Directed by: Otto Bathurst
Screenplay: Ben Chandler and David James Kelly
Story by: Ben Chandler
Produced by: Jennifer Davisson, Leonardo DiCaprio
Executive Producers: Tony Tunnell, Joby Harold, Basil Iwanyk, E Bennett Walsh, Ed McDonnell
Starring: Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Jamie Dornan, Tim Minchin, F. Murray Abraham.
The name ‘Robin Hood’ usually conjures up images of medieval villages awash in mud, a lushly green forest, oppressed and poorly dressed peasants, an evilly sneering villain (Sheriff of Nottingham), an heroic yet elusive outlaw (former lord of the manor) and his motley band of merry men, often wearing green hose to blend into the forest where they hide out between raiding the rich to give to the poor.
My favourite version is The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), with a rousing score provided by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and everyone wearing gorgeous costumes in rich jewel colours.
I also have a soft spot for Prince of Thieves (1991), but only because of Alan Rickman as the ruthless, Christmas-cancelling Sheriff of Nottingham.
The latest iteration of the famous legend combines medieval grittiness with contemporary adventure, aiming to drag the famous tale firmly into the 21st century, whether the legend sits here comfortably or not.
It’s an enjoyable, rollicking adventure that has beautiful production values, impressive sets, nail-biting chase scenes, convincing acting and a pleasing mixture of drama and some comedy (mainly provided by Tim Minchin’s Friar Tuck who carefully balances his allegiances to both Robin and the Sheriff of Nottingham).
Director Otto Bathurst said of his approach to this film that ‘it is not about being remotely historically accurate or being faithful to previous versions.’ This much is true.
Taron Egerton (Kingsman, Rocket Man), who plays a disillusioned Robin of Locksley returning from the holy wars overseas, concurs, saying that, ‘there is nothing period or traditional about this movie, because it’s not the Robin Hood we’ve all seen before.’
I kept waiting for the assembling of the merry band who follow Robin, but instead there is a smaller group comprising a dewy-eyed Marian (Eve Hewson), Friar Tuck and Will Scarlet (Jamie Dornan sporting his natural Irish accent), with Little John being played as a vengeful Moor. (Jamie Foxx relishes almost every line with a manic grin.)
Things have changed since Robin went off to fight in the Crusades, with Marian having moved on, and the Sheriff of Nottingham oppressing the poor with steely-eyed determination as they slave in his dire mines.
I’m not a big fan of Ben Mendelsohn as a villain (see Ready Player One or Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) but here he is more subdued, and is given a grim backstory that makes his current course of villainy understandable if not acceptable.
For the most part the film focusses on the bromance between Robin and John, the latter of whom mentors Robin in the fine art of archery and thievery, interspersed with technically exhilarating horse and wagon chases (I hope no horses were at risk during all this) and lots of close-up fights featuring a staggering variety of bows and arrows.
For the most part I was able to put aside my expectations of this film not following more closely in the established world and time of the legend, and just view it as another adventure movie.
There were some jarring moments (notably the lavish party in the Sheriff’s stronghold which seemed to have escaped from a Great Gatsby film) so that the director’s desire to create a look that is ‘modern Medieval… yet still grounded in its own gritty reality’ was not entirely successful. But it was a lot better than I was expecting, so if you like adventure films with heroes, villains and a (mostly) believable world, you could do worse than watch this one.
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