Robin Hood has long been admired for his daring exploits to steal from the rich to give to the poor and ever since he first hit the screen, in hood and tights in Lincoln green, writers have been keen to create new insights into some aspect of the people’s hero.
In Otto Bathurst’s latest version, the usual order of events and stereotypical characterisations are revised and the film bursts into action almost immediately with Marian actively pursuing a social change agenda which inspires Robin of Loxley to pursue her.
The romance is rudely interrupted when Robin is drafted into the army to fight in the Crusades, where he and his men appear more like a modern combat unit as they negotiate street fighting and retreat from an ambush.
The writers (Ben Chandler and David James Kelly) have created a new background, and one with considerably more depth to the relationship between Little John and Robin, who behaves honourably even while others around him commit war atrocities.
Taron Egerton, as Robin or “Rob”, strikes a sensible balance as handsome hero, dignified nobleman and people’s friend, and he develops a believable on-screen romance with Eve Hewson’s Marian, who is portrayed as someone of importance in creating social change rather than just Hood’s accessory.
Jamie Foxx is impressive as Little John; he has been given good reason to seek justice and revenge and he is more a partner than a follower of Robin. Tim Minchin presents a quirky Friar Tuck, seemingly innocuous and simple, but with more to his character than might first be thought.
There is subtlety and nuance in Ben Mendelsohn’s performance as the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham, and the writers have given some insight into the personal story which helps explain his nature and motivations. Jamie Dornan, as Will Scarlet, is more of a people’s politician who appears sincerely interested in the long-term welfare of the oppressed masses – but circumstances can cause even a politician to compromise their values.
Robin Hood is an action movie with variations on the well-known story, loads of interest, social commentary and energy. The costumes give the film a modern feel, while the fight sequences are in the style of comic-book franchises and the stirring music works well in carrying the action along.
Significantly, this Robin Hood is not about a lord and lady saving the peasantry, but suggests instead that a major change in the power structure of society will come about only if the people express their will.
Given its new look and dialogue – which resonates with contemporary politics, racial issues and the continued inequalities between the rich and the poor – this fresh take on the tale of old will bring a new generation of fans to a popular folk lore hero.
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