Willow Stands Tall More Than Three Decades Later

Julien Neaves, Editor

In recent years fantasy TV content ranged from scanty to non-existent. But we appear to be in the midst of a revival, with the upcoming The Rings of Power (The Lord of the Rings prequel series dropping in September on Amazon), the upcoming House of the Dragon (the Game of Thrones prequel series dropping next month on HBO/HBO Max) and the most recent announcement of an Eragon series. Not sure who asked for that Eragon series, but the more the merrier. But one series I am most excited is the Willow sequel series, which continues the story of the beloved 1988 fantasy film of the same name. Check out the trailer below:

And while we have to wait until quite November (boo!) for the first episode to drop on Disney+, it’s a great time to look back on the original film. So that’s we’re doing right now. With a troll monster-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s retro review Willow:

When you kill 50 soldiers and then see 100 more coming through the gate

Based on a story by THE George Lucas and directed by THE Ron Howard, Willow follows the titular character, an aspiring Nelwyn (little people) sorcerer, who joins with roguish mercenary swordsman Madmartigan to protect infant princess Elora Danan from evil sorceress Queen Bavmorda, who is prophesised to bring about the tyrannical ruler’s downfall. Before we get into the characters let’s chat about the world here. We have the races of the Daikini (men), the Nelwyn (stand-in for dwarves), beastly trolls, mischievous tiny Brownies, and fairies, though the last race don’t play much of a part in this story. It feels pretty similar to other fantasy worlds out there, probably a little TOO similar. Add elves and make the trolls bigger and less hairy and you’re not too far from Middle Earth. Rewatching Willow the fantasy world is still an entertaining one but it does not feel particularly unique.

While the world is not necessarily mind blowing, the film truly shines with its main cast. Warwick Davis is simply phenomenal as Willow. There is so much heart, wit, bravery and intelligence in this little character that every moment with him is a delight. He has the sweetest chemistry with his Nelwyn family and the adorable Elora, and a hilarious odd couple relationship (don’t call me peck!) with Madmartigan, played by Val Kilmer in an exuberant performance. Kilmer met his future wife Joanne Whalley on the film set, so the blazing chemistry between Madmartigan and the Queen’s warrior daughter and villain-turned-hero Sorsha caught fire off screen as well. Rounding off the cast are Jean Marsh as the delightfully despicable Queen Bavmorda, Patricia Hayes as the quirky sorceress Fin Raziel, and Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton as Brownie duo Rool and Franjean, whose comedic antics mostly land.

Not even a mother could love those faces

On the pacing, during the rewatch I found myself getting a little impatient for Willow to meet up with Madmartigan. Sure, the Nelwyn village is cool and all and it’s necessary to establish our protagonist. And I liked his family, best friend Meegosh and wily High Aldwin, though the boorish Burglekutt wore out his welcome right quick. And the mini-fellowship (both in size and stature) to turn over Elora Danan to a Daikini is just not that interesting and feels like it goes on FOREVER. Maybe I was just overly excited to see Madmartigan. Maybe.

But once Willow and Meegosh rescue Madmartigan from his crow’s cage the film cuts quite the adventurous pace. We have Brownie abductions, crossdressing, love potion shenanigans, shield snow surfing, and Raziel becoming a one-woman petting zoo. And that’s all before the skirmish at the creepy Tir Asleen, which is my favourite part of the film. We have Madmartigan taking on an entire army singlehanded, Willow battling ferocious trolls and the monstrous two-headed Eborsisk, and also Sorsha’s defection. #excitements. Bavmorda turning Airk’s army into pigs! pigs! pigs! is quite the memorable scene, I enjoyed watching Madmartigan slay the one-note but cool looking General Kael, and the final confrontation was also a good time. But they never did explain why Bavmorda had to do the ritual to transport Elora to the dark dimension and couldn’t just kill her, but it’s a minor quibble.

Get away from her you b—-h

The visual effects do show their age but still hold up well enough. I also have to give a shout out to the practical effects, costuming and grand theme by THE James Horner. They all highlight a fun story with unforgettable characters and some decent fantasy action. It is a world that definitely needed revisiting and I could not be happier that we are getting a new series. Until then might I recommend checking out the original for the first time or again for the hundredth. It remains a great watch.

Editor Jules’s Score: 8 out of 10

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Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.

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