I refuse to become cynical about movies. Even films that have the most broadly commercial appeal and attempt to reach out and embrace every single demographic still can have moments of pure artistry sprinkled throughout. I believe that for each horrible Adam Sandler movie released, there's also a young and hungry filmmaker out there trying to make their own "Jaws" or "Star Wars."
But what do I know? At some point in my life I was lost in a parking garage for half an hour. I'm a terrible person to trust. At the same time, there's something inherently beautiful about watching a movie that appears to have no redeeming qualities, searching for the moments where the filmmaker tries to incorporate something personal into the studio-mandated "fun."
This umpteenth version of "Robin Hood" is the perfect example. When you go into a Robin Hood retelling, there are just certain things to expect from what a modern adaptation is going to bring to the table. There will always be a Friar Tuck, Little John and a delightfully evil Sheriff of Nottingham. A hot new actor and actress will play Robin and Marion. There will be commentary about war, PTSD or some current topic ripped straight from the headlines. Hopefully, someone will wear a jaunty hat. Archery will be involved.
Director Otto Bathurst (previously known for a few episodes of "Peaky Blinders" and the worst episode of "Black Mirror") knows what "Robin Hood" movie he wants to make. He's got the immensely talented Taron Egerton ("Kingsmen") as Robin Hood, Jamie Foxx as Little John and the remarkable Eve Hewson ("The Knick") as Marion. Check.
With Ben Mendelsohn ("Ready Player One") as the impeccably evil Sheriff and Mr. Christian Gray himself as a sexy corner of the love triangle, Bathurst has a wonderful cast ready for whatever. Gone is the elegiac tone of Ridley Scott's recent adaptation. Instead we have a big, goofy action movie that shares more DNA with Guy Ritchie's retelling of "King Arthur" than it does with Errol Flynn's dashing swashbuckler or even Kevin Costner's more taciturn interpretation of the role.
Where the film struggles: finding a purpose for its own existence. We already know this story, so there will be no surprises, which means we either need a fresh take on the character or a visionary director to make the world exciting to spend time in. Even as we see Bathurst try to fill the pedestrian script with interesting fight choreography and some mercifully brief character moments, he's still making a movie for $100 million that needs to have its own franchise built into it.
Which is where the cynicism comes in. "Robin Hood" doesn't have an ending. It so blatantly sets up a sequel that it leaves the film feeling like the pilot to a TV show more than an actual movie. To me, that feels like a studio looking at its audience as future revenue streams more than it is telling a story to entertain people. Yes, movies are a business, but they're also an art form and, even though the new "Robin Hood" is sporadically fun, it still feels like a cynical cash grab aimed at my wallet more than my mind.