The folkloric public-domain outlaw gets another cinematic spin in this fairly ludicrous sub-action-epic rethink of the character evidently thrown together to spawn a series – but it’ll never happen.
Previously played by everyone from Errol Flynn, Patrick Troughton and Sean Connery to Kevin Costner, John Cleese and Russell Crowe, this casts Birkenhead boy and dull Kingsmen star Taron Egerton in the lead role, and he looks about 12 and comes on like a cocky, surly Cockney more likely to chug a pint than fire a deadly arrow.
Handled by first-time feature director Otto Bathurst, it’s a jadedly ‘inclusive’ effort that alters the basic story yet again, adds a ridiculous semi-‘steampunk’ edge and never truly finds its proper footing. But that’s not surprising in an American-financed filming of a famously English character’s adventures populated with US, UK and Aussie actors and filmed in Croatia and France but with endless FX to hopefully make you think it’s actually set in some medieval nowheresville.
Egerton’s Robin of Loxley is introduced via a voiceover that was probably added at the last minute. We then see him apprehend young Marian (Irish actress Eve Hewson) while she’s trying to steal one of his family’s horses, leading to a goofy romance cut short by his drafting into the army. We then leap to four years later to a drawn-out sequence in Arabia (although it obviously wasn’t filmed there) and staged as if it’s a modern war movie while Robin and his comrades are shot at by an improbable motorised bow and arrow.
A convoluted series of events has Robin try to spare the life of a Moor whose Anglicised name is (Little?) John, and he’s played by Texan Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx with a moderately convincing accent. Somehow he and Robin wind up back in England two years later and team up to take on the oh-so-corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham (Aussie Ben Mendelsohn). What happened to Robin’s treason charges? How did John stowaway on the boat for three damn months? Come on, why did you ever bother asking for credibility?
Marian thought that Robin was dead and now she’s on with Will Scarlet (Irishman Jamie Dornan from the Fifty Shades Of Grey trio), while Robin finds an ally in a not-quite-virtuous and unusually skinny Friar Tuck (the Northampton-born, Perth-raised Tim Minchin, of all people). Mendelsohn’s Sheriff also has laughably satirical anti-Middle-East and anti-immigration speeches straight out of the George W Bush, Donald Trump and Scott Morrison playbook, and later he offers a bizarre, pseudo-traumatic monologue about being beaten as a child where he keeps forgetting that he’s not meant to be Australian.
Naturally Robin and John set about the stealing-from-the-rich-and-giving-to-the-poor biz, and there’s another departure from the classic story as Robin adopts an alter ego – Robin Hood – like a superhero, and all the bad guys are so colossally stupid that they can’t tell that it’s him. And, of course, he’s called Robin Hood because he wears a preposterously anachronistic hoodie. Get it?
As dopey as last year’s similarly wannabe-revamping King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword, if not quite as tedious, this was clearly intended as a rollicking, sequel-friendly good time, but the finished result is gutless, soulless and pointless, and about as much fun as, well, Taron Egerton.