‘Robin Hood’ fails in honoring protagonist


Robin Hood is a disgusting insult to the legend.

There is something about the legend of Robin Hood which resonates with me more than any other fairy tale. Growing up, Disney’s “Robin Hood” was by far my favorite animated movie. Unlike other fairy tales, Robin Hood had a complicated and provocative message, yet I understood it perfectly even as a five-year-old. Robin Hood sacrificed his own safety to fight an oppressive, corrupt sheriff who relentlessly raised taxes and threw the townspeople in prison. It is a timeless message which will be relevant whenever there is exploitation.

Having watched the new “Robin Hood,” I actually feel physically disgusted. The new version of the movie offers the most shallow criticism of oppression and government one could have imagined. Movies have the incredible power to present social criticism and foster conversations when talking about politics in real life becomes taboo. I feel physically unclean, knowing that some people will walk away from the theatre believing “Robin Hood” is all that creative artists have to offer in their criticism of income inequality.

The film basically name drops current social issues without addressing issues through the plot at all. The sheriff was sexually abused by the Catholic Church, the people are supposedly suffering from exploitation (although Maid Marian can still afford the latest in fine fashion), and the Sherrif’s pro-crusades rhetoric is obviously meant to mirror Trump’s xenophobia.

Let’s start with how the film butchers Robin Hood’s main theme, income inequality. In this version of the film, Robin Hood is one of the Lords but he loses all his property after the Sheriff appropriates his Manor for the war effort. Robin Hood forms no relationship or attachment with the people he is fighting for. He is more concerned with getting back Maid Marian and getting revenge on the Sheriff than helping people. “I want to go big,” he says to his mentor John. It’s unclear if the film is in favor of the feudal lordship system as long as the lords are good lords, or if the only solution is to wait for a superhero.

The film writers are obviously so concerned that an actual message might alienate a wealthy conservative audience that there is absolutely nothing complicated or thought provoking at all.  The Sheriff and church are portrayed as pure evil but they have no real motive for their bloodlust, and so the evil comes across as overly simplistic. Sprinkle in a dash of orientalism and the evil-atheist trope, and you’ve got yourself the morally obtuse, sanctimonious, mess of a film which trips on its own message so hard, it somersaults.

The plot is paper-thin and contains no logic. The Sheriff orders the raiding of his own mines, alienating his own people, in order to finance the crusades. Given that this is occurring in a pre-capitalist economy, I find it incredible that the Sheriff thinks sending soldiers to steal coins and household items from common folk is a valuable use of English steel.

The new Robin Hood was not likable, or even noble. Rather than renouncing the system of feudalism which allowed the exploitation to begin in the first place, he dramatically unhoods himself to the people, expecting that they will be willing to lay down their lives fighting simply because of his leadership, and all he can say is “I guess you’re willing for a little redistribution of wealth.” That is literally his line.

If I had to describe the film in one sentence, I would describe it as steampunk fighting porn. The movie tries to compensate for its lack of plot with endless fighting scenes, boorish one-liners, fantastically overdone costumes and dramatic stare-downs. The movie cannot decide what era to stay in. The peasants show up with Molotov cocktails, music which sounds like modern pop is playing at the King’s castle, the crossbows fire like machine guns and the characters talk like modern Americans. The movie could have at least attempted to maintain a medieval British vibe, but with lines such as “We’re outlaws now, does anyone want out,” it fails remarkably.

They say that legends never die. I sure hope the good thief survives this one.