Opening January 10, 2019
Directed by: Otto Bathurs
Writing credits: Ben Chandler, David James Kelly
Principal actors: Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Jamie Dornan, Eve Hewson
Imagine that rascally folkloric Robin Hood and band doing what they do best—stealing from the rich to give the poor—with a different backstory that begins before Sherwood Forrest. In this version, a “spoiled toff” meets a thief and seasons pass, and then draft papers are served (customary in 15th century England). The Lord goes a-Crusading, until a rash act sends him homeward across the sea with, unbeknownst to him, an Arabian shadow. Only to discover home is topsy-turvy with a nefarious Sheriff calling the shots, his love lost and … Hold your horses, “…this is not a bedtime story.”
These medieval characters have been around more than five centuries and depicted as: a roughneck plebeian to well-bred yeoman; myth/man; “good outlaw”; (politically) controversial; noblemen, tricksters /or monarchy receptive, to somewhat preposterous in the 18th century. American writer/illustrator Howard Pyle’s 1883 novel, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, is a compilation of English folklore dating to the 15th century and adapted for children. Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel, Ivanhoe (1819), included King Richard the Lionheart, Crusades, and Robin Hood.
Screenwriters Ben Chandler and David James Kelly ground their somewhat modernized slant on the heroic Robin Hood in dialogue. The great cast sustain director Otto Bathurs’ forcible lead and tight tempo: Taron Egerton as Robin/the Hood, Jamie Foxx/Little John the Arabian mentor, Ben Mendelsohn/nasty ol’ Sheriff of Nottingham, Eve Hewson/gutsy Marian, Jamie Dornan/the multi-interpreted Will Scarlet, Tim Minchin/an unconventional Friar Tuck, Paul Anderson/professional solider Guy, F. Murray Abraham/the wily Cardinal, et al. Production values are strong; the waging battlefield scenes have an uncannily contemporary look, and obviously choreography was sacrosanct during fight scenes.
Ere this version of Robin Hood, the 20th century’s popular culture spawned countless adaptations with diverse features; the 21st century continues to interpret with non-clichéd characters and a good story. Highly entertaining, Robin, Marian, and the merry men proffer adventurous fun. 112 minutes (Marinell H.)