Hollywood has made a lot of movies about Robin Hood, from big-screen classics starring Erroll Flynn to talking-animal features from Disney to star vehicles for Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe and even parodies from Mel Brooks. That wouldn’t seem to leave much new ground left to cover, but the lure of public-domain characters is strong for franchise-minded Hollywood studios eager to draw audiences with the promise of famous names and familiar concepts “reimagined” with modern production values and popular stars.
But a new concept from 300 co-producers The Hollywood Gang aims to take the legend of Robin Hood where it’s never been before: The future, with comics scribe Tony Lee now being tapped to pen the radical reimagining, according to THR.
In development for some six years already and tentatively titled Robin Hood: 2058, the science-fiction retelling of the medieval folk legend was at one point said to focus on a rogue MI-5 agent who fights injustice in a dystopian futuristic London setting. It is unknown, at this juncture, whether or not those details will remain in place for Lee’s new take on the material, which he has stated will “stay faithful to the legend’s source material.” The author is mainly known for his work in comic books such as Spider-Man, Star Trek, and Doctor Who. He currently has several other screenplays attracting studio interest, including a remake of Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps and a biopic about the writing of Dracula.
The still-untitled feature joins several other Robin Hood franchises currently at some stage of development by major studios, including two features from Disney and Warner Bros. and a “shared universe” of mutliple films about Robin’s supporting cast of Merry Men being assembled by Sony. Lionsgate, however, may end up being first out of the gate with a fifth project currently set to star Kingsman: The Secret Service lead Taron Egerton in what’s been promoted as a gritty “revisionist” take on the traditional Robin Hood narrative.
While Hollywood obviously thinks audiences are ready for several new takes on the legend, it’s unclear whether or not historical-fiction action films are a proper draw in modern movie theaters. Ridley Scott’s take on Robin Hood turned a decent profit, but passed quickly out of memory and was widely dismissed by critics, and many recent films with medieval settings in particular have found it more prudent to go straight to home video. On the other hand, the continued massive success of Game of Thrones on HBO clearly indicates that an audience exists for Dark Ages swordplay, and the Robin Hood films of old were often compared to the currently dominant superhero genre in terms of combining crowd-pleasing action with a classical heroic narrative. After all: Nobody thought we would ever see pirates become blockbuster material again until Jack Sparrow showed up.
Is there enough gold in Sherwood Forest to support five separate Robin Hood franchises? With each film jostling for position to hit screens first, we should learn the answer soon enough.