Hi. Until this moment, I’m not sure we’ve properly met. My name is Aly, and I’m complete Robin Hood trash.
If you’re looking for a critical takedown of Robin Hood, Summit and Lionsgate’s latest attempt to kickstart a franchise since both Twilight and The Hunger Games ended, I’m sorry, I can’t help you. This movie is so stupid, but I loved it so much. I’m Robin Hood trash.
“It’s not my fault!” I’d protest in my best Han Solo voice if this wasn’t a fact that has basically been stamped on my forehead since birth. I grew up with The Adventures of Robin Hood (we stan Errol/Olivia) and Disney’s Robin Hood (we stan a hot fox) and imprinted upon BBC’s short-lived Robin Hood series pretty hard in college when I was overwhelmed and needed an outlet (we stan Richard Armitage in leather). One time I found a Mumford & Sons cover of “Not in Nottingham” and veritably lost my shit. I’ve never seen Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves or Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood because I find their very existence offensive to me on a personal level. (Oh, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights is fine, I guess.)
My Robin Hood opinions are … strong, to say the least.
So I, of all people, probably should not have enjoyed this new Robin Hood. Directed by Otto Bathurst, whose biggest claims to fame so far are “The National Anthem” episode of Black Mirror and the first three episodes of Peaky Blinders, and written by newcomers Ben Chandler and David James Kelly, it doesn’t exactly have an A-list pedigree. It has a cast that, when you look at the credits and see who’s playing whom, you cock your head to the side and think, “Really? That guy?” And it has a setting and style that are ahistorical at best (an industrialized Nottingham in the Middles Ages? Sure, why not?) and ridiculously incomprehensible at worst (the King is never mentioned because the Church — presumably Catholic but who the fuck knows — more or less controls England? The three nameless lords of Nottingham vote on … war tax bills? Oh, now we’re doing Baby’s First Communist Revolution? What is happening).
Like, sure. All of that isn’t great. Some of it is actively bad. The direction and writing leave a lot to be desired, particularly when it comes to the action sequences (DID YOU KNOW BOWS ARE JUST LIKE GUNS IF YOU SHOOT THE ARROWS FAST ENOUGH?!?!) and because the whole movie blatantly steals its best beats from The Dark Knight, but I just don’t care. If any of the latest crop of shitty cash-grab, barely conceived franchises gets a sequel, I want it to be this one.
There’s no good reason for it beyond my aforementioned status as Robin Hood trash. Taron Egerton is fine as Robin, Eve Hewson is fine as Marian, and together they are pretty and rebellious and fine. I honestly have no idea why Jamie Foxx (playing a Moorish Little John) and Ben Mendelsohn (playing the hammiest version of Rogue One’s Krennic in the Sheriff of Nottingham) are even in this movie except that maybe Leonardo DiCaprio, who produced the film, gave them a call and in his best Wolf of Wall Street voice was like, “Hey boys, ya want some easy money?” Jamie Dornan is also there as the blandest corner of the most unnecessary love triangle you can possibly imagine, and Tim Minchin is Tim Minchin, and F. Murray Abraham, Salieri himself, dude: What happened to your career?! Of the entire cast, the person I was most excited to see in this movie was Paul Anderson as Guy of Gisborne, because he’s Arthur Fucking Shelby and he obviously filmed this in between episodes of Peaky Blinders because he’s still got his Arthur Fucking Shelby hair (iconic!).
Again, nothing to write home about. But this Robin Hood movie? It checked all my Robin Hood boxes, and so how could I possibly hate it? It’s got a Robin who comes home from a war and wants to change things, mostly because the people around him are smarter than he is and tell him he has to but also because he’s the charming dope who can best spark a fire. It’s got a Marian who has her own agenda and never lets herself be reduced to a damsel in distress. It’s got delicious villains decked out in leather and sneer. And it has something to say about war and power and class systems and outsiders, even if it’s not exactly smart enough to figure out what. (A thinly veiled response to the Iraq War, BBC’s Robin Hood did that last one much better.)
Still, it’s missing a lot. By the time the movie ends, it becomes pretty clear why its working title was Robin Hood: Origins. King Richard and Prince John aren’t even mentioned, and the movie kind of anticlimactically ends with Robin and most (but not all) of his Merry People escaping to Sherwood Forest. There’s a weird twist that makes someone a villain who probably shouldn’t be, and the stakes of Robin and Marian’s revolution are never really clear. It’s kind of a bummer the writers obviously reserved some of the most iconic Robin Hood tropes — including his green outfit — for their sequel pitch, because while I enjoyed this movie, I’m not an idiot: There’s an extremely slim chance this franchise will grow beyond its first installment.
And I’m guessing I’m about one of three people who will be sad about that. Is this movie good? Oh, god, no. But is it a fun, why-the-hell-not two hours at the movies during a week when a lot of people could use a mindless break, realize they never bothered to see the first Wreck-It Ralph (hi) and don’t want to look at a bloated, abusive Johnny Depp (WHO STOLE ARTHUR FUCKING SHELBY’S HAIRCUT AND MADE IT STUPIDER) for two-and-a-half? Oh, hell, yes.
Sure, there are better Robin Hood movies out there. None will ever really compare to The Adventures of Robin Hood, and it would be laughable to suggest this potential franchise will ever reach that level of quality and perfection of tone. But look, sometimes you just need some trash in your life. This Robin Hood is my preferred flavor. I’ll take six more, please.