Okay, look, I have done enough of these darn Robin Hood movies. Again, inexplicably, Hollywood decided to dive once more into one of the more familiar stories in the world. Why? I am guessing the simple reason is name recognition. What do people know about the Sherwood Forest bandit? Basically, that he hangs out in the woods with a colorful cast of characters, steals from the rich, and gives to the less fortunate. In some form or another, the one exception perhaps being the 2010 iteration starring Russel Crowe as the title character, they all cover the same ground. In order to justify themselves to, well, themselves, they might say in interviews that there is something about the eternal struggle of the haves and the have-nots that appeals to audiences. It sounds high minded, but if that was what people cared about the most, why have all the action and adventure? It is because deep, philosophical questions are not what get butts into movie theater seats. It would seem that the latest version of Robin Hood (2018) took this principal to its utmost and ridiculous extreme.
This version of Robin Hood is so bad that it had me laughing throughout the whole thing, beginning to end. Some of this has to do with my knowledge of history, some of this is the movie being silly itself. Because I have covered this topic enough times in a row now to the point where I am sure that you, like myself, are tired of hearing about it, I am going to eschew my regular approach to this review. I feel emboldened to do so because as Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) tells us in an opening narration, forget everything you know. Instead, what shall follow is an enumeration of the scenes that I was chuckling at the most, despite what the film intended.
My hysterical laughter while watching Robin Hood began almost immediately. After a whirlwind romance between Robin and the would-be horse thief Maid Marian (Eve Hewson) (yes, you read that correctly), which is treated in a montage of them kissing, twirling around, and kissing again, the first goofy moment comes. Robin of Loxley, sitting in his Italian urban villa in Nottingham, has his marital bliss disrupted by a draft notice to serve in the Third Crusade. Let me write that again: a draft notice to serve in the Third Crusade. This is not me using fanciful language to make a humorous point. The sealed letter he receives literally contains those words. While the Third Crusade would be right for the period, and is the one that all the other versions of Robin Hood had to contend with, people did not get drafted into the army in the twelfth century! I will not bore you with the details here, just take this historian’s word for it.
Shortly thereafter in Robin Hood we see our title character moving through what appears to be a bombed-out Jerusalem, the city seeming like it had recently undergone an airstrike. I am not sure what call it, but he is with his “unit.” I say this because they are all dressed alike in armor that makes them look more like Roman soldiers without helmets, and they each are carrying bows and arrows like rifles at the ready. Adding to the oddity of this is when they end up being ambushed by what can only be described as a crossbow machine gun nest. It is manned by an Arab, and the withering fire pins down Robin’s unit. They did not stop with the crossbow silliness there, unfortunately. Later on, you see the Sheriff of Nottingham’s (Ben Mendelsohn) guards carrying what amounts to assault weapon variations of the same thing. Hello, hi, history guy here again, but no. Just no.
So, now Robin Hood must get its hero from the Holy Land to Nottingham. It does so by transporting the wounded Robin in a hospital ship (like that was a thing), with the Muslim he had saved from execution, Yahya ibn Umar (Jamie Foxx). Because nobody feels like stumbling over the Arabic pronunciation of his name, he tells everyone to call him his English equivalent, John. This is how we get Robin’s famous friend and compatriot, though the word “little” is never attached in this film. John wants revenge on Nottingham for being the primary financier for the Crusades, a notion that would send your typical Medieval scholar into gibbering madness. John cannot accomplish this on his own because he had one of his hands cut off. Thus, he teams up with Robin, who is angry because the Sheriff took everything from him while he was away, training the younger man to be a more efficient killer. Sure, there is a lot of bow and arrow practice, but that is not all. Essentially, John has Robin doing CrossFit. Medieval CrossFit.
From there, Robin Hood becomes more like a Batman flick. John urges caution, and instead gets Robin to buddy up to the Sheriff in order to get into his enemy’s good graces. Because the Sheriff is a dope, he easily falls for Robin’s ruse and hurriedly restores Robin’s fortunes. Meanwhile, as the “Hood,” Robin has knowledge of where all the money in town is going. And I do mean town. Remember the tales of the Sherwood Forest? Remember what I said about the film telling you to forget everything you think you know about these tales? Instead, our hero’s milieu is the urban environment of Nottingham . . . and the massive mines across the river where all the poor people work and live! While Robin masquerades as one of the elites of the community, the Sheriff goes around doing his best impression of George W. Bush in justifying the Crusades and the need for such high taxes to pay for them. If they do not do this, basically, the Muslims will come and kill them all! Standing up to this nonsense is Maid Marian and her husband Will Scarlet (Jamie Dornan). She had remarried when she thought Robin dead. Together they set up soup kitchens for the poor, and Will has ambitions of running for political office. You know, your typical twelfth century career goals. Robin had been trying to not be distracted by the fact that his wife has wed another, until he finds out that, at the behest of Cardinal Franklin (F. Murray Abraham), there is a plan to raid the mines in order to find the Hood. This, of course, sends Robin rushing to the mines to protect the people, and the whole plan backfires. Along the way, there are some physics defying horse stunts that you will never see any equestrian perform anywhere, save for Hollywood.
The climactic sequence in Robin Hood comes when Robin gives a Winston Churchill-esque speech to the mine’s denizens, egged on by Marian, who has figured out his identity. They agree to rise up and throw off the Sheriff’s yoke, with Will and Marian playing a part. As if everything the movie had shown thus far were not enough, the ensuing melee features guards with riot shields, and angry citizens throwing Molotov cocktails. In the midst of the brouhaha (emphasis on the “haha”), Marian decides that she is still in love with Robin and they kiss, an exchange witnessed by the jilted Will. After the Sheriff falls to John’s quest for revenge, the Cardinal decides to appoint Will the new Sheriff, thus furthering his political career, because Cardinal’s can appoint Sheriffs for some reason. And I guess Robin and Marian head into the woods? By the way, not once is the word “Sherwood” uttered in this film.
The laughing in this version of Robin Hood is turned into groans of disgust whenever it brings up the Catholic Church. Its representatives, mainly in the form of the Cardinal, say such abhorrent things like how the Church does not want its adherents to have hope, but they should rather have backs and heads bowed in submission. The Catholic Church was founded on hope, hope in the rewards of eternal life in Heaven! Otherwise, what are we doing every Sunday? There is also the stupid moment where Friar Tuck (Tim Minchin) is “defrocked” by having his Rosary cut from off his neck. There is so much wrong with that in terms of the process, never mind the bigger issue of the reasons why it happened (for aiding the Hood) and smaller ones like the Rosary being worn like a necklace. It is not jewelry! Yet, the worst moment comes when the Cardinal says that fear is the Church’s greatest weapon, and it is why it invented Hell. I understand this is just a movie. At the same time, that statement is insulting. Hell existed long before the Catholic Church, and there is no fear in God, at least not how they think it. I pray for the makers of this movie.
The only reason to watch this installment of Robin Hood is to see how truly bad it is. If that is not your idea of a good time, which is perfectly understandable, then by all means avoid. The universe, myself, and perhaps God, will thank you for doing so.