In the dungeons of the castle of the evil Queen-sorceress Bavmorda, a prisoner gives birth to a child who, according to an ancient prophecy, will put an end to the reign of the Queen. A midwife saves the child from the wrath of Bavmorda, but is forced to throw her cradle in a river when reached by the Hounds of the Queen. The river brings the child near a village of nelwyns, and little Willow finds and adopts her. When the Hounds reach the village, Willow begins a difficult journey to bring the baby back to her people and to fulfill the prophecy.
/ New Zealand
Directed by: Ron Howard
. Starring: Val Kilmer
, Joanne Whalley
, Warwick Davis
, Jean Marsh
, Patricia Hayes
, Billy Barty
, Pat Roach
, Gavan O'Herlihy
, David Steinberg
, Phil Fondacaro
, Tony Cox
, Robert Gillibrand
, Mark Northover
. Music by: James Horner
For the first thirty minutes, "Willow" isn't half-bad. The score is rousing. The premise is interesting. Who doesn't get stirred up by a little infanticide? The characters look good too. Willow Ulfgood is suitably doughty. His kids are adorable! Queen Bavmorda is a good harridan in the tradition of Morgana and Maleficent and Boorman's influence is apparent in the design of her henchmen's costumes (as well as their horse's get-up). The evil dogwolfratboar creatures are appropriately terrifying. And I really like Val Kilmer's first scene as Madmartigan. He's hilarious! A true scoundrel that makes Han Solo look like an acolyte. The scenery is exceptional. One scene in particular (as they are crossing a very high bridge) elicited from me and audible, "Wow!" The movie is full of cascading waterfalls, blood-red mountain sunsets, and moss-covered rocks. Much of it is simply beautiful. But, folks, despite a promising start, Willow, in its entirety, is downright bad.
Coinciding with (but not entirely the fault of) the introduction of the Brownies, it takes a dizzying nose dive from which it never recovers. The focus quickly goes from the epic to the banal. As in farts, bird crap, spit-up, love potions, and the inane chatter of the Brownies (which is supposed to be funny just because it's sped up). Ha ha. I don't know how much a hand Lucas had in the Brownies but here we see a characteristic Lucas weakness that is nowhere more blatant than here in "Willow". As talented as he is, Lucas' dealings with actual characters are regularly (and often mechanically) formulaic. You can sense that much of his humor initially looks something like this:
FUNNY-LOOKING CREATURE SAYS SOMETHING FUNNY IN FUNNY-SOUNDING VOICE...ALL LAUGH BOISTEROUSLY! THEN, BEFORE LAUGHTER COMPLETELY DIES DOWN, SOMEONE ELSE ALSO SAYS SOMETHING EVEN FUNNIER...
The obvious problem is that knowing when and where to put humor does not necessarily make one funny. Jar Jar Binks is a good example of how this desire to be funny isn't enough.
The movie gets a little better as it progresses and there are a few memorable moments before its (long-overdue) end. The bridge trolls are great! (But the moat monster is ridiculous, a far cry from "Return of the Jedi"s Rancor). The burgeoning love affair between Mat and Sorsha could've been worse but it's only mildly interesting. I don't know how excited I'd be about entering into a committed relationship with someone who, until a few hours before, was my sworn enemy and out to destroy the world. I like conversions (such as Darth Vader's eleventh hour repentance) but this one is nowhere near as careful, convincing, or even interesting.
The ending, where Willow rescues the "Chosen Child" from the clutches of the Evil Queen and interrupts her devilish rite is mildly interesting. Fortunately for the good guys, the ceremony for killing baby princess' is quite lengthy and Willow is able to rescue her just in the nick of time. To do so, he relies on an old stand-by: the old disappearing piglet (or baby) trick. Whew, was I relieved. I now knew that this would all soon be over! Surely my feat of endurance was at least as commendable as Willow Ulfgood's.
In cosing, I want to list some of the interesting parallels between "Willow" and "Star Wars". In fairness, these parallels are pointed out more out of novelty than actual criticism. It was about the only thing that kept me keepin' on through the last half. Though most are pretty obvious, I still found them somewhat interesting...
QUEEN BAVMORDA = Darth Vader and the Emperor. One of her first lines is "I want them alive!". This is very similar to one of Vader's first lines in Episode IV. Also, as she dies, she is lit up with blue-ish lightning and we even see her skull as we do with the Emperor in his last moments.
FIN RAZEL = Yoda. She is Willow's mentor. She is trying to get him to realize the magic inside of him despite his lack of faith. Also, like Yoda she is initially not much to look at (being a muskrat and all) and has trouble convincing the others that she is, in fact, a great teacher. Finally, (when she is finally returned to her human self) she is white haired and feeble and dies as Yoda did.
MATMARTIGAN = Han Solo. He is handsome, roguish, develops a crush on the indomitable female lead and (through much cajoling) eventually gets her. One of the first things said to Matmartigan in the movie is, "You serve no one." This is clearly similar to Han's insistence that he takes orders from no one but himself. Finally, just as does Han, Matmartigan (due to a variety of motives) eventually sees the emptiness of his solipcistic existence and joins the cause.
ERIC = Lando. Eric is a former associate of Matmartigan who's relationship to him is tenuous at best. In their first encounter, he recognizes Matmartigan but wishes him dead. He is also incredulous at Matmartigan's involvement with the good guys. "Since when are you a crusader?" he asks. Finally, he and Matmartigan are reconciled and he joins the cause as well.
So there you have it. Willow is not good but...it was produced by a really famous guy who did do some stuff that was.
Review by Matt Mintz from the Internet Movie Database.