We all know the story.
We all know his name.
Robin Hood. A thief of England who stole from the rich to provide for the poor. A bow-and-arrow wielding vigilante who clashed with the unjust Sheriff of Nottingham, fought alongside Little John and Will Scarlet, and won the heart of the fair Maid Marian. Literary stories of this iconic common hero first appeared in the 14th and 15th centuries in the form of ballads, recounting tales of a man who dwelled in Sherwood Forest. This legend is one that is heavily rooted in English history, and Director Otto Bathurst’s 2018 adaptation promises a far more sensationalized retelling of Robin Hood’s mysterious yet familiar origins.
Starring Taron Egerton in the titular role, Robin Hood begins with our hero leading a lavishly pleasant life as a highborn lord, presiding over Loxley Manor that sits in the forest outside of Nottingham. He soon meets Marian (Eve Hewson) after catching her in an attempt to steal one of his many horses. This initial encounter sparks a passionate romance between the two characters, but time is forever fleeting and by the order of the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn), Robin has been conscripted to go fight in the Crusades in Arabia. Robin finds himself in the midst of a bloody conquest for four long years, all of which has caused his love and yearning for Marian to grow. During this time away from home, he meets John (Jamie Foxx) and, after lashing out against his commanding officer in order to save the life of John’s son, both of whom have been taken prisoner, finds himself wounded and on a boat back to England. But things have changed dramatically while he was away, and now Robin must choose between exacting his revenge on the cruel Sheriff and putting an end to the suffering of the people of Nottingham, or winning back the love of his life, who belongs to another: Will Scarlet (Jamie Dornan), aspiring politician and voice of the people. Robin quickly finds himself wrapped up in a plot to stop the Sheriff at whatever the cost, not realizing that the man’s treasonous actions are rooted to a far greater plot that could lead to the upheaval of the whole nation.
Bathurst’s rendition of Robin’s origins is nothing short of refreshing. From the film’s very first scene, audiences are thrown into a grittier, alternative spin on a tale that Hollywood has sought to tell for years. To start, Robin is a man born into a role of influence; he is not royalty, which allows him to dwell among the commoners, yet he is a lord, which grants him access to elevated social circles as well. When Bathurst truly begins to introduce us to Robin’s character, right from the get-go he is handy with a bow, able to fire and reload an arrow within seconds. The nature of Robin’s relationship with John is perhaps one of the most original aspects of Bathurst’s work. In this adaptation, it is John who convinces Robin to move against the Sheriff and strike at the thing he loves the most, which is money-more specifically, the copious amounts of gold he collects from the masses until they’ve been bled dry. John’s character takes on the role of mentor, teaching Robin to hone his craft as an archer, encouraging him to take a stand, and ultimately takes him under his wing in the fashion of a sidekick, however strong. Eve Hewson’s portrayal of Marian definitely stands out from previous performances as well; though she’s Robin’s love interest, she’s an independent woman who seeks justice for others and doesn’t constantly need saving. In fact, she saves Robin life’s on more than one occasion and in more than one way. Plainly put, she makes sure he keeps a good head on his shoulders. Tim Minchin’s Friar Tuck provides comedy to a film riddled with multiple action sequences and religious conspiracies. As for Will Scarlet, while he seems like an initially stable character, it is the twist at the very end of the film involving his future that leaves audience members asking for more.
All in all, Bathurst’s Robin Hood is a high-octane two hours. Though some have criticized his work for not being historically accurate, the chemistry between the cast members, impressive stunts, beautiful costumes and scenery are more than enough to overcome any such impressions. While the film falls under the action genre, the love between Robin and Marian is sweet and genuine, blending the heroic epic with a modern-day romance. Taron Egerton’s Robin Hood is a welcome addition to the cinematic portrayal of this timeless hero. His boyish charisma and quick wit are well received on screen, as is his dedication to the character itself; the archery routines done by Robin in the film were actually done by Egerton. Not to mention his biceps . . . and his abs . . .
“We are only powerless if we believe we are powerless.” These lines spoken by the Sheriff of Nottingham convey the heart of Bathurst’s film. Once the credits start to roll and the lights go up, audiences are left with a feeling of empowerment, of hope, of excitement. No matter the flaws this film is perceived to have, that is arguably one of the biggest reasons why this hero is so loved: because Robin Hood reminds us that we are powerful.
by Kacy Hogg
Kacy is a college student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately) but Canada, where she graduated with a BHSc in Health Science and is currently studying English. She’s deeply in love with popcorn, French fries and anything Harry Potter related. When’s she’s not chugging back on tea, you can most likely find her at the cinema or tucked away in the corner of a bookstore. Her favorite films include the Harry Potter series (obviously!), Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, Casino Royale and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95