Willow is a 1988 fantasy film directed by Ron Howard and written by Bob Dolman based on a story by George Lucas. It goes without saying that Lucas liked fantasy, since his Star Wars trilogy was something fantasy disguised as science fiction…
Willow fits perfectly into the genre of the time together with the various Heavy Metal (1981), The NeverEnding Story (1984), Legend (1985), Krull (1983), Labyrinth (1986) … and none of them turned out to be a resounding box office success (one exception is Conan the Barbarian, 1982).
The story is a classic one. Willow (Warwick Davis) is a humble hobbit farmer, ahem, sorry, he’s a nelwyn farmer. One day he finds a ring that is, a baby, and he has to save it from the clutches of Saruman, ah no, Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh) to prevent her from taking over the whole world. He’s helped by the brave warrior Aragorn, sorry, Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) and by his friend Legolas that is, Airk (Gavan O’Herlihy).
I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. Here’s the actual plot. Willow is Luke who, encouraged by Obiwan the druid (Michael Cotterill), rebels against Emperor Palpatine Bavmorda and his general Darth Vader, known as Kael (Pat Roach), and goes on an adventure together with Han Solo Madmartigan, his friend Lando Airk and two inseparable and ridiculous tiny androids (Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton).
Well, don’t look at me like that. I said that the plot isn’t very original, right? Luckily, the film has other qualities that ultimately make it enjoyable. For example, both Davis and Kilmer are great in their roles, and both the exterior shots and the interior sets are impressive. James Horner’s score is also remarkable, albeit not particularly original. More generally, the film creates a beautiful fairytale atmosphere thanks to which it’s easy to feel part of Willow’s world with his adventure to save the little baby from the clutches of the evil Bavmorda.
Of course, in addition to the lack of originality there are various other problems that unfortunately jump to the eye. Howard’s direction, for example, didn’t particularly impress me: at the twentieth reaction shot of the smiling baby I couldn’t stand it anymore, and there are dozens of similar shots from the beginning to the end of the film. The plot is a bit forced at times, for instance when Sorsha (Johanne Whalley) suddenly falls in love with Madmartigan and betrays Bavmorda. I’m afraid that the special effects that were so praised at the time haven’t aged very well either…
But in general I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy Willow, and while I find it less interesting than practically every other fantasy film of the decade like those I mentioned before, I recommend watching it to anyone in search of a classic medieval fantasy mostly well made and with two exceptional protagonists. Ciao!