Monday, 24 May 2010

What I've Been Watching: Robin Hood & Hot Tub Time Machine

B6116532-8C24-4DDC-B4FC-FB1B3EBBD37F.jpgRobin Hood

From the team that brought you Gladiator, comes Robin Hood, Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe's attempt to do for The Prince of Thieves what Batman Begins did for The Dark Knight.

The film has been marketed as 'The untold story of the man behind the legend'. The premise is that Robin has returned from the crusades to find King John on the throne, who's country is bankrupt after an ill-conceived campaign in the Middle East (As as side note, aren't you glad to see things have changed a lot in Britain since the 13th Century...?)

There's also a bit about Robin Hood impersonating one of the king's knights. However, the only purpose it seems to serve is that said knight was married to Maid Marion: cue lots of awkward exchanges as they have to pretend to like each other to everyone else, while trying to hide their true feelings from each other. Apparently Ridley Scott thought this twist on the Robin Hood tale made the whole thing worth watching. It doesn't.

It's dull. Really dull. And it has no reason to be. Everything about this movie is brilliantly executed. The actors are well chosen, it's funny when it needs to be, the attention to detail in the world is spot on. What they forget to do was actually make Robin Hood an interesting character.

Perhaps it's worth considering at this point what makes a good origin story. If we think about Batman Begins, Casino Royale or even Spiderman, a big part of what makes them interesting is seeing them grow and develop into the legends we know they'll become.

So it's fairly common in these types of stories to see them say and do things we would never expect Batman/James Bond/Spiderman to do later on in their lives. For example, letting a robber get away with stolen money in Spiderman or giving up the secret service for a woman in Casino Royale

In Robin Hood, when we meet the title character, it may as well be at anytime in his story. He stands up for what's right, speaks his mind and has no problem with questioning authority. He makes no mistakes in the entire movie, and not once does he make a decision we would ever think to question. It's all very noble. And very boring.

I came out of the movie very disappointed since I really wanted to like it. It's not that any of parts are shoddy in any way, it's just that when you arrange it all together it's just a Volkswagen - it should have been a Porsche.

63BF0FA7-717A-433F-B58B-04A2D3C7C072.jpgHot Tub Time Machine

It's rare that a movie can so aptly describe/sell itself with just its title. Taking a leaf out of Snakes on a Plane, Hot Tub Time Machine feels like a movie where someone came up with a title and then started putting all the pieces together. They must have spelt out '1980'.

There's a great sense that the creative forces behind the movie love the 80s without feeling the need to apologise for it. "The 80s was a sucky decade, but it was our sucky decade" to misquote one of the movie's lines.

Unfortunately the film is quite a mess. At one point, as the characters partake in some male bonding, Lou declares Haven't you even seen Wild Hogs? This is a film that is doing its utmost not to go down the sappy, we all learn a lesson story of Travolta and co's movie. Yet it seems to be inexplicably drawn to it at the same time.

Characters do learn lessons: about taking risks, about standing up for themselves, and about taking responsibility for their lives. And in between we get jokes about sex, drugs and the 80s. None of which are that funny or that memorable.

The plot also makes no sense. At the beginning of the movie, it's well established that all their lives suck. And they get away for the weekend together to try and forget that fact. They get to the past, and spend most of the movie making sure they change nothing so it can all be the same. Why?

Most of this movie is frustrating, because at its best it knows exactly how ridiculous the premise is, and pokes fun at it at various points. Snake on a Plane had a concept, knew it was crazy, but stuck with it. Hot Tub Time Machine had a concept, but then couldn't decide if it wanted to be a Judd Apatow movie or Wild Hogs. As it is, it was neither. A rude, crude movie with a pointlessly tacked on message where people solve all their problems by changing one thing about themselves. All in all it ends up feeling just like the 80s: best left forgotten.

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