'Robin Hood’ reboot brings nothing new to old story

The umpteenth retelling of the familiar story is unnecessary and verges on self-parody at points.

Immediately after the hackneyed, laughable montage that opens the new, completely unnecessary “Robin Hood” reboot, I checked my watch, only to realize that I wasn’t even wearing one. This was not the last time this happened during the film’s surprisingly-lean 116 minutes.

Taking the classic folktale and making it darker for what feels like the thousandth time, “Robin Hood” is comically disastrous. Rather than being an action epic, it nearly plays like a parody of its genre, along the lines of comedies like “Walk Hard” or “They Came Together.” It checks off nearly every expected trope quickly and shamelessly. It feels like a movie accidentally written by an artificial intelligence bot that’s been given the script for “The Dark Knight” and a PDF of royalty-free medieval folktales, with all the expected backfires that implies. Everything that’s interesting about the film seems entirely unintentional.

The greatest crime “Robin Hood” commits isn’t that it’s an embarrassingly bad film — it’s that it doesn’t offer a single convincing argument in favor of its existence. As the second gritty “Robin Hood” reboot this decade, it not only adds nothing new to the familiar story, but also doesn’t even tell the same old story in an interesting way. There’s no nuanced angle to the subject matter. Instead of going for the apparent slam-dunk of obvious political commentary, the film opts for some truly bizarre, conflicting Christian undertones instead. If it’s trying to say anything about anything, whatever it is is nearly impossible to decipher.

There’s also nothing to distinguish the film from the other gritty medieval reboots in recent years like “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” and “Jack the Giant Slayer,” except perhaps its almost surprising incompetence. The film’s visuals resemble a PlayStation 3 cutscene from 2007 (with particularly egregious overuse of slow-motion). There’s one poorly green-screened sequence toward the film’s end that would be embarrassing to see 15 years ago, and watching it now in 2018, it feels like part of some elaborate prank on the audience.

There’s also a waste of potential with the film’s cast. Taron Egerton’s charmless take on the titular character spews variants on “steal from the rich and give back to the poor” unconvincingly countless times, and does little else. It’s also always a bummer to see actors as good as F. Murray Abraham in roles as thankless as his one here — he’s only in the movie for about five minutes, and is given nothing to do with his minimal screen time.

Ben Mendelsohn seems to be the only actor in line with what the film should be, and also the only person that looks like he’s having any fun. As the unnamed Sheriff of Nottingham, he mines every ridiculous line about gathering coins or his ill-conceived plans for a war tax for accidental comedic gold. He spends most of his screen-time barking at every character with unabashed glee. His performance is “good” in the same way that Tom Hardy’s performance in “Venom” is good — it’s always fun to watch an accomplished actor go completely off the rails, no matter how silly the material.

This overwhelming blandness and familiarity would all be easy to ignore if the film didn’t pride itself so much on being a version of the story you haven’t heard before. Egerton’s voice-over narration throughout insists that this is the one true version of the “Robin Hood” story, and that all others aren’t canon — but the film never establishes or shows what makes it so different from its predecessors. Perhaps its most insulting moment regurgitating of other, slightly less terrible films, it has the audacity to set up a sequel.

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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