Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
The criteria for “does this movie deserve its own expanded universe?” keep on plummeting. Way back in the wilds of 2008, forging an expanded movie-verse required some kind of source material that was already an expanded universe. Marvel Comics and DC Comics properties and precisely nothing else. Then came the Universal Monsterverse, which was okay because the studio had already done it before (starting with 1943’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man). Now all you really need for an expanded universe are two things: a general action/adventure theme and more than one character. Does “Robin Hood” fit both? Sure! A “Robin Hood” expanded universe it is, then.
The Hollywood Reporter tells us that Sony is currently forking over seven figures ($1m against $2m, which in studio-ese means “$1m now, another $1m if we actually make the movie) for a new take on “Robin Hood” from writers Cory Goodman (Priest) and Jeremy Lott. Entitled Hood, it’s described as tonally similar to the Fast & Furious and Mission: Impossible movies, only set in a world where the fastest vehicles are horses and the coolest spy tech is the old arrow-on-a-string zipline (exasperation aside, an extended ziplining spy sequence could actually be kind of incredible).
And of course, Hood was pitched using the words “universe” and “Avengers.”
If we must have an entirely unnecessary Robin-Hoodverse (and with millions on the table, it seems that way), we might as well make the most of it. So, let’s decide which “Robin Hood” characters would fare the best when shepherded out of Sherwood Forest and into their own movie.
THR lists these three: Little John, Friar Tuck and Will Scarlet. Who are all fine (if extremely safe) choices, but in a cinematic universe they’re missing a key element. They all do the same general thing (steal rich / give poor), and they all do it in the same general location. Marvel’s cinematic universe works because after every Avengers flick, each character can return to S.H.I.E.L.D. or Asgard or whatever their individual setting is and continue adventuring in solo from there. I’m as morbidly curious as the next guy to see what a Friar Tuck movie would resemble (my gut says a medieval version of Drunken Master), but it would probably just resemble Robin Hood if everyone was living and working in Sherwood Forest in their downtime.
Instead, we need to focus on the “Robin Hood” characters that offer a little more variety. Of which there are two stellar choices, Maid Marian and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Marian, in basically every interpretation of “Robin Hood,” is an aristocrat of some form. Plant Marian in her own flick and suddenly the Robin-Hoodverse gains a high society setting that we’d never see from the perspective of a soused friar. If we’re going Fast & Furious or Mission: Impossible, that’s a new locale to spy or street-horserace in, which could make all the difference in keeping these spin-offs at least somewhat fresh.
The Sheriff is a tougher sell (he’s not even close to being a Merry Man), but if we skew a little closer to Nottingham then we can get something worthwhile out of all this faux-Marvel mess. Nottingham, of course, being the initial draft that became Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, but which was a completely different (and far more unique) project before a series of edits stripped out all the cool bits. Nottingham is “Robin Hood” as a detective story, with the Sheriff (not really a villain, just kind of gruff) as our lead, investigating a series of arrow-based murders that may or may not have been committed by a certain hooded figure. Obviously you’d have to switch around the mystery, because there’s no way a “Robin Hood” cinematic universe would have Robin Hood be a serial killer. But the idea remains. Skew the Sheriff a little more towards the side of good, and we’ve got another avenue to make the Robin-Hoodverse a little more varied.
Now all we can do is sit back and wait – to see where this project goes and to guess the next completely unnecessary film to be squashed and stretched until it almost looks like The Avengers in the right light. Paul Blart: Mall Copverse, anyone?