‘Robin Hood’ Film Review: Robs Clichés From Richer Films, Inflects Them on Poor Moviegoers

Sexist, terribly written and laden with gimmicky cinematography, this new take shouldn’t steal you away from earlier, better versions

Robin Hood 2018
Larry Horricks/Lionsgate

In the opening sequence of the latest big-screen “Robin Hood,” Lady Marian (Eve Hewson, “The Knick”) breaks into Robin’s barn to steal a horse. Carefully pacing her steps, Marian is covered in a hood, with a scarf covering half of her face and a dress that covers her up entirely — except for her chest, due to a very deep, low-cut front that has no purpose other than to show off some cleavage.

But objectifying the only woman in the cast with a speaking role isn’t the only crime “Robin Hood” commits. Rife with stereotypes, a terrible script, and odd “300”-esque cinematography that just doesn’t fit, this is not only a film nobody asked for, but also one that nobody should be forced to endure.

The story is not new; it’s essentially the same one most of us have grown up with, thanks either to the animated Disney film, the Kevin Costner “Everything I Do” version, or Ridley Scott’s revisionist prequel-like take on the classic tale. Robin (Taron Egerton, “Kingsmen: The Golden Circle”) is shipped off to war, where he meets Petit Jean (Jamie Foxx), who is captured and enslaved in chains on a boat. After Robin tries to save Jean’s son to no avail, Jean seeks his aid in getting revenge on the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) by robbing the lawman and the church to give back to the poor citizens.

Reboots and remakes are meant to introduce a new audience to a classic tale with fresh ideas and storylines that make the story relevant to modern audiences. “Robin Hood” doesn’t even try. Instead, first-time feature writers Ben Chandler and David James Kelly deliver a woefully uninspired script, with words like “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?” (That’s Marian, channeling Hannah Arendt, to Robin, even though she’s been in the front lines of their resistance for years while he’s a newbie.) This entire script could have come from a Cliff Notes summary of a novelization based on any of the previous films.

I’m not sure how the likes of Egerton, Foxx, Hewson, Mendelsohn and Jamie Dornan (as Will Scarlet) got cajoled into making this film, or what these performers thought they could make of the material. Egerton’s charm is ripped away by a character so uninspired that it’s lacks any of his star-making “Eggsy” charm from the “Kingsmen” series, while Mendelsohn phones in a repeat performance of his roles from “The Last Jedi” and “Ready Player One” (with a long futuristic trenchcoat, to boot).

Dornan — dismissable as Christian Grey (“50 Shades” franchise) but so fantastic as a brooding serial killer in the BBC series “The Fall” — brings nothing to Sherwood Forest. And poor Hewes finds herself relegated to a role that is a male fantasy version of an opinionated woman: smart but muted, with an occasional side of boobs.

Foxx gets the worst of it — not only is he shackled in chains, but he’s also forced to watch his son meet a gruesome death at the hands of an officer. Perhaps this is director Otto Bathurst’s attempt at making a statement about the many killings of black boys and men at the hands of law enforcement today, but the scene comes across as tone-deaf and completely unnecessary. The movies are full of slave narratives and violence inflicted upon black people, and “Robin Hood,” of all films, never earns the right to take on this topic, nor should it have tried.

The digital effects of the action sequences and the stylized cinematography might be appealing if either drove the story at all, but instead, it’s just an attempt to modernize the material without connecting the story to the visuals at all. We’re left to wonder where, in this medieval and impoverished city, does Robin get his leather bomber jacket? (The film’s coat game continues to distract throughout, particularly Mendelsohn’s futurist trench, which looks cool but is completely out of place and absurd, particularly when another character wears it in later scenes.)

“Robin Hood” won’t steal any hearts, nor should it rob you of your valuable time when there are so many better versions to choose from.