Film Review: Robin Hood (USA, 2018) brings an abundance of action but nothing new to tell

We’ve all heard the tale of Robin Hood, the nobleman who robbed from the rich to give to the poor. Who becomes a revolutionary figure that leads to an uprising. A symbol of hope in a time of poverty and struggle. Well there’s a new Robin Hood movie out that brings all of that to the screen but not really anything new.

When the dashing Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) catches the stunning Marian (Eve Hewson) trying to steal one of his horses, they fall madly in love. Their romance is interrupted though when Robin is drafted to fight in the Crusades. When he returns to Nottingham after his stint in the war, the Sheriff (Ben Mendelsohn) is taxing the people into poverty, and has repossessed his manor, his lady has fallen in love with another man, and the Church is up to shenanigans, so Robin has decided it’s time to fight back.

Despite Tim Minchin’s Friar Tuck giving us a voiceover to “forget what we already know”, and his attempts at convincing us this story is going to be something new; the screenplay by Ben Chandler and David James Kelly checks all the necessary Robin Hood boxes that we are already well familiar with. We have our charming and honorable Robin, a Lord but also a man of the people. His time in the Arabian war sees him cross paths with the Moor fighter Yahya aka John (Jamie Foxx), who takes it upon himself to mentor the young Englishman. There’s the love interest of Marian and third wheel complication from Will (Jamie Dornan) From this point forward, it’s basically just a check list of all the things we’ve seen before in previous adaptations.

Where director Otto Bathurst’s point of difference lies, is in its abundance of action sequences and clearly retro-fitting the Robin Hood mythology to an action-heist film with a clear target on a youth audience. This Robin is a bit more like Batman/Bruce Wayne, or Season 1 era of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow. Even the training montage may as well be Nottingham Ninja Warrior, all it needed was a salmon ladder. Robin’s thievery and antics gets him dubbed ‘The Hood’ as his brazen criminality riles up the townsfolk. And by day he’s schmoozing the Sheriff working his way up the social and town ladder to get a seat at the big table which enables him to see the depths of collusion between the Sheriff and the Church. Conceptually playing closer to a more free spirited strategist Robin clearly having a good time, than we’ve seen being portrayed on screen in other adaptations (see Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner’s efforts). There’s also not one but two montage sequences, because the only way you’re ever going to explain a quick plot point with a lot of action is via montage.

Egerton is the near perfect blend of charm, charisma and humour which are obviously necessary traits for the lead. Seeing him switch between the vigilante Hood and his all too engaging Lord persona suits him to a tee. Mendelsohn gets to once again show off some quality evil Mendo, and as the film progresses we see that escalate to a full blown crescendo. Foxx’s character is probably the biggest surprise here, opting for him to take on the role of tutor and teacher and just all-round badass. His ferocity onscreen, during two particular scenes against Mendelsohn are intense. Hewson is absolutely stunning and initially comes across as being able to hold her own as a fiesty reflection of Robin, but the film doesn’t give her character nearly enough time to properly develop or have more to do which is disappointing as she’s literally the only female character. And Minchin, whilst fun onscreen, also has minimal to do other than provide brief moments of comic relief. I’m also deducting a point for all of their terrible accents (except Taron) that never stick.

Obviously the film takes creative licence with a bunch of things, like turret style heavy cross bows during the Crusades, or chase sequences on horseback across rickety wooden walkways, and clearly many many of those bow and arrow shots are fake. But we all know this, and it’s the high energy action of this film that makes this fun to watch. It might be the same old story we’re familiar with, but it’s a hell of a ride.

THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Robin Hood is out in Australian cinemas from today.