“Robin Hood” (1973) Film Review
Written by Jambareeqi
Posted 2nd July 2017
Set during the crusades, Disney’s “Robin Hood” centres on a dashing hero called Robin and his fight against the evil tyrant Prince John. John actively taxes the poor with help from his loyal Sheriff; but Robin and his buddy Little John are willing to defend the poverty stricken. Along his adventures, Robin reunites with his childhood sweetheart Maid Marian and the two hope to get married.
Now, it’s hard for me to judge this film based on it’s historical accuracy because there are so many variations on who the real Robin Hood was. However, the movie does openly state that this is the animal kingdom’s take on the legend of Robin, and I guess that makes it a little easier to see the film as myth rather than fact. Although, firm believers of certain claims will be annoyed at Disney’s Hollywood take on a possibly real historical figure – which I completely understand.
Interestingly though, I actually grew up very close to Sherwood Forrest, and I remember going there many times as a kid. The Sherwood Forrest gift shop sold Robin Hood costumes, which gave British kids the chance to play as Robin Hood or Maid Marian in the beautiful Forrest together. I have a very nostalgic attachment to the Robin Hood legend thanks to these childhood memories.
The Real Sherwood Forrest, where I climbed trees and pretended to be Robin
But on with the film itself, what do I think of Disney’s adaptation of my own culture’s folklore? Well, I love the character of Robin himself in this movie! He’s courageous and brave, but also cunning and playful. He’ll always aim to do the right thing but he’ll have his tongue firmly planted his cheek while doing it.
He also serves as a solid symbol for fighting against corrupt authority and defending the lower class. Brits usually voice the malevolent bad guys in animated Hollywood movies, so I can imagine English kids loving hearing their accent coming out of such a charming hero as Robin.
The buddy dynamic between Robin and Little John is great too. While Robin is optimistic and daring, Little John is apprehensive and cautious. Despite their contrasting personalities, their united passion for justice makes them a strong and formidable for for Prince John. I also just like watching the two of them hanging out in their secret outlaw camp, these scenes humanise our heroes and make for some relaxing breaks from the action.
The chemistry he shares with Maid Marian is very sweet too. The film doesn’t frame it as this groundbreaking romance but instead affectionately portrays it naive young love; making their relationship feel effectively self aware and not too sappy. The two of them bounce eachother really well, because they both share a strong empathy for the underprivileged.
It’s also incredibly humorous watching Robin wind up the temperamental and childish Prince John. John often steals the show with his campy personality and diva attitude; especially when he starts childishly sucking his thumb and crying for his mother. There’s something really satisfying about watching an egomanic corrupt tyrant being pulled down a peg by hero. You may think that there’s nothing threatening about John because he’s such a silly brat, but there is something kind of scary about a man child being in power (something that’s happening right now in a few countries).
Although, I do feel as if that John’s assistant Hiss comes across as a bit of a rehash of Jungle Book’s Kaa. He has the ability to hypnotise, his serpent body is often abused or tangled, and he’s under the thumb of the villain. Even as a kid, I thought that Hiss was too similar to Kaa, and I always found that quite distracting. Sure, he’s not a bad character per say, but it’s a little annoying seeing Disney tread the same water.
I think what I love the most about this movie though, is it’s celebration of the camaraderie between the poor. Despite going through hard times, these poverty stricken characters will always look after eachother and be there for one another. It’s both inspiring and touching to see these down on their luck peasants working together as a community. I love this one scene where they all cheekily hold a secret party and sing a song mocking Prince John; it’s really uplifting to watch them keep their spirits up and show that they aren’t afraid of their enemy.
While the film starts off very comical upbeat, it takes a drastic shift half way through, and I feel as if this gives it some edge over other Disney features of the time. Prince John becomes so sick of the poor’s lack of respect towards him, that he increases the taxes, and the film doesn’t shy away from how this dampens the peasant’s spirits. The tone becomes dreary, colours are drained, and you really do feel that hope is being lost.
Despite my praises towards the likeable charms of this movie, I have to admit that the lack of budget REALLY lets it down. The character animation looks rough and unfinished, the colouring lacks shade or detail, scenes from other Disney movies are recycled, plus the filmmakers even repeat shots throughout the movie. You can really sense the cheapness in the film, and I feel as if this weakens it’s entertainment value a little. It’s hard to get sucked into an animated movie when you can tell when certain things look under-budget. Sure, it’s all because Disney was going through a hard time during the 70’s, but no matter the excuses, the film still lacks the usual high standard we expect from the studio.
To conclude, Robin Hood may not be as majestic or lavish as many other Disney classics, but it’s packed with enough heart and humour to make audiences fall in love with it. The characters are highly likeable, the romance is sweet, the villain is a barrel of fun, plus I love the film’s messages of camaraderie and justice. Sure, it’s animation isn’t very clean or polished, but it’s still a pretty enjoyable family film.
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Keep this in mind, ever since Walt Disney died, Disney movies in the 70s and 80s were rough time for the company and made some movie that didn’t reach the level of acclaim as they expected.