Robin Hood

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Robin Hood

Runtime 116 minutes
PG-13

The Robin Hood legend is thought to have first appeared in the 1370s. It has undergone many iterations but the most consistent is that he lived in Nottingham in the 12th century and was loyal to King Richard (the Lionhearted) who was away fighting in the Third Crusade, while Richard’s brother, Prince John, was trying to usurp the thrown.

… this is just another formulaic action film.

One of Prince John’s allies was the Sheriff of Nottingham, so the Sheriff is the main villain with Robin the hero and Prince John the evil tyrant whose bidding the Sheriff does.

They keep making this into a movie. By my count there have been at least six since 1938 (1973, 1993, 2006, 2010 and another one besides this one in 2018), not to mention a TV series or two. My question is, as it is with lots of these remakes, why? The first, starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, was a brilliant classic. Shot in 3 strip Technicolor, it is still a delight to the eye. It was clearly a fantasy, humorous and funny with lots of adventure about a world that never existed.

None since have come close or had any raison d’ être. In fact, each seems to be worse than the one before.

This one is right in line. I think they’ve finally reached rock bottom.

Director Otto Bathurst and screenwriters David James Kelly and Ben Chandler have changed the story completely. No longer is Prince John the main bad guy. I didn’t see one mention of Prince John (who signed the Magna Carta in 1215, by the way; being forced to by his Barons after he became King when Richard died in 1199).

While the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) is still there, now the main bad guys are evil prelates of the Church, and it is their bidding to which the Sheriff responds. The leader now is the powerful Cardinal (F. Murray Abraham) who says things like, “Fear is the greatest weapon in God’s arsenal” and “It’s why the Church created hell.” While this movie is a complete fiction, obviously, statements like this should rely on some basis in fact. The first mention of something like hell is actually mentioned in the Old Testament Book of Job. The “Church,” which normally refers to the Christian Church, did not “create” hell, so no Prince of the Church would ever utter such a preposterous line.

This time Robin is played by Taron Egerton and, for the first time in the legend, fights in the Third Crusade. There we see the Crusaders as bad guys and the Islamists as good guys. In fact, one, who eventually becomes Little John, is Jamie Foxx. He gets involved because he is an Islamic fighter whose son is beheaded by the Crusaders despite Robin’s efforts to save him. So they both come back to Nottingham, Foxx to get revenge and Robin to be re-united with Marian (Ewe Henson), the love of his life. Here he evolves into Robin Hood.

Nottingham is pictured as something akin to Rome with concrete buildings and streets and tens of thousands of inhabitants. There are no figures extant for the population of Nottingham in the 12th/13th century, but it is said that by the time of the English Civil War in the 17th Century, population had “grown” to 5,000. There are more people in this movie than lived in Nottingham 400 years after this is supposed to have taken place.

Being Hollywood, it’s not enough to make the Church a villain. The Sheriff gives a speech that sounds like it’s a metaphor for President Trump’s defense of the country against illegal aliens, demonizing the Islamists who were fighting the Crusaders for control of the Holy Land. Since the Sheriff is a bad guy, this makes the viewer feel empathy for the Islamists and against the Crusaders (who have already been pictured as evil at the beginning of the film).

The film seems to be an excuse to (over) use CGI because we see scene after scene after scene of the ridiculous fights that are de rigueur for today’s movies (one of which shows Robin jumping from about 50 feet into a moving wagon without a scratch), and the magnificent city that the filmmakers view Nottingham to have been in the 12th/13th century. In reality the “castle” in Nottingham was wooden at that time, and didn’t even get stonewalls until the 14th century at the earliest.

They even throw in some CGI-created horse and carriage chases (doesn’t every Hollywood thriller need a car chase?) that are even more absurd than the car chases in today’s films.

In essence, this is just another formulaic action film. The fact that a character is named Robin Hood is merely coincidental.

We can only hope that Hollywood will let Robin Hood rest in peace for the foreseeable future.

Tony Medley is an MPAA-accredited film critic. See more reviews at TonyMedley.com.

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