REVIEW: Robin Hood is a Confounding Mess with Intermittent Flashes of Something Special
Frankly, I don’t exactly know what to make of this. Here we are with yet another rehashing of a vaguely recognizable character with modern trappings in the vain attempt to spark a potential franchise. Another picture to throw in the pile with Dracula Untold and The Dark Tower among other soon to be forgotten titles; however, that’s not entirely true. Somehow, this isn’t the run-of-the-mill garbage fire that every other film critic is making out to be...which is why I’m ultimately disappointed to say that it isn’t particularly good.
Out of the gate, the biggest criticism I have is that it falls prey to “Needs Another Draft” syndrome. The first act is a slog with an eye-rolling narration desperately trying to convince the audience this isn’t a pointless cash grab and continuing with story beats that feel like going through the well-worn motions of every other origin story in existence. That having been said, it is by no means stupid or irritating. Attempts are made to flesh out the characters (even if they fall flat on their face). Political subtext is rampant throughout the entire picture (corruption disguised by faith, ANTIFA-style revolutionary parallels, class warfare, perceptions of privilege or the lack thereof, etc.). Heck, the war that Taron Egerton’s Robin gets drafted into that serves as the inciting incident is shot like The Hurt Locker or Black Hawk Down. All of this while welcome is hazily-conveyed and left me with an overwhelming sense of “I get what you think you’re saying. I don’t think you actually said any of it”.
Television veteran Otto Bathurst does the best he can to elevate a below-average script. When he isn’t bogged down by all the cliches, there are some cool moments on par with Gore Verbinski or Matthew Vaughn. Even if it is well-staged and clearly communicated, the action is stuck in a weird rut where it doesn’t hit hard enough to be visceral nor is it cavalier enough to be sufficient swashbuckling fun. Granted, this is just a common symptom among modern action movies (PG-13 or not) and this just happens to be another casualty of this particular pandemic. Almost none of the acting does much to save things either. Save for some hammy work from Ben Mendelsohn, the characters are as wooden on-screen as they are on the page. Bless him for trying, Taron Egerton tries to bring the rough-around-the-edges he brought to the Kingsman flicks to no avail. Plus, it’s further evidence that Jamie Dornan may have come out the same assembly line of empty cypher leading men that gave us Jai Courtney and Sam Worthington.
For all of the sparks of creativity to be found, there are even more traces of pictures prior. Game of Thrones, A Knight’s Tale, the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and many others. Of course, there’s also the elephant in the room: Batman Begins. Many films have tried to ride the coattails of Christopher Nolan’s landmark superhero epic and this one may be the most nakedly obvious of the bunch. All of the training montages feel like . Maid Marion may as well be Rachel Dawes. Every now and then, the score even has hints that someone’s been copying Hans Zimmer’s homework.
Make no mistake, this is definitely a product of studio executives clamoring for their own competitor to the titan that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Casting big names, slick action sequences with nary a hint of blood, that sequel tease that caps off the whole bloody affair (which may have beaten Tomb Raider as the worst franchise starter ending this year). It’s all there and it occasionally comes together as solid popcorn entertainment.
With some more fine tuning, I dare say this could’ve been something great. The pieces are definitely there; but, it never comes together in a way that feels fully realized. Whatever. Review the movie you got, not the movie you want. For what we have, it’s an interesting case study of what happens when studio groupthink and genuine collide with much more on its mind than I could’ve predicted. All I’m left with is a state of confusion at how a movie no one wanted had enough good in it to leave me disappointed that it wasn’t better.
FINAL VERDICT: 5.5/10