Robin Hood/Creed II
At a critical juncture in the new Robin Hood — because when else do these things happen? — Moor war guru John (Jamie Foxx) puts his apprentice Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) through a familiar training montage.
The sequence is so familiar that it’s almost difficult to distinguish it from the extreme exercises through which Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) put Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) in the desert in fellow Thanksgiving week release Creed II.
The overlap helps elucidate the mediocrity of both films, both in the reasons for their existences and quasi-popularity, as well as the mild groans that arise at the prospect of sitting through yet another Rocky movie and a new take on the legend of Robin Hood.
Though a darker, grittier, un-romanticized look at Nottingham and a heavyweight championship fight between the sons of Apollo Creed and Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) are technically new ideas, they’re woven into basic heroes’ journeys with easily identifiable beats.
The specifics of these respective paths in Crusades-era England and contemporary Philadelphia and Los Angeles are innately different, but along with their mentors’ unorthodox training methods, Robin and Adonis each navigate romances with beautiful women and rivalries with snarling, one-dimensional adversaries.
Yet even after identifying these tropes, it’s difficult to deny the excitement of following the route to the inevitable big showdown. Whether through archery spectacles and well-shot horse chases or intense battles in the ring, the action is competent enough and the acting is passable to a degree that it’s difficult to fully give up on the films.
Upon exiting the theater, however, it’s also tough to muster more than a shrug when it comes to recommending either feature, and it’s far from the last time audiences will encounter such well-worn territory, perhaps even with these characters.
While Robin Hood clumsily sets up an unlikely sequel, who knows how many Creed sequels that exploit Rocky nostalgia will arrive over the next decade or so until the “new” series likewise becomes accidental self-parody. Then it’s only a matter of time before the next generation of legacy boxers go head-to-head under the guise of yet another rebooted storyline and we’re back here again, probably alongside Robin and Friar Tuck battling robots in space.
Just don’t act like you’ve never seen it before.
Grade: C-plus. Rated PG-13. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photos: Lionsgate and Barry Wetcher/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)