Willow Ufgood is a hobbit—I mean Nelwyn—in a land
Where tall people called Daikinis will dismiss them out of hand.
In this world of tricks and fantasy, a baby girl is born
Who is destined to dethrone old Queen Bavmorda. Thus she’s sworn
That this child with the mark upon its arm will not outlive her,
But the girl is saved and sent adrift upon a rushing river.
Willow’s family finds the baby, and they keep her fed and clean,
Till it’s clear that she’s a danger, being wanted by the queen.
It’s decided then that Willow, though he’s weak and rather teeny,
Must take the child out and give her to the right Daikini.
(Before he leaves, the village sage, who gave to him this mission,
Lets Willow know he has a chance to be a great magician.)
The first Daikini Willow meets makes him wish to start again,
For it’s a scoundrel in a cage who calls himself Madmartigan.
When no one else will listen to a peck (a Nelwyn slur),
Willow gives the girl to him because he says he’ll care for her.
A brownie steals the girl from Mad (it wasn’t very hard),
And captures Willow too and puts him under tiny guard.
But then a fairy frees him (she is floating, ghostly sorta)
And says he must protect the girl from evil Queen Bavmorda.
He takes Elora Danan (that’s the girl if you haven’t guessed)
And meets with ol’ Madmartigan, who can’t resist a quest.
With two rambunctious brownies, Willow finds one Fin Raziel,
A sorceress enchanted as a possum by a spell.
They’re captured then by Sorsha, who’s the daughter of the queen,
But escape once in the mountains in a quite exciting scene.
Madmartigan and Sorsha, thanks in part to magic dust,
Find they each might love the other, whom they once held in disgust.
In a thrilling castle battle, the adventure won’t relent,
As they fight trolls and a dragon Willow makes by accident.
In spite of Sorsha’s joining them, Elora is abducted
By a general who takes her to Bavmorda, as instructed.
Willow, Sorsha, and Madmartigan, Raziel, some soldiers too
Travel to Bavmorda’s castle to at least attempt rescue.
There they try to think of some way to get past the enemy line,
But Bavmorda laughs at everyone and turns them into swine.
But Willow, who protects himself, now finally succeeds
In transforming Fin Raziel back to the human form she needs.
She cuts the animal army’s sudden transformation short,
And the next day, by a skillful bluff, they storm the enemy fort.
Though Bavmorda tries to send Elora to the netherworld,
Willow, Sorsha, and Raziel come in to save the baby girl.
When Bavmorda seems victorious and only Willow stands,
He employs a trick to make Elora vanish from his hands.
Bavmorda then is livid and attempts to cast a spell,
When lightning strikes her magic wand and sends the queen to…hell?
Thus Willow is the hero, and Elora’s safe and sound,
And Sorsha and Madmartigan share in love newfound.
Willow’s honored by his village for his part in their land’s freeing
And his chance to be the sorcerer he’s always dreamed of being.

Willow is an action-adventure-romance-comedy-fantasy, combining a story by George Lucas with Ron Howard’s direction. Having seen it again, it probably deserves a higher place on the list because it’s a pretty good member of the fantasy genre. Yet for all its exciting scenes and groundbreaking (at the time) special effects, it’s also strangely forgettable.

It’s really a great movie, with a lovely James Horner score and some terrific action scenes, particularly the snow toboggan sequence, which may have inspired a similar scene in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. And yet for all its apparent originality, it also feels rather derivative. Bavmorda’s campaign to kill a newborn monarch is reminiscent of King Herod in the Bible. Likewise, Elora’s being set adrift on the river recalls Moses in the basket. The banter about being heroes makes Willow and Meegosh sound like Sam and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, while their capture by brownies mirrors a similar scene in Gulliver’s Travels. The Lord of the Rings especially feels like an inspiration (a small person comes upon something of great worth and must go on a quest, proving that no one is too small to be a hero).

George Lucas’s involvement offers another point of comparison that is more and more obvious when you think about it. It’s Star Wars meets Lord of the Rings, with a little Harry Potter thrown in long before J. K. Rowling began her series. Willow is Luke Skywalker, with sorcery standing in for the Force; Bavmorda is the seemingly unconquerable emperor; Madmartigan is the skillful, roguish Han Solo; the brownies are the comic relief droids; Airk is the friend-at-arms Lando; Fin Raziel is the elderly sage Obi-wan Kenobi; the two-headed dragon looks a little like the space worm in Empire Strikes Back; Kael with his skull helmet is Darth Vader (I almost expected Kael to start wheezing); and Sorsha is the princess Leia, though her changing from bad to good is a notable difference. (I did think that her turning against her mother just for the sake of love was a bit forced. An explicit moment of her realizing Bavmorda’s villainy would have been welcome.)

All that being said, Willow is an impressive precursor to modern fantasy and a testing ground for morphing technology, which was perfected in The Abyss and Terminator 2. The scenery is spectacular, and the score is nice, though not as memorable as others. The babies playing Elora Danan have adorable and very expressive faces that make for some hilarious looks. The brownies are both annoying and funny at once, offering cute characters for children, but the dragon’s head exploding makes Willow not quite kiddie fare. Still, as a fan of fantasy, I had to put it on the list.

Best line (from the brownies, of course): “Your mother was a lizard!”

Artistry: 4
Characters/Actors: 4
Entertainment: 6
Visual Effects: 4
Originality: 2
Watchability: 6
TOTAL: 26 out of 60

Tomorrow – #361: Megamind

© 2014 S. G. Liput