The new retelling of the classic story Robin Hood hit theaters this weekend. Read on to see if you should take the kids (no) or even go yourself (again, no).
1. What is it about?
It’s mostly the classic tale of Robin of Locksley (Taron Egerton) and his attempts to redistribute wealth in medieval England. This one borrows heavily from 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves by making Robin a recently-returned Crusader and his main sidekick an Arab soldier he brings back with him, although in this telling, the Arab fills the role of John (Jamie Foxx).
All of the other characters are present, including Marion (Eve Hewson), Friar Tuck (Tim Minchin), and Will Scarlet (Jamie Dornan), and, of course, the villain is as always the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn), aided by Guy of Guisbourne (Paul Anderson).
That said, there are a few key differences. Neither Prince John nor King Richard are present or even mentioned, so the Sheriff’s boss this time in an unnamed Cardinal (F. Murray Abraham). Also, the movie begins with Robin and Marion in a relationship, but then upon his return, he discovers that he was presumed dead and so she has moved on to Will Scarlett, so rather than Will being a close ally of Robin’s, they are more often at odds.
2. Do they at least get the historical period right?
The movie opens with a voice-over from Tuck who says something like “I could tell you the year, but it doesn’t matter.” And as I mentioned, they go out of their way to not specifically name England’s king. I think in some ways there were attempts to not set the movie in any particular time, but then they did make sure to show the “draft notice” Robin gets sending him to war, and that very clearly identifies the war as the Third Crusade, which was from 1189-1192. So much for vague time periods.
I didn’t stick around to watch all of the credits, but I’m assuming the producers must have hired a historical consultant. And I’m saying that because, even if you know nothing at all about the medieval period beyond what you’ve seen while playing Assassin’s Creed, you’re likely to at least accidentally get a few things right. So the only possible reason why this movie gets absolutely everything wrong about the time period can only have been by intent. It can only have been having a person on set saying, “no, sorry, that looks a tiny bit like something someone in 1200 would have worn, so you’ll need to change it.”
Just take a look at the costume worn by Mendelsohn throughout the entire movie (honestly—he never once changes his clothes, even though it’s implied the movie takes place over several months). It’s a Steve Jobs black turtleneck under a grey leather trenchcoat with giant lapels. The height of fashion? Sure… in about six hundred years.
And while I give credit to the movie for making Marion a strong, independent woman and not a “maid,” her wardrobe consists of nothing but dresses with plunging necklines.
Nottingham is shown here as a kind of steampunk fantasy, complete with “mines” across the river that are constantly off-venting something and tightly packed slums lifted right from the hills around modern Rio.
And need I even talk about the combat scenes, with the Crusades depicted as the Afghan war with bows and arrows (and rapid-fire crossbow “cannons”) to the liberal use of bombs? Yes, bombs. The movie actually contains a scene showing a character through a round piece of metal with a burning fuse sticking out the top. Emoji combat, of course, in slow motion, to make certain there was no chance you might miss it.
3. Is it at least enjoyable?
I have a friend who has argued in the past that every movie takes place in its own reality. The movie might look like our world, the people may talk like we do, and the places might look like ours, but in the end, it’s a different reality. And so, a few minutes into the movie, I tried to remind myself of that. It’s fine that nothing in England in 1200 looked like this movie because the movie is in its own 1200 England. Maybe that reality invented emoji bombs by then. Maybe they had iron railroad rails and crossbows designed by Gatling and black turtlenecks. Maybe everyone carried pounds of coins around with them at all times and lords served as common soldiers and people could travel pretty much instantly from Rome and they held casino nights in the castle (yes, that is a thing that really happens in this movie). If I could just accept that, I could perhaps relax and enjoy the film for what it is.
But then we hit the second major issue: the movie simply isn’t that interesting. It mostly plods along, making sure to never miss a chance to hit a Robin Hood cliche. There’s not a moment in the movie that you can’t see coming from miles away. Besides a few social commentary moments (“redistribution of wealth” is an actual phrase used by Robin at one point), the movie never tries to do anything new or different with the story. Even the big reveal at the end that is supposed to shock the audience (and set up the oh-god-please-hope-they-don’t-make-a-sequel) isn’t at all shocking.
I could have found a way to accept the alternate reality of the movie if it hadn’t been boring. But as it turned out, I had little to keep my mind occupied beyond the historical anachronisms.
And you don’t have to take my word for it: as of the time of this writing, it has a 14% Rotten Tomatoes score.
4. Should I take the kids?
No. Not because there’s anything terribly offensive (more on that in a moment), but because it’s hard to justify spending your time and money on this drivel while Ralph Breaks the Internet is also in theaters.
5. What’s the movie rated and why?
The movie was given a PG-13 by the MPAA for “extended sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive references.” The violence part is obvious, and I guess you can mostly call what happens “action.” The “suggestive references” I’m a bit less clear about. Marion lives first with Robin, and then later with Will, so I guess that might count? But there is certainly no nudity or even a “suggestive” love scene, and the violence, while pervasive, isn’t at all gory.
There was also one instance of the “s” word that I noticed.
6. When’s a good time for a pee break?
The movie is officially 1 hour and 56 minutes long, but the credits must be really long because I was out of the theater about an hour forty after the movie started. Assuming you know something about the traditional Robin Hood story, there’s nothing important you’re going to miss regardless of when you go. There is an exceptionally silly training montage when John teaches Robin, who has already been shown to be an expert marksman with a bow, how to shoot and forces him to work out despite Edgerton already being in almost impossibly good physical condition. But it’s probably too early in the movie to really be a good break.
7. Is it worth seeing in large format?
It’s not honestly worth seeing in small format, but it’s certainly not worth paying for large format.
There were scenes along the way that seemed to have been filmed for 3D. I don’t know if there is a 3D version–there aren’t any screenings where I live—but if so, the same thing applies: don’t pay extra to see this movie.
8. Is there anything after the credits?
9. So, franchise?
It’s very clear that the movie is structured to be the first in a new series of films. Minor spoiler ahead—you can leave now if you don’t want to know anything else about the movie.
The movie is basically a Robin Hood origin story, and ends with Robin and his outlaws fleeing to Sherwood Forest, and a new Sheriff (because, obviously, Mendelsohn’s character dies) vowing to hunt them down to the last man and woman.
So there’s yet another reason to skip this movie: going to see it only encourages them to make more. From that perspective, I’m actually a bit sorry I gave them my $9.