Robin Hood (2018) movie review: it should be outlawed

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Robin Hood 2018 red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

Ugly, garish, anachronistic like a small mean child playing with matches, and completely lacking in anything Robin Hood–y: there’s no fun, no romance, no virtue. Instead? Bizarre “aesthetics” and even worse politics.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): love the story of Robin Hood…
I’m “biast” (con): …but many of the movie versions, not so much
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, male protagonist
(learn more about this)

Another Robin Hood movie? It’s only been eight years since Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe crushed our geeky hearts by failing to give us the Gladiator-in-Sherwood-Forest movie their 2010 Robin Hood was implicitly promised to be? Ah, but never fear, this new Robin Hood is awful is its own unique ways. Right off the bat, you can tell that you’re in for something special, with the first sweeping view of the city of Nottingham featuring a suspension bridge in the background. You know: that kind of bridge that was invented in the 19th century. In America.

Anachronistic by accident? Oh no! This Robin Hood plays with anachronisms like a small mean child playing with matches: because he can, because he wants to see how much damage he can do. The body armor that Crusading knights, including Lord Robin of Loxley, wear is far more reminiscent of Kevlar vests than chainmail. Fancy ladies use hairspray for that punk-gothic look. Everyone in this Nottingham has a lovely wardrobe of machine-made clothing. Even the peasants who work in “the mines” that look like something out of Mordor… or Pittsburgh. Did the Industrial Revolution come early? Who knows? But it’s cool, it’s all cool, because Robin himself informs us in the opening narration that he “can’t remember the year” of his own origin story. “I could bore you with the history, but you wouldn’t listen,” he tells us, and you can hear the smugness in his voice.

Medieval soldiers or 21st-century riot cops? Authoritarian antics are timeless!
Medieval soldiers or 21st-century riot cops? Authoritarian antics are timeless!

This is a movie that insults its audience to its face, in its opening moments, and uses the hero we’re meant to cheer for to do it.

Things don’t get any better from here.

If the visual and cultural aesthetics — I use the word lightly — of Robin Hood are bizarre, then its ideas about politics are even worse: they’re not just anachronistic but downright nonsensical when they aren’t actively dangerous. Robin (a charmless Taron Egerton: Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Sing) returns from killing Muslims in Arabia to discover that his girl, Marian (Eve Hewson: Bridge of Spies, Blood Ties), is now with Will (Jaime Dornan: A Private War, Fifty Shades Freed), and both are working as social workers-slash-reformers in “the mines”; apparently Will has aspirations to “politics,” because that’s a thing that a peasant can have in this ridiculous pantomime of the medieval world. Robin, we had seen right from the get-go, has little sense of purpose or character, and comes across as a snide, shiftless rich kid; wanting to change the world was always down to Marian, so maybe she could have been the hero and this could have been her story? (Of course not! She’s a girl.) Even more outrageous is how “John” (Jamie Foxx: Baby Driver, Annie) follows Robin all the way back from Arabia because he has “chosen” Robin to speak truth to power, deciding to play second fiddle and magic Negro to Robin instead of leading his own rebellion against the rich and the powerful back in his own land. (John isn’t really his name; the movie’s sole attempt at humor is how multiple white Englishmen cannot pronounce his Arabic name, so they settle on calling him the most basic English name imaginable. Christ, at least the goofy Kevin Costner Prince of Thieves let Morgan Freeman be called Azeem.)

“Robin, this is the worst Medieval Times you’ve taken me to yet.”
“Robin, this is the worst Medieval Times you’ve taken me to yet.”

Anyway, between wanting to win Marian back and with “John” kicking his butt, Robin will square off against the sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn: Ready Player One, Darkest Hour). Here the political structure of this alternate universe really starts to fall apart. Somehow, the sheriff is powerful like a king, even though there’s an actual king elsewhere, and yet he also tolerates the “voice of the people.” I mean of course he’s only pretending to tolerate the peasants and their needs — he’s the bad guy — but he’s pretending to tolerate the peasants and their needs like a modern-day politician in a representative democracy does, not like an absolute despot in a monarchy does. It’s completely wacko. But then there’s also the sheriff’s evil plan, which is about using the money he’s collecting from the people of Nottingham to support Putin invading Ukraine… or basically the equivalent of whatever the hell era this movie thinks it’s taking place in. So woke! Or is it? It’s as if Robin Hood is positing that the only rich, powerful men who use the world as their own chessboard and enrich themselves at the expense of good decent ordinary working folk are cartoonish villains. Robin imagines that appealing to that distant king will actually solve the problem of the evil sheriff!

Sleek lines and full-grain leather: what all the fashionable despots are wearing this season.
Sleek lines and full-grain leather: what all the fashionable despots are wearing this season.

(Perhaps the saddest thing about this dumb movie is that it renders the usually wonderfully charismatic Mendelsohn unwatchable. I wouldn’t have thought this was possible.)

The levels upon which this movie is mindbogglingly misconceived just keep piling up the longer it goes on. It almost goes without saying that the action sequences have no context and no sense of space, so that we can never tell what is going on; this is almost a requirement for movies intended to be “gritty” nowadays. (Oh, there’s no mucking about in Sherwood Forest for this Robin Hood; it’s all happening on the “mean” yet neatly mechanically paved streets of Nottingham. Have I mentioned that this Nottingham looks like Epcot Center?) First-time feature director Otto Bathurst does not distinguish himself here, but he might be thinking that he’s walking in the footsteps of Guy Ritchie and his “gritty” and “street” King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, from last year, though why he would want to do that is a mystery: that one was a total box-office flop, coming nowhere near earning back its production budget, not even globally; critics mostly hated it too. The script is a vast realm of embarrassments; one notable lowlight is the attempt to gin up “redistribution of wealth” as a catchphrase, though there’s also a lot of jawdroppingly awful on-the-nose discussions of politics and monologuing about evil plans. (This was written by first-timers Ben Chandler and David James Kelly. How do two guys with no previous feature film credits and a script this terrible get the job? How did this get produced? Who signed off on this?)

This is an ugly, garish movie, completely lacking in anything we expect emotionally from a Robin Hood story: there’s no fun, there’s no romance, there’s no virtue. It should be outlawed. And not in a cool rebel way, either. Just banished to the woods forever.



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heatherbelles
heatherbelles
Tue, Nov 20, 2018 10:43pm

I think I might give it a miss then. As a Nottingham born lass, I have certain standards for retellings of the story, and this sounds truly dire.

Eden
Eden
Wed, Nov 21, 2018 12:17am

well I loved the movie…I think critics should stop examining the science and the math behind a movie and just watch it for what it is, pure entertainment, and not a history
documentary

Catherine Asaro
Catherine Asaro
reply to  Eden
Wed, Nov 21, 2018 1:10am

Normally I don’t react to comments like this, because I see so many of them all over the web. But maybe I’m just getting tired of this. Look, the review doesn’t say she didn’t like the movie because she examined the science and math behind it and it didn’t add up to a history documentary. She didn’t like the movie because in her opinion it didn’t work as entertainment, pure or otherwise.

Bingotus of Board
Bingotus of Board
reply to  Catherine Asaro
Wed, Nov 21, 2018 3:59am

Logic is irrelevant. Assistance is futile. We wish to prove our superior taste. We will ignore your words and thoughts and replace them with our own. Your opinions will adapt to conform to ours.

Critics are irrelevant. Reading comprehension is irrelevant. You must comply.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  Bingotus of Board
Wed, Nov 21, 2018 9:43pm

wut

Gul Potterhead
Gul Potterhead
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Thu, Nov 22, 2018 1:13pm

Shall we begin again? What color is the review traffic light?

There is one green light! What color do you see now?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Gul Potterhead
Sun, Aug 16, 2020 4:10pm

Okay, enough.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Eden
Wed, Nov 21, 2018 11:20am

This movie is not pure entertainment. It’s no entertainment.

What did you love about the movie?

ColleenSalinger2500
ColleenSalinger2500
Wed, Nov 21, 2018 8:08am

Unsurprisingly, this film is shit. I wish we’d get more controversial reviews that go against the grain… you’re apparently in the minority with films like “Mandy” and “Suspiria”. Why not review those?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  ColleenSalinger2500
Wed, Nov 21, 2018 11:23am

I will. As soon as I can. I have to prioritize the reviews that will make me some money, the ones I can syndicate in the US. Neither *Mandy* nor *Suspiria* qualify in that regard.

You can support my work, if you like, at Patreon:

https://www.patreon.com/maryannjohanson

Isobel_A
Isobel_A
Wed, Nov 21, 2018 10:20am

I saw the trailer for this the other day and thought they were trying to do A Knight’s Tale with Robin Hood, but without the humour that that film had (and where the anachronisms worked to illustrate how those things *felt* in the Middle Ages).

Mia
Mia
Sun, Aug 16, 2020 4:10pm

i loved this movie it was absolute amazing to say the least its different than all the other robin hood movies and yes it might not be historically accurate but this movie kept me on my toes and made me smile or gasp of shock throughout the whole movie and i love the story-line behind it people need to be more accepting when it comes to new movies or remakes coming out you cant have a movie be identical to the others and the whole point of movies is storytelling in which this movie did amazing in my opinon and i will be seeing it on a regular basis until it comes out on dvd

Mike
Mike
Thu, Nov 22, 2018 6:19am

Remember that this is entirely opinionated. Despite that, to say that this movie did not give you any entertainment is just confusing in my opinion. Seeing this movie with the expectation of a normal Robin Hood would be a bit immature. It is apparent that it wasnt meant to be watch like that. Whether this movie is good or not is another topic entirely, but was it fun? I would said that it is at least enjoyable.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Mike
Thu, Nov 22, 2018 10:34am

Remember that this is entirely opinionated.

Oh noes! You’ve revealed my big secret! My film criticism is entirely opinionated. And no one was supposed to ever know.

Seeing this movie with the expectation of a normal Robin Hood would be a bit immature.

LOL. I’m not sure what you think “immature” means.

I *do* have certain expectations from a Robin Hood story, just like I have certain expectations from, say, a Superman story. Some basics simply are immutable, and if you change them, what you’re left with is something that is not recognizably Robin Hood (or Superman).

was it fun?

No. How is my stance on this in any way unclear from my review?

Lucy Gillam
reply to  Mike
Sun, Aug 16, 2020 4:10pm

Remember that this is entirely opinionated.

Dude, what exactly do you think movie reviews are?

MaryAnn Johanson
Thu, Nov 22, 2018 10:32am

“Different” is not automatically “good.”

Mia
Mia
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sun, Aug 16, 2020 4:10pm

Maybe not but in my personal opinion different is good I believe the movie is amazing and it geunilly shocks me why movie critics (you) bash it so much I throughly enjoyed the experience that much I went to to cinema today and rewatched it and alas my opinon has not changed I love that it’s different and shows another story of robin rather than watching like 3 movies which all have the same premises it’s 2018 learn to accept difference

Stacy Livitsanis
Stacy Livitsanis
Thu, Nov 22, 2018 11:02am

Looks like Christmas is called off again. Does this movie merit a merciful beheading? The 1991 Prince of Thieves movie is pretty terrible, but at least it has full-panto Alan Rickman to bring it momentarily to life. Just like King Arthur, these Public Domain properties with ye smug or gritty white male leads are dying hard. Of course I don’t WANT these movies to be terrible, but well, here we are. (I tried to watch that Guy Ritchie King Arthur movie, but life being finite, gave up after ten minutes.)

Tonio Kruger
Tonio Kruger
reply to  Stacy Livitsanis
Thu, Nov 22, 2018 4:03pm

And at least John Boorman’s Excalibur had a young Helen Mirren. Plus Nicol Williamson hamming it up all over the place. Plus shiny anachronistic armor — oh, wait, we’re supposed to hate that. Never mind.

Stacy Livitsanis
Stacy Livitsanis
reply to  Tonio Kruger
Sun, Aug 16, 2020 4:10pm

Ooh Excalibur. Haven’t seen that in decades. Think I’ll watch that again. I don’t care how anachronistic a movie is as long as it isn’t boring. ‘Don’t Be Boring’ is Movie Law #1. Besides, Excalibur is fantasy. Hmm, might as well jump right to Zardoz or Conan or Willow. Willow is still the only film I know of that ends with two mature sorceresses having a magic battle (Jean Marsh as Bavmorda and Patricia Hayes as Fin Raziel). Haven’t seen anything like that since.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Stacy Livitsanis
Sun, Aug 16, 2020 4:10pm

Costner’s Robin Hood is awful but a lot of fun. There’s no fun at all in this one. None.

rick
rick
Sun, Aug 16, 2020 4:10pm

Did you catch the line in the movie where they say that Nottingham “is in lockdown”? LOL