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