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The movie theater offerings, for the most part, did not disappoint this past holiday weekend. Thanks to high-performing movies like Ralph Breaks the Internet and Creed II, this was one of the highest grossing Thanksgiving weekends in recent memory. However, amid all the positive buzz, you may have completely missed that fact that the new Robin Hood opened this weekend as well. The movie was dead on arrival, barely sending out a pulse to audiences. So, Hollywood, can we please finally admit that it's time to stop with the Robin Hood movies?
The latest version of the classic Robin Hood tale, creatively called Robin Hood, is a reimagined take for modern audiences. The film follows Robin (Taron Egerton), a wealthy nobleman who returns to England from fighting in the Crusades only to learn that the people live under the oppression (and taxes) of the king and his enforcer, the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn). With the help of Little John (Jamie Foxx), Robin forms a group of merry men to steal from the rich, give to the poor, and win the heart of Maid Marian (Eve Hewson).
Sound familiar? It should because that's the same plot that almost every Robin Hood movie ever made has followed. Any moviegoer or person on the street can probably lay out the basics of Robin Hood without thinking too much about it. Is it any surprise that people felt like they could afford to sit out another Robin Hood movie?
Robin Hood had a rough Thanksgiving, grossing $23.2 million worldwide on a budget of $100 million. It's still early in the game, but that's a steep climb just for the blockbuster to break even. This seems to indicate that people just weren't interested in a new version of Robin Hood, a story that has hit some real diminishing returns ever since its days in Golden Age Hollywood.
Robin Hood has a long history in Hollywood and foreign studios. The character has been adapted into no less than 50 films over the last century, and that's not even including the dozens of TV appearances of Robin Hood. It's the well that just keeps giving, and whole generations of families have grown up surrounded by various Robin Hood stories.
The first Robin Hood movie dates all the way back to 1908. Dubbed Robin Hood and His Merry Men, it was a silent film, and the first appearance of Robin Hood onscreen. Since then the character has appeared in some form or fashion at least 10 times a decade. The history of Robin Hood in film is actually quite fascinating, but whatever made those early projects catch on has long since dwindled.
For one thing, the myth of Robin Hood doesn't spark the imagination quite like it must have done in the early days of film. The story of Robin Hood is good, swashbuckling fun which appealed to an audience that was still new to movies on the big screen. However, you can only eat a giant cookie for so long before it starts to make you sick.
I will say, though, that the benefit of having all these different adaptations is that it forces filmmakers to get creative with the source material. There are Robin Hood films set in space, the future, and modern times. Some feature Marian as the lead or Robin Hood's daughter taking up the mantle. These movies cover a wide swath of genres like drama, fantasy, adventure, action, and comedy. Even the latest Robin Hood was packaged as an action-oriented blockbuster with a superhero slant.
But even the most significant deviations doesn't change the fact that this is still the same basic formula and people can guess what happens at the end of most Robin Hood films. When you can predict the basic plot points of any given movie before even seeing any footage, that's not a great sign.
That familiarity is a big reason there are so many Robin Hood movies in the first place. Robin Hood is public domain so that anyone can make a movie or TV series about him. So, that's free intellectual property that most everyone is familiar with, meaning there's less legwork for a studio to explain the character or plot. That's also why there are so many King Arthur, Peter Pan, and Dracula movies.
The new Robin Hood gets some brownie points for trying to be different. The Sheriff of Nottingham is revealed to be at the center of a convoluted conspiracy involving the Crusades, and a new sheriff takes over by the end. However, that still wasn't quite enough of a difference to make this attractive.
Despite a decades-long run in Hollywood, it doesn't bode well that only about six or seven of these films are memorable. Errol Flynn's The Adventures of Robin Hood from the thirties is said to be the best Robin Hood movie, but what does that say that no other movie about the same thing has been better in 100 years? (Costner fans, insert gripes here.)
Other memorable Robin Hood movies include Robin and Marian, a revisionist take starring Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn as older versions of the title characters; Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner, which had bright spots but was ultimately the beginning of the descent for modern Robin Hood movies; Disney's animated Robin Hood with the fox that the internet has a crush on; and, of course, Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
It doesn't seem like Hollywood is quite ready to learn a lesson from the underperformance of the new Robin Hood. A few different projects are rumored to be in development. The Wachowski siblings are reportedly writing and directing a modern adaptation called Hood, while Disney is working on Nottingham and Hood, which is supposedly intended to be a new adventure film franchise in the vein of Pirates of the Caribbean.
There was also at one point discussions from Sony about a Robin Hood cinematic universe, with characters getting their own spin-off films. That is such a colossally bad idea that it tells you how badly the studio was trying to get into the shared universe trend. People are really going to flock to the theaters to see Friar Tuck: Not So Merry, Man.
Ultimately, there's a reason that this story keeps being retold, and there will be more movies. I'm just saying, give people a break. The previous Robin Hood movie (also called Robin Hood) was in 2010, and even an eight-year gap wasn't enough space to get people to care. Can we go a full decade without a Robin Hood movie? THEN let's see how we feel about that Friar Tuck movie.