The classic tale of Robin Hood gets yet another reimagining, this time with a Guy Ritchie-esque treatment that sees noble rogue Rob (a woefully miscast Taron Egerton) drafted to the Middle East to fight in the Crusades. Upon his return to Nottingham, he discovers that everyone thought him dead and that everything has gone pear-shaped: his gal Marian is now cosying up to Will Scarlet (Jamie Dornan), and the Sheriff of Nottingham is relishing being a bad egg (Ben Mendelsohn, once more on bastard duty). Time for some wealth retribution…
Robin Hood stumbles out of the gate with an annoying voiceover narration ordering the audience to forget everything they think they know about the legend, and it never recovers. It’s a shame as the narrative framework, though heavily indebted to the far superior Batman Begins, is mostly satisfying and there was some promise in the idea of refreshing the old formula, especially after Ridley Scott’s dour 2010 effort. However, first-time feature director Otto Bathurst appears to be taking his cues primarily from Justin Kurzel’s Assassin’s Creed, and the results are exasperating: the CGI is garish, the editing epileptic and the historical inaccuracies egregious. And while it rises above Ritchie’s risible King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, the dishonourable thorn in its side is its severe gender-balance problem. Marian (Eve Hewson) is the only female speaking character in the whole movie, bar an interjecting extra before the climactic battle. And for every disingenuous attempt to give Marian some semblance of agency, the costume designers are on call to give credence to writer Kelly Sue DeConnick’s theory that too many films feature female protagonists that could be replaced by “a sexy lamp” without impacting the story. From the first moment we see Marian, stealthily sneaking into a stable to steal a horse, masked in clothing from head to toe but with breasts in full view, there’s no mistaking that the film sees her as nothing but a sexualised damsel to be fought over. Granted, this remains par for the course in a depressing number of modern blockbusters, but surely an update of a classic tale with apparent aspirations to appeal to a hip new generation of filmgoers could have attempted to update its feminist credentials along the way.
Robin Hood | Directed by Otto Bathurst (US 2018) with Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx. Starts January 10.
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