Because I’m a medievalist and I need to understand what’s going on here.
This is about a new movie that’s coming out soon. The movie, starring Jamie Foxx and someone named Taron Egerton, is called “Robin Hood.” It’s a new take on a story you might be familiar with, about a lord returning home from the crusades to medieval England only to find that King John has taxed everyone into oblivion and is ruling like a tyrant. Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor ensues.
But I have so, so many questions about this take.
Here’s the trailer.
Actually, I have only one question, and the rest of them stem from it:
WHEN DOES THIS MOVIE TAKE PLACE?
Let’s take a look at some stills.
Okay, in this first shot, you see the city in which this all takes place. Look at those beefy as all get-out walls. Look at the truly massive foundations. Are those tile roofs on all the buildings inside? And what’s going on with the footings of the industrial-revolution-style bridge off to the left? Are those concrete footings in the water? Well, okay, none of this is at first glance totally impossible in a medieval setting, but it’s pretty outlandish.
Okay things are getting weird here. Is that an industrial steel sculpture? And look at those textiles. The fashion is of course modern, but look at the leather of that suit jacket, and the fine texture of the vest beneath. I guess it wouldn’t be totally, completely, absolutely impossible to imagine—
—okay stop right there. That bottle. That’s a machine-made bottle. There’s no way around that. It looks like a Heineken bottle for chrissakes. There’s no doubt about it: that’s post-Industrial Revolution materials science.
Which I guess explains the riveted steel construction of this… armored troop carrier? Tank? Out of place premodern submarine? Thing?
Not to mention the huge quantities of steel everywhere and… whatever this lock-and-load crossbow-slash-grenade-launcher thing might be.
Okay, so this is, um. I know, it’s a post-apocalyptic society! Yeah, that’s it!
…except then why are they talking about returning from the crusades? At 1:30 in the trailer, a voiceover (probably Foxx) says:
“You were a crusader. Now you have to be a warrior.”
Okay that’s weird. And not just because crusaders were warriors, in no uncertain terms.
So it takes place after some kind of apocalypse, but not too bad an apocalypse because we still have modern materials science and industrial-scale metal production, but the crusades are still a thing, so… maybe there were other crusades?
Yeah, that’s it. There’s no internet anymore, and the islamophobes won (causing the ruination of society in some kind of war that pushed us back to industrial revolution technology), and now there’s some kind of persistent and/or permanent front in an ongoing war, so if you want to be a dick to Muslims you have to actually get up and go fight them in person. Okay wow, that’s bleak, but it’d explain the whole “crusades” thing except—
Wait. Why is everyone using crossbows? And what’s this?
Are those catapults?!
If you can make perfect glass bottles, and truly vast quantities of riveted steel, and beautifully uniform textiles and leather jackets… where’s the GUNPOWDER?
Where are the guns? Where are the cannons? Where are the bombs? If you’re in a state of constant war, and you’ve got enough wealth and manpower for huge numbers of metal-clad, lock-action crossbow-wielding civil defense soldiers at home, why doesn’t anyone have a gun? Why are you using catapults to throw stones over the walls instead of using gunpowder to blow holes through them?
Is there not enough nitrogen? Did we lose the Haber-Bosch process? Is that what caused the apocalypse? Did half the world starve because we somehow lost all ability to artificially produce nitrate? I AM SO CONFUSED.
Look, I know the answer, the real answer, is because someone thought “hey wouldn’t it be cool if it looked like this?” But it just makes me twitchy when you see such sloppy worldbuilding without the writers even hanging a lantern on it or anything. It’s the kind of thing that turns this:
and that just makes me feel like this:
Signed: The Remixologist.
Featured image is of a dude about to throw a molotof cocktail in the Heineken bottle in a medieval-ish film, from the Robin Hood trailer.