Cinema Dispatch: Robin Hood

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Robin Hood and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate

Directed by Otto Bathurst

Oh BOY is this gonna be a good one!  Can’t you just feel it!?  The trailers have looked awful, no one is talking about this and if they are it’s not in a positive light, and they’re just dumping this against a huge nostalgic franchise on Thanksgiving!  Lionsgate clearly believes they have a bomb on their hands here and from everything they’ve deigned to show us I can’t entirely disagree, but  then there are a lot of movies that didn’t have the full confidence of their studio yet still turned out great, from my beloved Jupiter Ascending to even the cult classic Donnie Darko!  Will this be another example of a good movie stuck with bad marketing and a poorly timed release date?  Yeah, probably not, but let’s find out!!

Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) is some rich punk in the town of Nottingham who meets her true love Marion (Eve Hewson) trying to steal a horse from him.  Eh, he’s rich.  Possessions are utterly meaningless to him anyway.  They’re have a whirlwind romance through montage which is abruptly brought to an end when it turns out that the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) has drafted him to join the crusades.  Okay… I thought the armies retaking the Holy Land were volunteers, but I guess if the Sheriff of Nottingham wanted Robin out of the city that he could pull some strings and force him into service.  Wait, why does the Sheriff of Nottingham want him gone?  Oh whatever.  During his military service he manages to be THE BEST SOLIDER EVER but also TOO SWEET to survive in such a place, so after trying to save a captured POW from being executed, he’s non-fatally shot by his CO and sent back to England.  Surprise for Robin though, the father of the POW who he tried to save stowed away and wants to use him to take down the oppressive system in Nottingham, and after a pretty racist joke about foreigners having WACKY names, he starts going by the name John (Jamie Foxx).  It doesn’t take much to convince Robin to join this fight since The Sheriff literally stripped away every last valuable from his home (including his parents I assume) as well as punched a bunch of holes in the walls, and on top of that Marion was told that he had died and is now married to some dude named Will (Jamie Dornan).  With all this rich white boy angst, Robin begins to steal from the rich and give to the poor which soon earns his alter ego a nickname; THE HOOD!  Will Robin and John manage to smash Medieval Capitalism (which I guess is Serfdom here?) and create a socialist Utopia in the heart of thirteenth century England!?  What is The Sheriff’s REAL beef with him and the people of this town, and is he planning something more sinister than just taking all their stuff?  Is it just me, or is a lot of this sounding very familiar!?

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“OH MY GOD!  ARE YOU GREEN ARROW!?”

Woof.  I don’t know whether to pat this movie on the back for giving it their all or punch it in the stomach for mishandling its subject matter to such an astonishing degree, but in either case this is truly a marvel to behold.  I mean it’d be bad enough if it was just another slickly made but utterly dull action film in the vein of Gods of Egypt or Ready Player One, but this film has AMBITIONS!  Oh yes, it’s here to BE something and to have a message for the masses like Sorry to Bother You or even Mad Max: Fury Road, yet all it can manage to put together is the full length version of that tone oblivious Pepsi commercial where Kendall Jenner solves racial disparity in the US with a sub par soft drink.  Now look, I’m not political scientist and my social consciousness credentials have some serious caveats what with me being a middle class white dude who spends his time watching movies and coming up with terrible jokes instead of doing anything useful for society, so I’m not gonna have the most poignant things to say about its philosophical standpoint.  That said, even I can see that this movie is full of crap from top to bottom, and even WITHOUT all that it’s still just a paint by numbers knock off of Guy Ritchie; so much so that I can’t decide if this or King Arthur is worse.

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You’re not gonna turn into a Soul Calibur villain at the end, are you?

Before we even touch the faux-populist messaging of this film, let’s just look at it as a straightforward action film and how it holds up in that regard.  Pretty poorly all things considered!  I mean I’m no expert on Robin Hood Lore and couldn’t tell you if any of this is from the original stories, but this reminds me less of a dashing rogue stealing from the rich and giving to the poor than it does that Ben-Hur remake from like two years ago that you all forgot about.  I mean WAS he a rich dude who had all his stuff taken from the Nottingham government after he was sent off to die in some other country?  At least in Ben-Hur they explained HOW the rich boy got himself in trouble and WHY the people who put him there were motivated to do so!  Here, I have ABSOLUTELY no idea why Robin is the ONLY rich dude the Sheriff messes with (are his parents even alive at the beginning of this movie!?) considering he only seems to have ire for the poor and “working class”, and it’s a question that hangs over the entire ridiculous movie.  If he wanted Marion, that would be something.  Not a GOOD explanation and frankly one I wouldn’t have gone with if I was writing this, but what we have here is NOTHING!  Robin of Loxley becomes Robin Hood because I guess The Sheriff messed with the wrong rich white dude and on top of that can’t even suss out that the guy he screwed over and has just resurface from war is the MYSTERIOUS THIEF with expert combat skills.  I at least buy that Bruce Wayne can plausibly pull off being Batman, but THIS guy?  Heck no!

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“Perhaps The Hood is closer than you think!”     “Is it you!?  Are you The Hood!?”     “What!?  NO!  Of course not!  How ridiculous!”

What makes this all even more obnoxious is the film making itself which I’m having trouble putting into words, but it just LOOKS smug and arrogant.  I don’t understand the costuming one bit as I may not be an expert in medieval clothing, but I don’t think people were wearing fitted leather dusters or wearing modern day high heels.  I’ll grant that SOME variation on these PROBABLY existed, but the clothes in here look like they were made from high end fashion designers and not stitched together by hand craftsmen thirteenth century England.  Now to be fair, there SEEMS to be a definite sense of modern stylize to everything here, so the costumes aren’t as out of place when in the context of the larger film (there are straight up arrow firing guns and riots shields), and this is far from the only film guilty of modernizing the look of Ye’ Olde Tymes.  More than anything else, it just feels too… slick I guess.  Overly calculated would be another way to put it.  Nothing in here has any particular heart to it which is what you need to invest in the characters and the world (Ron Howard’s The Grinch and Robert Altman’s Popeye are PHENOMENAL examples of extreme stylization that still manages to feel real and genuine) and so everything is just hollowly co-opting other looks; some to rather distasteful ends.  The scenes of Robin in The Crusades are shot EXACTLY the same way a lot of War on Terror movies were shot which I guess makes sense since this movie is so cynically trying to tap into Millennial Angst.

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“I love the smell of napalm in the morning!  It smells like… YOLO!”

And I guess now is as good a time as any to try and get into the heavy stuff, so let’s jump right in.  I think this movie’s particular brand of populist uprising, while NOT the worst thing out there, is DEEPLY problematic and stems from some rather obvious issues when trying to push a leftist message through a mass marketed studio system.  Again, not an expert here, but I’d boil it down to two problems; First, a focus on an individual savior, and second, that savior being an upper class white guy in a world where that isn’t IMMEDIATELY an issue.  This is class warfare and nothing else which is certainly a PART of the problems we face today, but it ignores race, gender, sexual identity, and plenty of other factors that a simple economic divide cannot account for.  Again, if it NEEDS to be repeated one more time, The SCROTUS wasn’t elected due to “economic anxiety”, it was mostly along racial lines with upper middle class white people being the overwhelming amount of SCROTUS voters but the majority of votes for him in each economic class came from white people.  This MATTERS because the movie isn’t just a straightforward fantasy narrative about a guy taking money from rich people; it draws direct and explicit parallels to the modern day political climate and I believe that if you’re gonna do that you have to do it right.  The sheriff starts spouting SCROTUS lines about immigration and what not, but there isn’t any follow through on that since immigration is not a factor in this movie.  Speaking of which, the film goes into some pretty shady areas of propaganda with the extent to which EVERY bad guy in this film is either over the top in their villainy or completely dehumanized (all the “cops” wear face obscuring “body armor”) which AGAIN is a problem because of how closely this pulls from modern political issues.  That’s not saying we should sympathize with our oppressors either.  ABSOLUTELY NOT.  To me, the new She-Ra show kind of has the best approach to its villains in that all of them are relatable and to a certain extent sympathetically motivated, but the film never frames their villainy as anything else but that.  As friendly and endearing as Scorpia is, there’s no doubt that her actions are evil and must be stopped.  That’s right!  A movie that is VERY explicit about being a message film that relates to our modern day political climate can’t even match the nuance and tough realities that are confronted in a TV show aimed at children; one that doesn’t have a noxious bro-gressive attitude.

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“GREEN LIVES MATTER!”     “You’re not even wearing green!”

This film’s crime isn’t that it’s just a bad movie; it’s that it thinks it’s a GREAT one and you can feel the smug satisfaction coming off the screen every moment of its run time which admittedly makes it all the more hilarious to sit through but I doubt that’s what they were going for.  I’m honestly curious who is going to be defending this film because as confident as I am that I don’t enjoy this movie, I can’t speak with as much assurance that there’s no value in making a big budgeted left-leaning studio action film even if it’s as ham-fisted as this one.  Then again, it’s so very confused about what it’s ACTUALLY trying to say and even leans into some areas that I WOULDN’T say are particularly leftist or reflective of their beliefs (isn’t it the other side who says that LEFTIST will take everything rich people own to fund a useless government?) so even if there ARE defenders out there I don’t think they’d rate this higher than a mixed bag or be coming at it from a position worth taking all that seriously.  More than ANY of that though, this is just a terrible movie that’s boring and severely underwritten and I don’t recommend seeing it in theaters unless you need something to poke fun and laugh at for an hour and a half.  Hey, I don’t judge!  You think I have a copy of Transformers 5 and King Arthur on Blu-ray because I think they’re genuinely good films!?

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