We all know the old adage "It's like waiting for a bus — you wait for ages, and then three come along at once!". This bizarre truth about public transport is now also true for movies, it seems. Fans of Robin Hood have been waiting since 2010's Robin Hood for the return of their favorite man in tights; now, the rogue archer is about to make his return in a big way, four times over!
What's Going On?
The problem with a franchise like Robin Hood, of course, is that nobody owns the rights to a legend. As a result, any film studio can suddenly decide that the time is ripe for a fresh take on a fairy tale or a legend! Probably my favorite example was back in 2012, when we had both Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsmen, two films that took very different approaches to the legend of Snow White.
The next few years are about to see something similar happen with Robin Hood. Lionsgate is working on Robin Hood, scheduled for release in March 2018; Disney is planning to launch a 'Pirates of the Caribbean'-esque franchise based on Nottingham and Hood; Sony is working on a thriller called Hood; and even Warner Bros. is getting in on the act, although we don't know much about that film yet!
Is There a Risk of Overkill?
Lionsgate's Robin Hood looks to be the furthest ahead, helmed by Otto Bathurst, and it promises to be a grim and gritty take on the legend. Asked about this by We Got This Covered, Jamie Foxx — who's playing Little John in this version — defended it thusly:
"What’s different about ours? It’s just a grittier take. With Otto directing, it’s just a grittier take. It’s not like in the Sherwood Forest, tights and all that. It’s not like that. It’s grittier, a more real version, if that makes sense. But no disrespect to anyone else’s Robin Hood."
Lionsgate's Robin Hood is indeed planned to be a very different, distinctive take on the legend. It will star Taron Egerton as Robin Hood, with Ben Mendelsohn as the Sheriff of Nottingham. According to Variety, Robin will be portrayed as a war-hardened crusader who returns home to England, and winds up running an audacious revolt against a corrupt English crown.
Now, in a way, Foxx can afford to be confident that Robin Hood won't suffer from overkill; it's the furthest on, the one closest to completion. So Robin Hood will be the first of the four, with the other three released afterwards.
He does have a point, though. From the little we know, the other three Robin Hood films are very different. Take, for example, Disney's Nottingham and Hood. The House of Mouse snapped up Brandon Barker's screenplay back in December 2014, and were reportedly excited at a tone reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean. Their hope isn't to release a new movie — it's to launch a whole new franchise. Sony's Hood is also aimed at launching a franchise, albeit off the back of a thriller.
We don't know much about the Warner Bros. movie — the studio is keeping details pretty quiet — but we can be confident that, so far, each Robin Hood film has seemed pretty distinctive. Again, to hark back to 2012, this fits with the pattern of Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman; the tone and style of those two films was very different, so you can be forgiven forgetting they're different takes on the same story.
Will This Work?
This isn't the first time we've had multiple films or TV shows handling the same characters and concepts. As far back as 1938, Jezebel and Gone with the Wind both pitting scheming Southern Belles against one another. More recently, Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached competed against one another, with Friends with Benefits losing out, while Tombstone dented the box office success of rival biopic Wyatt Earp. Back in 1991, we had both Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Patrick Bergin and Uma Thurman's Robin Hood. Many have forgotten the latter was ever produced, while Prince of Thieves has become the stuff of legend in its own right!
Sometimes, though, multiple interpretations of the same idea don't kill undermine one another. Armageddon and Deep Impact were both tremendously successful, while Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman were distinctive enough to prevent direct comparison. Over on the small screen Sherlock Holmes hasn't had any problems — both Sherlock and Elementary are going from strength to strength, with neither affected by the other's success.
With Lionsgate being the first to get their production out of the gate, the studio's rivals have to be hoping their own interpretations are distinctive enough to not suffer by comparison.
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The reality is that, although we currently have four versions of Robin Hood in development, right now only one seems to have gotten off the launchpad. Other studios may be toying with their own versions, but Lionsgate is the only studio with a release date, so the competition may not happen at all. If it does, though, the only chance these movies have is if they stay distinctive.