‘Robin Hood’ (2018) – An action-packed film that misses its mark

As I walked into the Commodore Cinema to watch this film, I remarked just how vacant the theatre was. I’d never seen it so empty in my 2 and a half years of watching films here. I almost felt bad for the Commodore, a cinema I adore with all my heart, that was basically deserted at half 7 as the film (but let’s be real, I mean the adverts) was about to start. Though it eventually began to fill, I couldn’t help but notice how low the turn-out was for an opening night of a movie starring Aberystwyth’s homegrown superstar Taron Egerton. Maybe that says a lot about this film, and its lack of hype for a blockbuster based on a story that’s been retold time and time again unsuccessfully. Or perhaps no one wanted to leave the comfort of their own home and venture out into the strong winds outside. Either is a possibility. Whatever the case may be, I went into this film with little to no expectations, and to my complete and utter shock, I also left with that very lack of expectation. By no means is Otto Bathurst’s Robin Hood an awful film as its 16% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes suggests, but it’s not exactly what I’d call a great film either.

I should probably start this review by explaining the plot because I’m already beginning to forget it. The film begins with an omniscient voice-over telling the audience to “forget what you think you know” of the tale, which means that this movie is about to become the typical Hollywood re-telling of a classical legend that will completely diverge from its actual story. The first scenes open with Marion (Eve Hewson), who begins to make out with Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) before being rudely interrupted, and there is no build-up to their relationship whatsoever. Instead, they just jump straight in and the audience is left to feel nothing towards their estrangement once Robin is enlisted to the Crusades. Somewhere along the line we cut to the actual Crusades war against the Saracens, where Robin meets Yahya/John (Jamie Foxx) and fails to saves his son from execution. John later enlists Robin to his own personal army once they land back in England, and together they join the fight against the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendlesohn) by attempting to steal his riches to give back to the townspeople, or at least that’s what I think happens. I should also add that this summary is a very abridged version of the story. There is much more that I have already forgot. Oh, there’s also a love triangle in there somewhere too that involves Jamie Dornan, but more of that later. The plot of this film is so twisty, and never seems to proceed in a one continuous line. It’s confusing at times and made worse at others by the emergence and disappearance of characters.

Elsewhere, the casting of this film is bizarre. Taron Egerton plays Robin Hood, bringing his Kingsman charm to a film that, to be honest, didn’t need it. In more serious scenes, his portrayal of the thief felt somewhat overacted at times, but on the brighter side this was counterbalanced by his charisma and natural ease in action scenes. You can tell that Egerton is a leading man. Ben Mendlesohn, on the other hand, basically played every character that Ben Mendlesohn has ever played in what I now dub as Ben Mendlesohn Shouting: The Movie. His very job in this movie is to act menacing and loudly shout throughout the whole thing, and honestly, I was bored by the end of it. He’s a good actor, but in this film, he’s tiring to watch on screen. I also thought it was worth pointing out that somewhere along the line, in a strange twist of events, his character walks through fire and it’s probably the funniest thing about this film. It seems there’s nothing that can stop this man.

Eve Hewson plays the typical two-dimensional female character of Marion. She is simply the rose between two thorns throughout, and even as the only female in the film, there is no real depth or substance to her presence. Like many other female characters in Hollywood, she is the love interest, and that’s it. It’s a real shame. Jamie Foxx as John is great, but he probably wishes he never signed up for this film, and funnily enough I also think the same thing. Maybe it’s the writing of this film, but it also felt as if Taron and Jamie had no real chemistry, although perhaps that’s because we don’t get to see enough of John. Jamie Dornan is the real star of this film however, and he is underappreciated. Dornan plays Will Scarlet, the other half of the so-called ‘love triangle’. He’s a brilliant actor and doesn’t get near enough screen time. He may be the only actor who truly feels like he belongs in this movie. It’s a shame then that his character is paid dust and left to watch his wife kiss her ex whilst he gets injured on the battlefield. This guy can’t catch a break. On the other hand, it means that Dornan is set up as the villain at the end of the film for what I presume the studio wanted to be a sequel. Whether that will happen or not, only time can tell.

Other things that felt wrong in this film include outfits, hair and makeup. Half of the time Marion walks around looking like a celebrity with perfect hair and eyeshadow, despite the fact that she is meant to be poor. It’s nice to know that Marion can find the time for self-care amongst this mess, because I certainly can’t. Robin and Marion’s outfits also do not resemble anything that a poor person of the time would wear, and it leaves me to question what it was exactly that the costume designers were thinking going into this film? The outfits are pretty, but unless these characters use their stolen money to go shop at Gucci then I’m not sure how they can afford such beautiful leather jackets and corsets. That being said, it’s not all gloom and doom. The action scenes treat bow and arrows like they’re guns, but I honestly think that’s a good thing. It was nice to see a film that is so heavily reliant on high-budget action not utilise guns or anything of the sort. It’s refreshing to watch and brings something different to the table. These fight scenes are well choreographed, and they are where Egerton shines the most. The use of colour in this movie is also nice, and it sets the mood of the scene effectively.

Though I do not have many good things to say about Robin Hood, I wouldn’t necessarily call it an awful film, because it’s not. It is entirely watchable. If you can get past some cringy dialogue, close-up shots that involve lots of evil stares, Mendlesohn being Mendlesohn and a confusing plot, then this film is fine. Although, I don’t seem to be selling it much. It’s not a film I’d watch again, but it’s also not a film that made me fall asleep whilst watching so that’s always a positive. By the end of the film, it feels like you have viewed a high-budget BBC drama. If I’m being honest, I’d have rather been watching Wreck-it-Ralph 2 or Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, but I guess we can’t always get what we want. If you like Robin Hood, and you love a good action movie, then this one is for you. For me however, this movie felt like an ambitious project that unfortunately had no pay off to show for it. Robin Hood may launch its shot, but in the midst of the action it manages to miss its target.

Robin Hood is playing at the Commodore Cinema every night until the 13th December, at 7:30pm.