1988; Rated PG; 125 Minutes
Val Kilmer: Madmartigan
Joanne Whalley-Kilmer: Sorsha
Warwick Davis: Willow
Jean Marsh: Queen Bavmorda
Patricia Hayes: Fin Raziel
Produced by Nigel Wooll;
Directed by Ron Howard; Screenwritren Bob Dolman; Based
on a story by George Lucas
by DAVID KEYES
"Willow is a fearsomely ambitious movie, but it is not
fearsome, and it is not wondrous, and it is about a journey
too far down a road too well-traveled by other movies. It's
a fantasy about the quest of a lovable little person and
his heroic newfound friend to return a lost baby to where
it belongs, and to outsmart a wicked queen and kill a two-headed
dragon in the process. In other words, standard stuff."
-Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Mr. Ebert may have truthfully meant what he said about "Willow,"
but he obviously didn't understand the film well enough
to truly appreciate it. "Willow" is nothing like he said:
it's actually a curiously beautiful film, filled with characters
and a story that have never been attempted in any other
movie. It's unique, down to the core.
absolutely loved this movie, from beginning to end. And,
for some oddly strange reason, I never could really tell
why I enjoyed it so much.
belongs to a race of little people called the Nelwyns, and
is chosen by his community to take a baby to a far-off crossroads
where it can be found by its people, the Daikinis. The baby
was carried to Willow's land on a raft that was swept along
by river waters. What Willow does not know is that the baby
was placed on the raft by a midwife, who had promised to
save the baby as the wish of her desperate, imprisoned mother.
This was to save it from the decree of death dealt out to
the child born with a special birthmark, which proved the
child to be the successor to Bavmorda, an evil queen who
is not about to give up her crown.
(Warwick Davis) sets off with the baby in arms, and at the
crossroads he meets Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), a warrior
who has been imprisoned in a cage. Madmartigan convinces
Willow to free him, and then Willow gives the baby, named
Elora Dannon, to Madmartigan, confident that he will care
for it. When he sets off for home, he encounters a tiny,
little race of ignoramuses called the brownies. These little
people are lead by a sorceress named Cherlindrea, who appears
in spirit form. She tells Willow of Elora's true power,
and that unless he helps her defeat the evil Queen Bavmorda,
Willow's entire village (as well as everyone that lived)
would be under her spell forever.
accepts the task of taking the child to the only sorceress
that can counterattack Bavmorda's magic: Fin Raziel, who
lives on a deserted island, and has been turned into a rat.
Since in rodent form, she cannot use her given magic, so
Willow must master her magic wand and turn her back to her
human form. In the attempts to, Raziel goes through several
different transformations, all caused by Willow's improper
magic. In fact, she doesn't actually become human until
they are outside of Bavmorda's castle, and the people around
Willow are being turned into pigs by Bavmorda's magic. I
guess you can say that Willow's fear of Bavmorda's magic
made him nervous enough to get the magic right.
the benefit of those who haven't seen the film, I won't
reveal the end of the plot. You'll have to watch the film
casting of "Willow" has been done outstandingly: every actor
greatly fits their character. Most notably, Val Kilmer as
the daredevil Madmartigan and his obsessive love interest,
Sorsha, played by Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Val's real-life
is obviously not a woman you would want to meet in a dark
alley: she's simply a mean little bitch, and Madmartigan
seems to be the only one who could get through her wicked
mind and make her see that she's a victim of her mother's
anger. In one notable sequence, Madmartigan is accidentally
sprayed with a love-dust by two members of the tiny browny
race. When they escape their imprisonment from Sorsha, he
enters her tent, and, due to the love dust, claims his undying
love for her. Thinking he is crazy (which he was), Sorsha
takes a dagger and places it against his neck, confident
that he will stay back. He doesn't. No matter what she does,
he forces his love on her, claiming that she is his "starlit
sky." She becomes putty in his hands, and turns against
her mother, the evil queen Bavmorda. She confesses her love
for him later on in the movie, when he's fighting a viscous
relationship was so curiously fun to watch, because it reminded
me of Shakespeare's "The Taming Of The Shrew," when Petruchio
proved to be the only one who could tame Kate. Instead,
it was Madmartigan taming Sorsha, and this provided some
of the most memorable moments in the film.
shocking as it sounds, it's usually violence that provokes
nostalgia movies for me. Maybe movies that frighten us are
those that become reminiscent in our deepest paralell minds,
and "Willow" is one of the most perfect examples of this
the violence was a bit childish, but who cares when you
enjoy it so much? If it wasn't the violence, maybe it was
the evil presence I felt from Bavmorda. I'm not sure what
it was, but when I am drawn into a movie like this, it has
to be somewhere along those lines.
thing "Willow" doesn't burden itself with is a use of too
much action and not enough storyline. We commonly find that
in most movies with a sword and sorcery setting, fairies
and dragons flying around seem more common than hearing
decent dialogue or a fair premise. With the exception of
"Ladyhawke," I believe the entire genre has used these traits,
and perhaps that is why I really don't like it that much.
"Willow" is nothing like this, though. It's an ambitious,
powerful entry into the genre, unlike any other entry of
it. Perhaps that's what makes "Willow" stand out, because
it's simply one of the only original films of the fantasy
I don't know how I liked this movie so much. I felt maybe
it was because of the sorcery setting, and then I felt it
was the violence. Then the art direction, and eventually,
the characters themselves. Whatever it was, or is, "Willow"
is overwhelmingly powerful. I am drawn immensely into the
film every time I see it, and I really don't know why. Perhaps
it will be better for me never to decide why I liked it
so much. Who cares? I still enjoy it, even if I can't pinpoint
1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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