Hollywood Could Learn From Mel Brooks’ Take on Robin Hood

Is ‘Men in Tights’ the best Robin Hood movie?
Hollywood Could Learn From Mel Brooks’ Take on Robin Hood

It was recently announced that there’s a new Robin Hood movie in the works, because there’s always a new Robin movie in the works. But this one will star Hugh Jackman and Jodie Comer, which sounds like a lot of fu— No, wait, it actually sounds like a huge bummer. 

Reportedly, A24’s The Death of Robin Hood will depict the titular hero as a “battle-worn loner” who is “grappling with his past after a life of crime and murder.” Which seems like a pretty intense way to describe a character once played by a cartoon fox.

This interpretation is hardly an outlier, as it seems like the majority of modern cinematic takes on Robin Hood have been disquietingly bleak. Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood began with the real Robin being killed in battle, and another soldier assuming his identity, Armin Tamzarian-style. Then there was 2018’s Robin Hood, which was basically just a Dark Knight movie, and turned Robin’s Merry Men into the Not-So-Merry Antifa. 

Even back in the ‘90s, things were far from cheery in Sherwood Forest. The Kevin Costner-starring Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves gave us witches, scenes of brutal torture and even (shudder) the musical stylings of Bryan Adams.

But weirdly, the parody of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves ended up being a better Robin Hood movie. As some fans have pointed out recently, Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights is arguably closer to the “spirit” of the original Robin Hood stories than any of the recent, aggressively emo versions. 

Despite being a comedy, Men in Tights is the most faithful, and fun, movie version of the Robin Hood legend that we’ve gotten in the past few decades. Just look at the scene in which Robin meets Little John for the first time. As in earlier iterations of the story, they face off on a bridge — albeit a bridge crossing a mere puddle of stream. It’s fun, funny and the characters actually form a bond as a result of the encounter.

Compare that to the 2018 Robin Hood: “Little John” (played by Jamie Foxx) tries to stab Robin in the face during an action sequence that plays like one of Michael Bay’s wet dreams. In the end he gets his hand chopped off. 

Then there’s Cary Elwes, who Brooks cast after seeing him in the similarly delightful The Princess Bride. Even beyond his ability to “speak with an English accent,” Elwes is a perfect Robin Hood.  

And while Brooks was ostensibly parodying the Costner movie, he conspicuously patterned the movie’s look and feel after what many consider to be the greatest Robin Hood movie ever made: 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood starring noted creep and alleged corpse thief Errol Flynn

Brooks was clearly more interested in making a good Robin Hood flick than simply dunking on Kevin Costnergoing so far as to include familiar plot points that Prince of Thieves didn’t touch, such as the archery contest. 

After all, Brooks was already a fan of the Robin Hood myth long before Men in Tights; he even created a (mostly-terrible) Robin Hood sitcom in 1975 called When Things Were Rotten. He didn’t seem to mind the Kevin Costner version either, telling one interviewer that he wanted to thank the actor because he had “reawakened the world to this beautiful story once again.” 

Hey, Mel Brooks hasn’t retired, maybe A24 should just hire him to direct this Hugh Jackman movie!

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