Robin Hood is one of the most iconic tales in British Folklore. This latest adaptation steals from the rich source material to deliver another tale of the poor rising against the powerful. Ditching the tights and feathered hat, this reboot delivers a gritty origin story which massively favours style over substance.
The film is directed by Otto Bathurst, famed for winning the BAFTA for directing Peaky Blinders. Clearly his gritty style goes beyond the TV series. If Peaky Blinders changed time period from Industrial London to Medieval Nottingham, this is what it would look like, complete with burning furnaces, clanging metal and dirty coal smoke. His directing style is similar to that of Guy Richie’s. Notably, Sherlock Holmes was ‘rocked up’ by Richie, and it seems a similar approach was taken here, though it’s not quite as successful.
The film boasts an ASTONISHING cast. Taron Egerton is the titular hero, and once again charms with brilliant ease. By his side is Jamie Fox (John), who trains Robin to steal from the Sheriff of Nottingham. Accompanying the ‘good guys’ are Eve Hewson as Marian, Jamie Dornan as Will (Scarlet) and a joyful Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck. An ironic choice of casting, the hilarious comic is an outspoken atheist, yet here he portrays a strict member of the clergy.
Battling the ‘Merry Men’ is a ferocious Ben Mendelsohn as The Sheriff of Nottingham, F. Murray Abraham as the Cardinal and Paul Anderson (another Peaky Blinders alumni, having played George Shelby in the series) as Guy of Gisborne. I must single out Ben Mendelsohn, whose performance as The Sheriff of Nottingham is phenomenal. It’s one of the greatest British characters of all time, and his no nonsense approach created the pure evil necessary.
Backing up this phenomenal cast are some really impressive action set pieces, particularly a huge chase sequence that closes the second act. The use of fast editing and impressive sound design created a fantastically exciting scene. The score, by composer Joseph Trapanese, also creates a great intensity as well as contributing epic scale to the narrative.
The bad news is that sometimes the film gets too hooked up in its style to think about the narrative. Clearly Otto Bathurst is a man who loves impressive imagery, but this often means the story suffers as a result. The film’s run time could be cut to about half of itself if it wasn’t for the CONSTANT use of slow motion. Granted, sometimes it looked beautiful. But sometimes it was utterly forced and ruined the effect.
It’s clear that in light of ‘The Matrix’ using ‘Bullet Time’, Bathurst wanted to use ‘Arrow Time’ to show the slow motion dodging of arrows and shrapnel. Throw in a Rocky-style training montage and you’ve started to lose the audience. The first half of the film did slightly drag due to this constant favouring of style over substance, and though it was better paid off in the second half, it definitely let the film down in some respects.
Equally, he wants this world to feel outside the realm of the traditional legend – Tim Minchin’s opening narration even states that “this is no bedtime story”. However, the production design is slightly too bizarre at times. The crusades are a clear reflection of Afghanistan, with machine gun’s firing arrows instead of bullets. Equally, there are allusions to the London riots, with imagery being almost cloned from the news footage of those events. These attempts to utterly modernise despite using the Medieval setting led to some confusion.
Overall Robin Hood is still a fantastically enjoyable popcorn flick. Beautifully stylish but ultimately cold and slightly too dragged out, it’s a great adventure with little soul. While a sequel has been set up, it’s unclear whether the bate will be taken, or more importantly whether it should.