Willow (1988)

    Release: 1988

    Director: Ron Howard

    Cast:

    • Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood, a Nelwyn dwarf and aspiring sorcerer who plays a critical role in protecting infant Elora Danan from the evil queen Bavmorda.
    • Val Kilmer as Madmartigan, a boastful mercenary swordsman who helps Willow on his quest.
    • Kate and Ruth Greenfield/Rebecca Bearman as Elora Danan, an infant princess that prophecy says will bring about Queen Bavmorda’s downfall.
    • Joanne Whalley as Sorsha, Bavmorda’s warrior daughter who turns against her mother when she falls in love with Madmartigan.
    • Jean Marsh as Queen Bavmorda, the villainous ruler of Nockmaar, a powerful black sorceress and mother of Sorsha.
    • Patricia Hayes as Fin Raziel, the aging sorceress who is turned into a possum[4][5] due to a curse by Bavmorda.
    • Billy Barty as The High Aldwin, the Nelwyn wizard who commissions Willow to go on his journey, realizing the potential that Willow possesses in magic.
    • Pat Roach as General Kael, the villainous associate to Queen Bavmorda and high commander of her army.
    • Gavan O’Herlihy as Airk Thaughbaer, the military commander of the destroyed kingdom of Galladoorn who shares a mixed friendship with Madmartigan.
    • Maria Holvöe as Cherlindrea, the fairy queen who resides in the forest and updates Willow on the importance of his quest.
    • Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton as Rool and Franjean, a brownie duo who also serve as comic relief in Willow’s journey.
    • David J. Steinberg as Meegosh, Willow’s closest friend who accompanies Willow partway on his journey.
    • Mark Northover as Burglekutt, the leader of the Nelwyn village council who maintains a running enmity with Willow.
    • Phil Fondacaro as Vohnkar, a Nelwyn warrior who also accompanies Willow partway on his journey.
    • Julie Peters as Kaiya Ufgood, Willow’s wife; a loving mother and enthusiastic in caring for Elora.
    • Malcolm Dixon as a Nelwyn warrior.
    • Tony Cox as a Nelwyn warrior.

    Budget: $35 Million

    Box Office Performance: $57.3 Million

    MPAA Rating: PG

    Synopsis: An aspiring sorcerer Willow Ufgood finds a baby who turns out to be a product of a prophecy and must venture on a quest to return her to the place of her birth to defeat the evil sorceress, Bavmorde.

    George Lucas’s career is illustrious and not much has gone wrong when put into his hands. Everybody knows about Star Wars and the massive success its had over the 40-year reign as King of Science Fiction ever since Star Wars: A New Hope was released in 1977. He’s had some blunders, such as Howard the Duck as well as other financial successes such as Indiana Jones seriesWillow was such a success and has gained a cult following among fantasy fans, earning two academy award nominations. As I watched the film though, I couldn’t help but see some direct similarities between this film and Peter Jacksons epic trilogy Lord of the Rings released in 2001, 13 years after Willow was released to the silver screen. As I write the review, I will put the similarities in parenthesis.  Any fan of Lord of the Rings will know what I mean.

    The story begins with rolling words (George Lucas really loves this style of foretelling a story) about how a baby girl (Ring) born with a mark will put an end of the evil sorceress Bavmorde (Sauron). After being saved by a nursemaid, she is found along a river by an aspiring sorcerer Willow Ufgood (Frodo Baggins). Realizing that the baby is not from his home village, the Nelwyns (Hobbits) send him on a quest, commanded by the town council (Council of the Ring) to return the baby girl, named Elora Danan (Ring) to the daikini, who are considered giants to the small race of Nelwyns. Along the way, Willow meets his first daikini, a reluctant warrior called Madmartigan (Aragorn) who helps Willow on his quest. After a close call with a race called Brownies (Goblins), he is reminded of the importance of his quest and told to find the sorcerer Fin Raziel (Gandolf). Along the way, he is accompanied by two wise cracking Brownies Rool and Franjean (warriors chosen by the council) to help him in his quest. In constant pursuit of them is Bavmorde’s daughter, Sorsha, and her top general, Kael (Witch King of Angmar). Following many other harrowing close calls, they come upon the Castle Nockmaar (Gondor) for the final battle.  After a hard-fought battle with Bavmorde’s forces, where Madmartigan’s friend Arik (Boromir) dies that sparks the warrior to defeat the evil general, good triumphs and Willow becomes the aspiring sorcerer he sets out to become.

    Each film has its differences, and both have gone on to become a part of film lore in its own way, with the obvious success of Lord of the Rings having much more critically acclaimed and financial success. I just can’t help but wonder if Peter Jackson was reading the book one night and ending up watching Willow as a break from reading and thinking “I’ve got a film”. The similarities are striking and, in some way, can’t be dismissed as a very loose base model. Please don’t let this change your mind from watching this surprisingly good film as both are worth your time. Val Kilmer as Madmartigan shows a little bit of humor from his normally serious rolls and its fun to watch Warwick Davis in his first feature film after playing the roll of the lovable Ewoke who finds Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi. Warwick Davis would go on to have a very good Hollywood career, as Professor Filius Flitwick in the Harry Potter series. So, if you’re in the mood to watch a fantasy flick that fills all the requirements of a what a fantasy film should entail, then this movie is right up your alley.

    • Main Actor: Warwick Davis as Willow plays a wonderful role and truly makes you believe that anything is possible if you truly believe it: B
    • Main Actress: Joanne Whalley as Sorsha plays a convincing part as a lackey who realizes that her purpose had been a lie. Jean Marsh as Bavmorde plays a good evil sorceress but she’s almost too nice at parts: B-
    • Supporting Cast: Val Kilmer plays Madmartigan very well a dashing but vulnerable swordsman to the letter. General Kael plays the evil leader of Bavmorde forces good, but he could have been more ruthless.  Many times, they came to a small village looking for the baby and could have slaughtered the entire population, cementing his evilness: C+
    • Music: Probably the worst part of the film and even it had some good parts.  The build-up to the big battles was entertaining and captivating: C
    • Plot: If it came after Lord of the Rings, I’d say that it was a copycat, to a degree.  Since it came out before, it could be looked at as a blueprint for some of the better fantasy films in the last 20 years: B+
    • Overall Grade: B
    • Fun Facts
      • The part of Willow Ufgood was specifically written for Warwick Davis, after his role as Wicket in Star Wars
      • The movies were originally going to be called Munchkins after The Wizard of Oz
      • Between 225 to 240 little people were casted for Willow, the all-time largest casting of little people for a movie
      • It was the first use of morphing for any film casted at the time
      • During a battle scene later in the film, Willow and his compatriots must fight a two-headed beast outside of the castle. The name of the stop motion beast is the Eborsisk, which is a combination of the names of famed film critics, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel
      • As is the case with most shows and films, the role of the baby Elora was played by twins, in this case Kate and Ruth Greenfield. The IMDb pages for both actresses only has the one credit. On his blog, Davis shared a picture in 2007 with a woman named Laura Hopkirk who says that she played the baby for the scenes shot in New Zealand, but she is not credited online

     

     

    About Brian Noonkester

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