Every few years, the Hollywood machine dips in to their pool of public domain legends and stories, failing to realize that no one is interested in them. No matter what new spin they put on them, they almost always turn out poorly. “Robin Hood” is on the chopping block once again, with Summit Entertainment trying their damndest to superhero-ify the merry thief. The only problem is that we’ve had a superhero Robin Hood for decades now, and—no one gives a shit about Robin Hood anymore. No matter gloss the studios put on the tale, even turning him in to pseudo-Batman, “Robin Hood” (or “Robin Hood Begins” or “The Dark Hood Returns”) is a swing and a miss, a giant squishy thud that lands in a year filled with some truly stellar action and fantasy films.
Forget everything you know about “Robin Hood.” Forget it. You ready? Forget it!
“Robin Hood” insists we forget everything we know about the legend, reminding us this is a new take on the legend. It’s only really a reminder that Hollywood will do anything to re-invent Robin Hood in to a blockbuster franchise straying as far away from the legend as humanly possible. This time, Robin of Loxley is a soldier in the crusades who is a skilled archer. After staging a siege on an Arab army (or “Saving Private Loxley”), Robin betrays his troops and becomes a pariah when he refuses to submit to their homicidal ways. Years later, he returns home from the wars saddened to see his people ravaged by the Sheriff of Nottingham who is taxing farmers, and murdering anyone that refuses to pay.
He is approached by Little John who is hell bent on teaching Robin (now known as Rob) the advanced arts of archery and combating the Sheriff of Nottingham’s greedy foot soldiers. If this all sounds vaguely familiar, the script basically rips whole pages from “The Mask of Zorro.” There’s even a small sub-plot involving Robin returning as an aristocrat to gain the trust of the Sheriff of Nottingham, and infiltrates his inner circle learning of a large scheme involving the cardinal. All the while he begins masquerading as “The Hood,” a thief who begins robbing from the rich and giving to the poor—uh—because he overhears Marian suggesting it in passing to Friar Tuck. “Robin Hood” is a pastiche of so many better movies like “The Count of Monte Cristo,” “Nevada Smith,” “The Mask of Zorro,” and I swear “Green Arrow.”
The writers even kind of side step any potential comparison by dodging Robin Hood’s traditional garb in exchange of a sleek coat and hoodie with a dark blue sash covering his identity. He looks so much like something out of Abercrombie and Fitch. The whole anachronistic aesthetic wouldn’t be so bad if “Robin Hood” wasn’t so dull. “Robin Hood” rushes back and forth with various sub-plots involving intrigue, and vengeance, and betrayal, and romance, and crime, and religious corruption, but I could barely keep my eyes open the whole time. Jamie Foxx and Taren Egerton feel like they’re mostly going through the motions, all the while Eve Hewson is the least charismatic Marian I’ve ever seen.
Ben Mendelson looks like he was a last resort casting choice when Gary Oldman, Bill Nihy, and Joseph Fiennes turned the part down. This is the new “Robin Hood” for a generation that grew up on superhero movies and “Assassin’s Creed,” and it fails on almost every level. The attempts at style are flat, there is zero substance, it fails to build a remotely interesting character (or new take on a classic Robin Hood character, for that matter), and even teases a sequel that I doubt we’ll ever see.