There’s nothing the newest iteration of “Robin Hood” — a film which dares to ask, “What if England’s most enduring folk hero was one Four Loko short of a dudebro?” — hates more than Robin Hood (Taron Egerton, “Billionaire Boys Club”) himself, or rather, the preconceived idea of Robin Hood you’ve been carrying around with you since the fox-starring Disney film introduced you to the character. Everything about this film is geared to impress one idea upon you: This is not your father’s Robin Hood. The opening narration all but says that out loud in between groanworthy clichés like, “Forget everything you know.”
This is a Robin Hood who doesn’t go by Robin Hood until the very end of the movie, more a superhero than a common thief. It’s a Robin Hood who uses a bow and arrow like John Wick uses a pistol, who seduces Marian — not a maid in this version, but a thief played by Eve Hewson (“Bridge of Spies”) — by the end of their first scene together and banters with Jamie Foxx (“Baby Driver”) like the two have known each other for years instead of days. This Robin Hood is basically Batman, and that might have been cool if everything about the film didn’t speak to a complete uninterest in telling the story at hand.
From beginning to end, it’s clear the last thing “Robin Hood” wants to be is a Robin Hood movie set in medieval England. During an early Crusade sequence, in which arrows fly with the speed, strength and frequency of a bullet fired from an assault rifle, it’s clear it wants to be a war movie set in the contemporary Middle East. The Nottingham set design features the kind of massive industrial mines and inexplicable jets of fire and showers of sparks that recall bad steampunk movies. During the hand-to-hand scenes, it somewhat resembles an “Arkham” game, with free-flowing combat that could have worked if it weren’t cut to the point of incomprehensibility and shot in sludgy slow-motion that Zack Snyder would call “a little much.”
Yet for all the hoods it wears, the one thing “Robin Hood” never feels like is a Robin Hood movie. Sure, Taron Egerton might be playing a character named Robin, but it’s just his character from “Kingsman” awkwardly crowbarred into a 12th-century story. The problem isn’t just that it doesn’t in any way resemble the legend, though — if the finished product was in any way acceptable, it may have offered an opportunity for growth in how stories about the character are told — it’s that, apart from the performances by Foxx and Ben Mendelson (“Ready Player One”), the creative decisions made were the wrong ones regardless of the title character.
On top of the unintelligible editing and nonsensical set design, the film is simply ugly on every level. The costumes are so noticeably awful that the best that can be said about them is that none of the armor features nipples. The cinematography fares no better, with one shot during a dialogue scene bafflingly focusing on the ear of the speaker and a late-film chase scene rendered with effects worthy of an early 2000s made-for-TV movie. The story might be uneven and the characters sketched just enough to become annoying — there’s a forced love triangle between Robin, Will Scarlet (Jamie Dornan, “A Private War”) and Marian that I simply don’t have the resolve to recount — but it’s the visuals that ultimately make “Robin Hood” nearly unwatchable.
Then there’s the ending, which tries with all the nuance of a toddler throwing a temper tantrum to set up a sequel, because if there’s one thing this sort of bad movie is always sure of, it’s that its own Marvel-style cinematic universe is one cliffhanger away. In its own way, that really puts into focus what went wrong with “Robin Hood.” This was never about telling a story that could accurately capture the legend of its lead. It was about using a recognizable public domain property to jumpstart a franchise that would be hip and cool and down with the kids. Based on how badly “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” tried and failed at doing that same thing just last year, I can only wish the makers of “Robin Hood” a half-hearted “good luck with that.”