Wimpy Robin Hood: a not-so-mer­rie tale with an eye on the cash tills

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - BOOKS - TONY EARN­SHAW

I TOOK my dad, an ac­tion movie buff, to see Robin Hood this week. We came away more than a lit­tle un­der­whelmed.

I tried to talk him out of it hav­ing al­ready sat through Rus­sell Crowe’s me­an­der­ing ac­cent once. But I fig­ured it might have im­proved on a sec­ond show­ing.

It isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a bor­ing film. It may be slightly over­long and some­what po-faced in its de­liv­ery but it is en­gag­ing, even if it fails to do what it says on the tin.

On leav­ing, dad felt we had been sold a dud. While there were a hand­ful of chunky ac­tion se­quences – shot with dizzy­ing speed and con­tain­ing the fast edit­ing for which Sir Ri­d­ley Scott is noted – it all seemed a tad un­der­cooked.

The give­away is the cer­tifi­cate: Robin Hood is a 12A. Now I’m no ad­vo­cate of vi­o­lence, sex, pro­fan­ity or horror for its own sake. But this is a bru­tal tale of 12th-cen­tury out­lawry and the cru­sades. To tell it au­then­ti­cally and with a de­gree of plau­si­bil­ity re­quires some sig­nif­i­cant punch. Robin Hood wimped out.

I was re­minded of the furore that greeted Casino Royale on its re­lease in 2006. In his de­but as 007, Daniel Craig shot, punched, head-butted and gen­er­ally smashed his way through a film that de­manded a 15 but was handed, yes, a 12A. These days, cer­ti­fi­ca­tion seems off-kil­ter in a big way. Pro­duc­ers with an eye on the cash tills refuse to squeeze out a sub­stan­tial por­tion of their au­di­ence by opt­ing for a higher cer­tifi­cate. In look­ing to younger view­ers they emas­cu­late their story, force film­mak­ers to di­lute their vi­sion and in­vari­ably tell a weaker ver­sion of the tale.

I doubt that hap­pened in Scott’s case – he was a pro­ducer along­side Brian Grazer and star Rus­sell Crowe. Yet there is some­thing missing from so many movies these days. Call it welly. Call it va-voom. Call it oomph. But it ain’t there.

I’ve al­ways worked on the rudi­men­tary ba­sis that a genre movie should do its best to ful­fil its cri­te­ria. Ergo a horror movie should be scary. A thriller should make the pulse race and the heart pound. A com­edy should lead to laugh­ter. And block­buster epics like Robin Hood should of­fer an un­var­nished and grimy take on life in a not-so mer­rie olde Eng­land.

My col­league, Nick James, edi­tor of Sight & Sound mag­a­zine, re­cently sounded off about the pro­lif­er­a­tion of dull movies on the cir­cuit, sug­gest­ing that some con­tem­pla­tive (read “slow”) films aren’t worth the hours we in­vest in them.

Nat­u­rally, the nation’s cul­ture vul­tures queued up to take a swipe, ac­cus­ing James of philis­tin­ism.

But, guess what? Life’s too short to waste time on te­dious dross. I can’t re­call the num­ber of movies I have had to sit through to pen a re­view, know­ing only too well that I will never re­cover those pre­cious two – or more – hours.

Dad and I shared that same feel­ing dur­ing Robin Hood. I al­most hoped that Robin would fall on one of his own ar­rows. Maybe it will hap­pen in the se­quel, in­evitably cer­tifi­cate 12A.

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