I can’t believe this movie is 25 years old already. This was a staple of my childhood; something I watched over and over again. I’m pretty sure I wore out the VHS in some parts. I don’t think I saw this one in theaters, and I’m not entirely sure how it appeared in my house. I know it was in the vast cabinet of movies we’d collected, and one I selected often. At least this is a good movie unlike some of the other nonsense I forced my caregivers to suffer through in our single-television-no-cable household. Sorry grandma.
After 2-3 years of watching Willow, I don’t think I ever went back to it. That’s why it was a little surprising for me when I learned years later that this was Ron Howard/George Lucas joint. Not that I’d really know either of those names that young. Watching it now, knowing their style, it’s easy to see their thumbprint on the movie. The 80’s had a few different fantasy movies like Legend, and Ladyhawke that were met with little to middling success. Hollywood was pioneering the genre for the big screen at the time, so with a few exceptions like Neverending Story or Princess Bride, most attempts fell flat. Particularly the ones that became convoluted in their own lore. Willow though, falls into the latter group, still standing up today as a good tale.
The worst part about watching some older movies is the effects, moreover, how they hold up. I strongly think that practical are better than just about anything computer generate. Willow uses mostly practical effects, with the biggest deviation coming from the use of green screen. Other than some things not blending well into the background (the brownies in particular), the green screen is negligible. The two headed dragon thing was a little obnoxious.
One thing Willow nails is character design. Everyone has a unique look, making them stand out from the typical fantasy fare; Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) had his golden armor with tasseled helmet; General Kael (Pat Roach) with his
Skeletor skeleton mask and serrated blade; and Willow (Warwick Davis) himself, being of a particular stature. The characters being incredibly unique and likable is a major reason why Willow is so enjoyable. The only character that seemed a little misrepresented was Sorsha (Joanne Whalley), the daughter of the evil witch Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh). We were told early on that her allegiance was in question, though it was never shown. Once Madmartigan being spouting poetry at her (temporary love spell), she began to question her allegiance as well. She seemed a little underdeveloped, only a vapid love interest.
While I do prefer practical over computer effects, I couldn’t help but laugh at the obvious dummy used in the snow sledding scene. It gave me a good laugh. Still, I was grateful for it, thinking how horrible it would have looked if it were done any differently. The battle between Fin Raziel (Patricia Hayes) and Bavmorda at the end was funnier still, but that was mostly due to Hayes’ idea of magical incantation than anything else.
If you haven’t seen Willow in a while, I recommend going back to watch. It’s completely worth the time. If you haven’t seen it before and have any affinity for fantasy, you owe it to yourself to give this a view.
Still think the troll being skinned is gross.