Willow

Willow

    George Lucas has become one of the most controversial icons in fiction history. He is attributed with creating some of the most successful films and franchises in the history of the medium; most notably, of course, being the Star Wars films. His stories thrilled audiences throughout the 70s and 80s, but today he’s continues to frustrate his fans by tampering with Star Wars and refusing to release the rights to the theatrical releases. He also was responsible for adding an extra chapter to his Indiana Jones series that certainly dropped the overall average of the franchise in the eyes of the public. All controversy aside, it is absolutely safe to say that Lucas was a pioneer for modern special effects and genre pieces as a whole. Star Wars and Indiana Jones were absolutely fantastic, appealing to the sense of adventure and curiosity imbued in all film viewers on a scale the likes of which had not been matched on film. What those franchises did for Science Fiction and Adventure films, Willow did for Fantasy, unfortunately with far less recognition.

 

    Willow follows the path of the titular Nelwyn, a fictional race that is represented by a cast comprised entirely of people affected by dwarfism. Willow discovers a Daikini (Daikinis being the equivilant of humans in this fantasy realm) infant. It is soon discovered that this infant is in fact the chosen princess to whom the throne belongs. She has long been sought after by the evil Bavmorda, who wishes to destroy the child and extend her reign of terror over the land. Along the way Willow meets various friends of various species who aid him in his quest to protect the rightful heir.

 

    Lucas wrote a classic sword and sorcery flick, and he did it specifically with families in mind. Willow is practically dripping with all the classic cliché fantasy morals, classic good vs evil stuff, but it’s done in a way that is an absolute blast. This was made on the cutting edge of special effects, when CGI was brand new and practical effects were still widely used. While some of the more ambitious action sequences certainly look dated, it’s refreshing to go back and watch a movie unfold before the use of CG elements became absolutely rampant, particularly in a Lucas film. Long before The Lord of The Rings, Willow filmed on location in New Zealand, portraying sweeping, epic landscapes to accompany an eclectic set of fantasy/adventure scenarios. Everything from the costumes to the set designs to the special effects just looks the part for a fantasy story; even the age of the film ads to the beauty of the movie.

 

    The movie allows you to not only to be entertained by the way it looks, but Lucas shows off his writing skills by giving us genuine character development (something that was sorely lacking in the Star Wars prequels). The actors selected to play the protagonists did an absolute fantastic job of encompassing their character. Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer never miss a beat as the hero, Willow, and Madmartigan, respectively. The pacing allows for ample time to both wow the audience visually and draw them into the lives of those on the screen. It lacks the overly lengthy run-time of modern fantasy “epics” but manages to offer a fun and well written addition to the genre.

 

    Willow certainly earned it’s status as a cult classic; the adventure aspect of the film measures up to Indiana Jones and Star Wars despite it’s lesser acknowledgments. It was created in a time, as my friend and fellow blogger Ryan Partlow points out, when children’s films were carefully crafted before they were presented to the audience… at least the good ones were anyway.