As everyone from Errol Flynn to Kevin Costner has suggested, every generation needs its Robin Hood … but maybe it should have skipped a generation. This one.
The latest movie about He Who Robs From the Rich to Give to the Poor plays around with tradition, using such effects as slow-motion in action sequences, maybe to try to look cooler to younger audiences. Or, since Taron Egerton has the title role, maybe it’s just trying to capitalize on the same techniques used in his successful “Kingsman” adventures.
Anyway, the basics stay the same as Robin returns home to enlist his somewhat Merry Men – including a decidedly not-merry Jamie Foxx as a variation on Little John – in opposing the Sheriff of Nottingham, played by Ben Mendelsohn. If you want an authentic “Robin Hood,” it’s best to stick with an earlier edition, since no one seems really invested in his or her part here (and that also includes Eve Hewson as Marian).
One of the main challenges in updating a classic tale is in making it speak effectively to modern audiences while not losing what made it special in the first place. Tipping even slightly to either end can throw off the balance entirely, and so it is with “Robin Hood.”
To a certain extent (but only to a certain one), you can’t fault the picture for wanting to try a different approach, since there is such a long legacy already established. After the 1938 Warner Bros. staple “The Adventures of Robin Hood” came an animated Disney version, an elder-statesman Hood (in the persona of Sean Connery) in “Robin and Marian,” and even a comical Robin in the Mel Brooks spoof “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” And that’s just to name a few of the other takes.
As today’s younger actors go, Egerton isn’t a bad choice to be a new Robin Hood. He may come across as a bit too young for the role, but that’s less a fault of his than a measure of the median age of past screen Robins, who generally have been on the older side (yet still able to handle the physical requirements of the part, a tribute to their respective trainers and/or stunt doubles).
Leonardo DiCaprio is a producer of this latest version, and while his intentions probably were good, the result is something of a well-costumed mess. It’s pretty bad when you have a “Robin Hood” that can’t see the Sherwood Forest for the trees.