In recent years, Cannes’s opening-night films have tended to the high-profile and big-budget, flashy productions (often, but not always, American) that will soon turn up in multiplexes and have no real place at a film festival putatively devoted to art. But they bring in big names and bigger headlines, and carry with them a whiff of glamour and prestige that remains even when the film in question is lousy. Which, this year, it is.
Thanks to early screenings and Internet embargo-breakers, most of what there’s to be said about Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood already has been. It’s an origin story—clearly designed to launch a franchise—that reimagines the mythical bandit as an intense, steel-eyed hero miles removed from Errol Flynn’s playful outlaw. It’s an approach right out of Christopher Nolan’s Batman playbook, but, lacking Nolan’s ambition and intelligence, Scott succeeds only in proving that Flynn had the right idea from the start.
For a summer action movie, this one is almost completely joyless, seemingly having been designed with the express purpose of removing from the myth everything that makes it enjoyable. What remains is drab, visually monotonous (this is Robin Hood, brought to you by the color gray), and dramatically inert. Excepting the climactic battle sequence, Scott doesn’t even have the courtesy to load the film with set pieces; it’s dominated by dull political intrigue, all the better for making lazy connections to present-day affairs. (As with The Dark Knight, it seems likely that windbags from both sides of the aisle will try to claim it for themselves. I can see it now: “Was Robin Hood the first Tea Partier?” No. Shut up.) I admit to taking a perverse pleasure in the Cannes Film Festival opening with a movie in which all the villains parlent français, but it’s still a plodding bore. It may not be reasonable to expect art from Cannes’s opening films, but if they’re going to be hollow, shouldn’t they at least be fun?