Last night I watched the 2018 rendition of Robin Hood starring Kingsman’s Taron Egerton; Academy Award Best Actor, Jamie Foxx; and Villain-in-all-Movies, Ben Mendelsohn. Before going any further, let’s establish first though: This movie is positively phenomenal. IMHO, the critics are all wrong.
I totally understand why this movie fared poorly at the box office (an anemic $14m haul over its opening Thanksgiving weekend on a film budget of +$100m). But I still feel sad that Robin Hood only managed a 15% | 41% on Rotten Tomatoes.
*** Warning: SPOILERS! ***
Robin Hood is an updated and modernized version of the old fairy tale. The opening features a set piece with the dashing Robin of Loxley with this military commando group somewhere in Arabia on some black ops mission. The special effects are absolutely spectacular. There’s tons of automated crossbows, a crossbow bazooka, and close-quarters Kung-Fu action. This is what I live for! This is a movie! From this opening scene forward, I knew I was in for a treat. Debut-director Otto Bathurst heavily borrows from both Call of Duty and Saving Private Ryan with terrific results. There’s a Moor (that’s who the English are fighting; this is supposedly during the Crusades?) with a heavy-duty, crossbow Gatling rifle dispensing death from a bell tower. There are tons of slow-motion shots with stone mortar exploding as Robin valiantly runs, dodging hundreds –no, thousands— of arrows shot from every direction imaginable.
It’s not just the incredible special effects though; the story is excellent too. I’m a huge fan of the storytelling trope where the hero (here, Taron Egerton) needs to don a secret identity that he keeps hidden from his love interest– in this case, the gorgeous Marian (strongly portrayed by Eve Hewson in a star turn). Jamie Foxx (Little John) whispers the classic line: “If you love her, let her go. Letting her know just puts her in danger.”
Man, I could watch this stuff all day.
And then when Marian does finally discover Robin Hood’s true identity, what a cathartic moment! All of that feeling. The sudden realization that the man who she’d longed for and pined over for so long wasn’t deliberately treating her coldly out of spite, but was actually the secret hero she’d admired all this time and that he’d never stopped loving her… it just doesn’t get any better than that.
Additionally, no classic is complete without a completely despicable villain. And here, Mendelsohn delivers in spades. Hot off his villainy streak in Ready Player One and Rogue One, Mendelsohn plays Robin Hood’s nemesis, the Sheriff of Nottingham. The storyline features a truly ludicrous plot where the good Sheriff is in cahoots with the Arch Cardinal of Rome to ally themselves with the Moors to overthrow the King of England. At least I think that was the plot? Anyway, no matter– it was all stupendously glorious.
In closing, I think what I enjoyed most about this 2018 version of Robin Hood was simply just how old fashioned it was. I know nowadays it’s become en vogue to feature more progressive storylines. Empowered female characters. Plots that subvert expectations. Etc. And that’s all fine– I think it’s great that Hollywood is getting more diverse and representative. But every once in a while, I think there’s an appetite for classic material too. And that’s where, for me at least, Robin Hood really shines. Long live the Hood!