Robin Hood 2018 Review

22 Nov

This review is going to contain one or two spoilers, so if you’d prefer a quick summary, here it is: just plain daft.

Robin-Hood-quad-poster

Looks cool. And…that’s about it.

That’s not to say it has nothing going for it. It’s stylish, and you have to admit there’s an audacity to ignoring history, geography and, frankly, reality. And some of the action is pretty exciting, although it suffers from that thing where they film it really close up with quick cuts to make you feel that you’re there, but actually you just have no idea what’s going on or who’s in danger from whom.

And the disregard for reality kept jolting me out of it. “What is this substance that is distilled like vodka but acts like plastic explosive?” “Is that seriously a crossbow machine gun?” “What is she wearing?”

I tried to go with it, honestly I did, but it would take a zeppelin to suspend this much disbelief. It’s not just historically illiterate, it’s also geographically, religiously, politically and scientifically illiterate.

I mean, seriously, nothing makes sense. In the wildly egalitarian, futuristic Italian/Byzantine city of Nottingham (population approximately 30, including one child), in which marriage has apparently been abolished and bowstrings work while wet, where foundlings can become sheriffs and ‘nobles’ (if Taron Egerton’s Lord Robin of Loxley is an aristocrat, I’m a horse) can be called up as private soldiers, the poor are being ‘oppressed’ in the mines.

Not that they work in the mines, you understand. No one seems to work at all, they just hang around there looking dirty, while showers of sparks fall aesthetically in the background, and vessels of unspecified molten metals are ready to conveniently spill at dramatic moments. Meanwhile, Will (who is not yet scarlet) is trying to lead the people in some sort of ineffectual workers union (maybe – he actually does nothing but get thwarted all the time) and Marian and Friar Tuck are fomenting some other kind of ill-defined revolution. There’s hardly a person in Nottingham who isn’t trying to lead a coup (I blame their class-blind social model).

And that heap of silliness is before you even get on to the main scheme, which is that the Sheriff is funding the other side in the Crusades so that England will win and he and an Italian cardinal will seize absolute power from the King. Huh? So how would that work exactly?

But it’s when the film tries to get serious that it’s at its worst. Is Robin a wise cracking warrior who can’t get enough of combat, or is he suffering from crippling PTSD after his time in Iraq – sorry, the Crusades? Is the child abuse the Sheriff suffered a damning indictment on the aristocracy, and a touching revelation of vulnerability, or is it fair game for Robin to mock him about because – what? – he deserved it? And Marian is tough and clever and independent – so that makes it OK for her to exist merely to provide motivation to the male leads and flash copious amounts of cleavage. Sigh.

But having said all that, I know loads of people (mostly men, let’s be honest) who will really enjoy this film. Fun, stylish, full of action, as long as you don’t think about it too hard. Or at all. And there are plenty of film references to spot too – The Dark Knight, Ben Hur, the Italian Job (twice), and probably more (I wasn’t looking too hard).

As for me, I wish they’d gone full sci-fi and set this film in a dystopian future rather than in a lightly medievalised version of the 21st century (it wouldn’t take a particularly heavy edit to achieve that, by the way, if anyone fancies giving it a go). Then I’d be prepared to forgive a lot more because I wouldn’t know that things didn’t exist then (large glass mirrors, riot shields, brutalist architecture) or don’t work like that (alcohol, bowstrings, the relationship between the church and the state). It would still be a pile of piffle, but less ridiculous piffle.

If you are the kind of person who cares about the history behind Robin Hood, why not check out my book, Why Everything You Know about Robin Hood Is Wrong. And if you’re not – this might be the film for you.

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