By Steven Sheehan.
The legend of Robin Hood stretches back over 600 years, its story finding relevance with every new passing generation.
From Errol Flynn in his spandex to Kevin Costner killing us with Bryan Adams ballads, there have been 44 different cinematic versions so far.
Robin Hood marks the arrival of number 45, the first major take on the legend since Ridley Scott’s 2010 film.
It arrives ahead of a glut of Robin Hood films currently in development. Everyone from Sony, Warner Bros., Disney and DreamWorks are planning on giving us a reboot in the near future.
British director Otto Bathurst moves up from directing TV series like Peaky Blinders to helm his first feature film.
This also gives Taron Egerton a shot at leading a huge blockbuster. Although it’s a film that requires a bigger presence in the lead role than he can provide.
Before Robin becomes ‘The Hood’, Egerton is introduced as Lord Robin of Loxley. He is drafted into the 14th-century British army by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) to take part in the Crusades in Arabia.
That’s where he comes across Little John (Jamie Foxx) who is captured and taken prisoner. Robin is declared killed in action, his home and possessions seized by the Sheriff, and his partner Marian (Eve Hewson) finding new love.
Two years pass and Robin returns home to team up with John to seek revenge against the Sheriff. The legend of ‘The Hood’ starts to rise and they prepare to lead the poor in revolt up against their rich oppressors.
Robin Hood is a very much a modern take on an old story. The two-hour runtime never labours mostly due to the many high octane action sequences.
Machine guns become rapid-fire bows and traditional bow and arrows are carried like AK-47’s. Robin’s own bow is even retrofitted with a knuckleduster in true Peaky Blinders style.
Whether it’s as Donald Trump or Nigel Farage, the Sheriff is defined as xenophobic and anti-immigration and Islam.
Nods are given towards soldiers being sent to wasted wars in the Middle East (see Iraq). The divide between rich and poor speaks to today’s growing unease in society.
Robin’s romance with Marian eventually becomes an annoyance the film could do without. There’s no chemistry between Egerton and Hewson and zero reasons to believe in their relationship.
Foxx understands what his role needs and delights in going way over the top. Rent-a-bad-guy Mendelsohn is as charismatic as ever and well cast as the villain.
But how excited can you get about a man with a bow and arrow? Especially when he’s up against a raft of Marvel superheroes.
Bathurst tries every trick in the book to update the Robin Hood legend so it can appeal to a younger audience. The action is brutal and harder-edged than in any previous version. But it amounts to a fairly generic story that has been told a million times before. But better.
Robin Hood has ambitions of following up with a sequel, as this simply lays down the foundations of the folklore. Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur had the same idea last year, but we all know what happened to that in the end.
Robin Hood is released nationwide in UK cinemas on Wednesday 21st November.