I was quite underwhelmed by the new Robin Hood’s debut last weekend (as were most people I knew) but thought, give it a chance, Paul Cornell was so enthusiastic about it (he is one of the writers) at EasterCon, perhaps it will get better. So the second episode this evening and no, it didn’t get any better. The Silvereel lambasts it too; like me he was really wanting it to be a good show (being a fellow swashbuckler) but its been a great disappointment, splashing style instead of building substance and believable characters we can follow and empathise with. Trying this modern style on a piece set back in the time of the Crusades is jarring and destroys any feel for the reality of the period. The costume department, as my mate Ariel observed, are also quite guilty of destroying any feel of period: Guy of Gisborne is wearing a leather duster coat for goodness sake and Robin looks like a modern hoodie while his manservant wears a top which looks rather modern and the Sheriff tonight was seen in bed wearing black silk pyjamas! Do the costume department even know what era this is set in? Does the producer, director or writers? In fact I haven’t seen such innapropriate costumes since Coppola’s Dracula, although at least in that case the many non-Victorian garments were at least stylish and cool.
The story… Well, so far there hasn’t been much in the way of story development in these first two episodes. And despite the pretensions to bring 21st century sensiblities to the tale (because obviously a fokloric tale which has survived for centuries needs to be tampered with by modern writers – go read Joseph Campbell then try tackling this you illiterate idiots) much of Robin Hood is pure, old-fashioned and very cheesy pantomime. That arrow twang every time a location name is flashed on screen became very, very irritating – presumably someone thought it was amusing, but repeated several times an episodes it is just grating (and why does a dram need location names flashed up repeatedly? Talk about destroying any chance of buying into the events). And since archery (of the most ridiculous sort, all very bad speed shots) is a mainstay of Robin Hood using an arrow twang when the place names appear is also quite confusing – did someone fire at someone? Oh, no its just a place name going up. Twang! Ah, ignore it, just another place name… Nope, he did actually fire another arrow; well, actually waste another arrow since Robin fires dozens of them impossibly quick (what happened to the 21st century sense of realism they were going for?) but doesn’t usually hit anyone, even the bad guys – the damned thing is bloodless and so watered down it destroys any energy in the fights or any sense of peril.
The pantomime continues; the Sheriff is made to look like a villain from some dreadful East End gangster flick, all shaved head and mono-expression while the jailer/tortuter is, of course, ugly and almost deformed looking. That’s just so damned predictable and frankly lazy on the part of the makers, but since everyone else in this mediocre offering is equally dull and lame it probably doesn’t matter. It’s a shame, I was looking forward to this for some time and the BBC has spent a lot of our money on what turns out to be an attempt to do a serious and stylish HBO-type series but come up instead with a bland and innacurate MTV piece of gloss with no substance. I think I’ll stick to my main man, Errol Flynn. Yes, that old technicolor Flynn and Rathbone movie is very silly but it is vastly enjoyable; I don’t think I’ll bother sticking around for the third episode, I’ve given it two goes and it failed to grip me. And coming off after reading the first two magnificent Captain Alatriste novels by Spanish author Arturo Perez-Reverte I was so looking forward to more swashbuckling; in fact, if you too are disappointed in this expensive piece of awfulness that is Robon Hood then do yourself a favour -forget it and go and read Alatriste.
Still on the TV front though and I heard about an upcoming TV series based around the Dresden Files novel by Jim Butcher starting in the New Year in the US. If you’re not familiar with them, they centre around Harry Dresden, down at heels Chicago PI who also happens to be a wizard (the only one in the phone book “people found, enchantments broken, no love spells”). I knew sod all about them when Orbit released them here last year (several had been out in the US for a while); to catch up with the US Orbit released two a month over three months last autumn. I thought I’d give the first one a go and was damned well hooked so quickly I ended up reading all six back to back and with the outstanding reading list I have waiting for me to get into I don’t often just stop everything else to do that. Nice mix of noir mysteries with fantasy and genuine horror in each book but as you go along you realise that not only is Jim building up the other characters and details he is creating an overarching series of linked events in the background which will have consequences as the books evolve. Obviously no idea how the series will pan out, but Jim is said to be happy with what he has seen (then again Paul Cornell seemed happy about the upcoming Robin Hood).