to like here. Just not many.
2½ out of 5
Taron Egerton as Robin of Loxley
Jamie Foxx as John
Ben Mendelsohn as Sheriff of Nottingham
Eve Hewson as Marian
Jamie Dornan as Will Scarlet
Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck
Paul Anderson as Guy of Gisbourne
F. Murray Abraham as Cardinal
Directed by Otto Bathurst
Screenplay by Ben Chandler and David James Kelly