Monday, April 25, 2011

The Vault: "Willow"

It's always fun to go back in time and revisit the films of my childhood. When I sit back and remember the movies that solidified my current obsession, "Willow" is always on the list!

Willow Ufgood is an Elwin who has dreams of becoming a great sorcerer. One day, his small children find an abandoned baby at the shore of the river. As explained in the opening minutes of the movie, it has been prophecized that this baby will destroy the evil Queen Bavmorda and bring peace to the realm. Despite his best efforts, Willow becomes attached to the baby and goes on a quest to hand her off to right person. Along the way, Willow meets Madmartigan, a rogue swordsman-turned-thief. Seeing that he is of the same race as the baby, Willow leaves the infant with Madmartigan. Minutes later, the baby is taken from Madmartigan by brownies who work for the fairy queen Cherlindrea. Willow comes across the brownies and fairies as he heads back home, and Cherlindrea reveals to him that the baby, named Elora Danan, has chosen him as her protector. Cherlindrea instructs Willow to bring the baby to the great sorceress Fin Raziel, who has been exiled by Queen Bavmorda to the Mysterious Island.*

*Ok, let's stop here. Now, tell me this doesn't sound eerily similar to Tolkien's "Lord of The Rings." The whole time I was watching this last night, I kept noticing all of the little LOTR elements. Firstly, it's quite clear that the Elwins are essentially Hobbits. Willow Ufgood comes into the care of Elora, much like Frodo inherits Bilbo's ring. Both characters are very reluctant to leave the safety of their villages and go on a quest, but they are both motivated by the notion that they will save the world from tyranny. In the early stages of their journeys, both Willow and Frodo meet a taller, dark, stranger who just so happens to be a really skilled warrior. True, Aragorn has much more tact and grace than Madmartigan, but still the similarities are there. The mythical appearance of the fairy queen Cherlindrea draws upon the Elf Queen Galadriel, and both women give magical gifts to their tiny knights - Cherlindrea gives Willow a powerful magic wand, while Galadriel gives Frodo the Light of EƤrendil.

Back to the movie. So, Willow travels to the Mysterious Island and finds the great sorceress Fin Raziel, who has been stripped of her human form by Queen Bavmorda and is now some kind of lemur or meerkat. When Willow arrives on shore with Raziel, the evil Nockmaar army is waiting for them. Turns out, Madmartigan betrayed Willow and gave up their location after being captured. Queen Bavmorda's daughter, Sorsha, has been hot on the trail of Willow and Elora. Madmartigan devises a plan for them to escape, which they successfully do. Once again though, after thinking they are in the clear, Elora is snatched up once more and finally taken to Queen Bavmorda. In the final battle sequence of the movie, Madmartigan and a rebel army march upon the Castle Nockmaar in a final effort to triumph over Bavmorda. While the men are fighting outside, Willow and Fin Raziel - now in her human form - head up to the tower where Elora is being held. There's a crazy sorceress fight between Raziel and Bavmorda (hmm, very much like the fight betwen Saruman and Gandalf) and like all happy endings, Bavmorda is destroyed. Yay!

"Willow" is one of those movies that stands the test of time. Although it was released back in 1988, it's still an impressive fantasy romp. This is probably largely due to the fact that the story was written by George Lucas (...and partially borrowed from Tolkien *wink*) and that it was directed by Ron Howard. This should be at the top of anyone's must-watch list, at least when it comes to fantasy and adventure. It's one of my favorite movies and I had a lot of fun watching it again.


  1. Oof, 'Willow' takes me back some years! I have to say that I haven't seen in since the 80s when I was a kid, so may memory is hazy. Even most of the scenes you've described escape me.

    I did pick up 'Dark Crystal' on Blu-ray recently, which is another childhood classic. It was awesome. If I'm sharp enough, I'll whip up a review for the LAMB director's chair for Frank Oz next week.

  2. My god this is a trip down memory lane!! It was a good movie in its day and i remember it being very popular.
    I suppose I re-call it so well because it was actually filmed here in little ol' New Zealand! So we all had a vested interest in seeing it back then. Funny isn't it how over the years we forget so much. On another blog I was reminded of another movie from about the same time, Flight of the Navigator. It was a popular movie in its day and I had completey forgotten abut it.

  3. Lucas, ripping off other classic/fantasy stories? NO WAY! haha.

    This movie still rules. The drummer in my friend's band looks a bit like Willow so I always think about this flick whenever I see them.

  4. One of my favorite fantasy films ever. Kilmer at his best, too. To this day I've got a friend who almost cannot see Kilmer on screen without saying, "Madmartigan! Madmartigan!"

  5. @ edgarchaput: Oooh, I was gifted "The Dark Crystal" on Blu-Ray and it's amazing!!!

    @ Brent: I thought the landscapes looked familiar! No wonder why I got such an LOTR vibe from the movie *wink*

    @ MRanthrope: A drummer that looks like Willow...interesting! I totally agree, this movie is so legit.

    @ Brian: Yes! Pre-Top Gun Kilmer is always awesome!

  6. LOTR vibe, I like that!! I believe it was filmed here because during the eighties NZ was a cheap place to film. Also NZ wasn't well known scenery wise so it was a great place to film fantasy type movies. All that has changed since LOTR though!!


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