Nothing Medieval To See Here: Robin Hood (2018)

Much slated, this Robin Hood has its fair share of detractors (and not just Team Sheriff of Nottingham). Whilst it has its issues, there is much to like, enjoy and be charmed by as Robin Hood (aka Lord Loxley aka Kingsman Taron Egerton) seeks to steal from the rich and give back to the poor.

All is well with Robin, Lord Loxley — he has a manor, he has Marian by his side (Eve Hewson). Love is in the air. Then he has a summons to give service to the king by going to fight in the Crusades — there he sees appalling brutality (very Iraq War commentary — think Hurt Locker, but with arrows). There he encounters Jammie Foxx (soon to be Little John because no one can pronounce Yahya ibn Umar), witnesses the needless slaughter of this man’s son and starts questioning the mission and justice. Sent back to the UK as a traitor, Robin encounters his delipidated estate (ransacked by the Sheriff of Nottingham who’d had him declared legally dead two years before, whoops!); very married Marian and the power centre that is the Sheriff of Nottingham, played by Ben Mendelsohn — going beyond Alan Rickman Sheriff of Nottingham parody into a whole new stratosphere of cancelling Christmas.

But Jammie Foxx has a plan — to get justice for himself, his people and for Robin too — as a master fighter, he will train up Robin and unleash hell upon the Sheriff’s regime. Robin is unconvinced by this — then he sees the plight that the miners are in and decides to get in on the training. Plus, he has a great score to train along to (all the best bits of Divergent), and really needs to prove that he en’t dead or a traitor — something the Sheriff of Nottingham and his former commander, Guy of Gisborne have issues with.

In order to infiltrate the Sheriff’s network, Robin schmoozes his way in the rich party world of Nottingham (encountering dodgy churchmen — corrupt Cardinal F Murray Abraham and even more terrible fashion) along with Marian and Will Scarlett/Tillman who are both leading the fight on behalf of the oppressed miners. A mysterious figure, ‘the Hood’ keeps nicking the Sheriff’s money — Lord Robin needs to both show his loyalty and impress married Marian.

Beyond anachronistic, no one wears medieval clothes here — how unrelatable! (Apart from some rich bigwigs, who look..ridiculously anachronistic in their own time appropriate clothing). Everyone wears collarless suits, heaps of studded leather trousers, over-stylised modern clothing and even abandon the Tudor styling of King Arthur to bypass history entirely. This look even goes beyond TV series The Tudors in sexing up old fashions. Marian appears to be a cross between a rock chick and 1990s grunge and clearly is suffering due to a dearth of hair pins and head coverings. On one hand you can argue that this is a myth, so who cares? On the other, the past really is another country and this goes beyond relatable to purely being modern with a bit of fancy dressing and some crenelations. The styling lets it down as the sets head towards faux medieval, the Sheriff’s soldiers wear armour — both of which work really well — even if they are using longbows and crossbows like guns. I’m not sure this is possible — I know Welsh archers were fast, but this fast? Also (given the weight that Robin needed to be pulling) he looks a bit puny for an archer — I think longbowmen looked more like rugby players in reality, much like the knights they served as they hefted enormous weighty army on destriers into the battlefield. The only place where it works is the Sheriff’s decadent party scenes where the wildly stylised clothing gives a sense of wild 14th century fashions where young men were criticised for long hair, excessively pointy shoes and short coats with tight hose. But I think this is a bit earlier than this timeframe… History truly is written by the victors (or entirely adapted). Though I do like Jamie Foxx creating the first hoodie and Robin’s fashion horror at the loss of his much-loved long coat!

Historically, I do like the idea of Church corruption being brought into it as well as the power politics of the day, and the idea of the Sheriff trying to subvert the King by schmoozing with global churchmen who double up as politicians. However, the Sheriff of Nottingham doesn’t have the same charged gravitas as Alan Rickman’s performance as he chooses to go full Guy Ritchie instead in his speech about why he’s going to take over the world (i.e: Nottingham).

Tim Minchin as sweet Friar Tuck is a brilliant touch; as he acts an information feed for Robin and demonstrates incredible trust by being slapped and dismissed from his job by that same long-term friend in a ruse to demonstrate Robin’s loyalty. And to get him a place in ‘the room where it happens’ — though this seems to involve skulking, rather than being involved in the conversation. What an honour!

In a frankly creepy plot development, when not trying to divert cash flow from rich to poor, Robin also appears to be trying to destablise marriages and steal their wives — i.e. Marian. But this is ok (apparently) because Jamie Dornan’s Will is a coward and secretly in thrall to the Sheriff, and very anti-Hood or community fightback. The character shift in Will Scarlett is bizarre — in the beginning he is shown as a gentle, respectful man who loves Marian and wants to help the workers and appreciates his wife’s brain and ideas (and public stance against the Sheriff). When Robin suggests fight back (aka project everyone wear a hood) and rallies the miners, along with Marian; then Will is concerned about the repercussions on the local community. His reluctance to initiate the fighting (i.e., Molotov cocktails) as well as being seemingly abandoned for dead, slowly rescued and in a concussed and injured state, overseeing Robin and Marian having a CPR life restorative snog sours his feelings towards Robin and Marian and pushes him in embittered-ness towards being the new Sheriff. And all this not valuing what appeared to be a good marriage ok…cos plot development? Can’t respect the writers, or Robin or Marian for this…Will Scarlett’s character is mangled in the plot developments and makes no sense to veer wildly from one to another — it’s contrived and sloppy writing! Jamie Dornan does brilliantly in all this nonsense to keep the character together and making any sense at all with such a plot arc!

Marian’s duplicitousness is a shame because her character had been great until this point — doing her bit to help the local community; shocked that Robin was alive — not dead, and in resisting Robin trying very hard to break her marriage up. Plus, she got an insightful stealthy moment through breaking into the Sheriff’s study to investigate his financial affairs and admiring the mysterious leaver of huge bags of gold outside her back door. Again, the writing is bad as she quickly abandons her husband for Robin — this is atleast a two-year marriage. Shame on the writers here — it’s lame.

What I did like was the stealing of the loot — involving terrifically complicated stealing of a covered wagon full of gold involving all kinds of turntables, ropes and pulleys, and a rooftop chase by horseback. In resisting the Sheriff, the local community fight back strongly echoed the 1980’s Miner’s Strike and the Poll Tax riot of the early 1990s. The 2018 Sheriff of Nottingham can be compared to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher — discuss…. Also very much enjoyed the creation of a mining community (going full steampunk and blasting fire at every opportunity). There was a terrific sense of place and people, even if no-one wanted to wear any ‘historical’ clothing at all — but head to Moss Bros!

Following in the footsteps of Robin of Sherwood and the BBC Robin Hood of the 1990s, the casting is diverse; Marian more than a maid and more of a political freedom fighter (and sometimes a Lady socially) and Jamie Foxx is the hero of this film, nobly sacrificing himself for the cause. His character shines every moment he’s on the screen. Taron Egerton is charming and funny, bringing great dynamism to the role.

At the end, in a Spartacus comment, everyone wears a hood, thus forcing the Sheriff to seek to quell and arrest…everyone. Local community power! (And the film has the best score). Ignore the reviews and enjoy; just try to overlook the cringeworthy clothes. (Tho the soldiers in armour look good, tho weird in this Moss Bros medieval world).

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Susan Tailby

By Susan Tailby. Appreciator of arts and culture; things I've seen and enjoyed and you might too! Reviews all my own opinion....