Franchise revival has been an ongoing trend these days. So it comes to no surprise that the age-old legend of Robin Hood is finally making a big screen comeback after being left idle for almost a decade. In case you have forgotten, the last time we had a Robin Hood movie was the Ridley Scott-Russell Crowe’s 2010 big budget collaboration of the same name which sadly missed the mark.
That brings us the all-important question: is Otto Bathurst’s version of Robin Hood manage to deliver where Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe had previously failed? Well, I have to say that Bathurst did at least make a bold move of updating the famous English folklore of the Robin Hood character, played with reckless abandon by Taron Egerton.
In this 2018 version, it begins with Lord Robin of Loxley (Egerton) living a wealthy and happy life with her lover, Marian (Eve Hewson). But their blissful moments are shortlived when Robin is drafted to fight in the Crusades.
By the time he returns to his homeland years later, he discovers his manor has been destroyed and left abandoned while Marian has met a new beau, Will (Jamie Dornan). The city of Nottingham is also on the brink of civil unrest and oppression, with the lower-class citizens staging a rebellion against the iron-fisted sheriff (Ben Mendelsohn).
In order to bring him down, Robin teams up with John (Jamie Foxx), an escaped Arab soldier who plans to seek his revenge for the death of his son by training Robin into a skilled archer.
Back to Egerton, the 29-year-old Welsh star of the Kingsman fame brings a suitably roguish charm to his titular role. He also pairs well with Jamie Foxx, who made quite an impression as the mentor-like John. It’s just too bad their chemistry could have been better if not for the movie’s perfunctory approach.
Ben Chandler and David James Kelly’s screenplay is hastily put together, with loads of clichés piling up one after another to the point it nearly overshadowed their intended modernist take on the otherwise oft-told origin story of Robin Hood. Their contemporary tone of the medieval-set Robin Hood movie actually has potential, if only they embrace their ideas deeper and fine-tuned the story altogether.
The rest of the cast is a mixed bag, with Jamie Dornan delivers a bland supporting performance as Will while the otherwise feisty Eve Hewson doesn’t get to do much as Marian. Speaking of Dornan and Hewson, the movie could have used this opportunity to strike up a strong love triangle subplot between Robin, Marian and Will. But too bad that didn’t really happen. Ben Mendelsohn looks the part as the ruthless Sheriff of Nottingham but his role is sadly relegated to a one-note antagonist. Tim Minchin, on the other hand, brings a decent comic relief to his supporting role as Friar Tuck.
As for Bathurst, his direction is largely haphazard while striking only a few worthwhile moments here and there (the brief but fun training montage comes to mind and so do the earlier gritty bows-and-arrows action sequence set in Arabia). But they are not enough to justify its otherwise laborious two-hour running time. It’s a shame that most of the action sequences feel lacklustre, while Bathurst’s random inclusion of cool slow-motion effects somehow looks more fun watching them in the trailers than the actual movie itself.
Robin Hood ends with an obvious hint for a sequel. But I doubt this would happen, given the way how the origin story is told in this movie.