Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Robin Hood (2018) - Movie Review

Why do stories get retold? In the world of cinema, the answer is obvious: The almighty dollar, something that’s easier to pinch from the audience’s pockets when a story they recognise is dangled in front of them. However, the purpose behind this particular retelling appears to be a might less cynical than all that. I mean, King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword is what ultimately got this production off the ground, and that film tanked, so this being a plain cash grab isn't the most logical conclusion to draw. But still, if not money, then why are we getting this again? Well, from the looks of things, it’s because this is a story that keeps being retold because these events continue to exist in our world.

"Forget what you know about history" is one of the first lines of dialogue we’re given. While this opens itself up for plenty of jokes about how inaccurate this film’s depiction of the Crusades is, the meaning behind those words refers to something else. Outside of being set during the Crusades, an array of religiously-fuelled conflict that spanned centuries, the film actively sets out to blur the lines of history. The battle scene between the Crusaders and the Arabs looks more in-tune with depictions of modern-day Middle Eastern conflicts than anything medieval, with muted earth tones reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s vision of war. The unrest depicted in the streets of Nottingham between the populace and the deliciously vile Sheriff evoke images of modern urban riots, with knights carrying steel riot shields against the fire bomb-wielding oppressed.

Beyond the presentation, the story casts a wider eye on the machinations of the Sheriff, played with supreme malice by go-to bad guy Ben Mendelsohn. A statesman who uses faith, fire and finances to keep everyone in line, his involvement in the Crusades and his wanting of ‘war taxes’ to pay for his opportunistic battle echo a lot of sentiment concerning modern attitudes towards war. Soldiers being sent out for dubious reasons, only to return to a land that has been turned into a hotbed of animosity towards an enemy that only exists because the funding never stops. It’s an engine of the grotesque, a cycle that keeps the upper class in obscene decadence and the lower class fighting tooth and nail just to keep themselves fed. It highlights a relevancy that gives this retelling a defined reason to exist, showing patterns of insidious behaviour that persist to this day. I mean, church and state collaborating to crush the people under booted heel? This has been happening for a very long time.

Of course, good intentions and a keen eye for legitimising its own existence is one thing; as a straight-up action flick, this wins some serious points on top of that. Bolstered by incredibly engaging performances by Taron Egerton, bringing back that roguish charm that made Eggsy so damn cool, and Jamie Foxx pulling out all the stops as his ally, mentor and a man with his own stakes in this war, the action goes further into tying the injustices of the past and present together. Along with making the actions of the titular thief more pointed, pitting him against a microcosm of outright shitty behaviour in the Sheriff, the high-energy arrow-flinging in the action scenes and the way his character is treated in-universe give this a superheroic tinge. Given Robin Hood’s influence on modern-day superheroes, from Green Arrow to Robin, this only gives the revisionism further legitimacy, and it makes his place as the hero of the masses feel more warranted. The frequent depiction of hoods nailed on houses even give this a dash of V For Vendetta-esque rebellion against the system.

When paired against the likes of Prince Of Thieves and Ridley Scott’s 2010 effort, this film’s attempts at taking Robin Hood down a more serious road feel like it’s just following the crowd. Except here, the results actually pan out, aided by terrific casting, thrilling action, and an approach to its story that makes it feel like we’re being given this story yet again for a reason, beyond dollar signs. That, and not being the housing for an outright abomination of a soundtrack like Prince Of Thieves was helps too.

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