So what do you get when you take a dwarf, a magical baby, and Val Kilmer? If you think the answer is a drunken night in Vegas, you have some issues that are better resolved elsewhere.
Once upon a time, just after Howard the Duck and Labyrinth, George Lucas continued on his fantasy binge and produced a little known film called Willow. What follows promises to be all kinds of wonderfully weird, and full of clichéd madness.
Released in 1988, Willow follows the tale the title character, played by Warwick Davis, who lives in a village full of tiny people and happens to find the one human baby who will bring down a tyrant and is marked for death. He decides that, obviously, the only right thing to do is to take the baby back to the humans before it ends up getting the entire village killed. Though, how exactly he’s going successfully do just that seem a little…difficult.
On the way, Willow meets the warrior Madmartigan, played by the always-subtle Val Kilmer, who is caught in some weird go-go-dancer cage device. Willow helps him escape the cage and in return Madmartigan agrees to take the baby. Willow, surprisingly, hands the kid over because apparently, getting trapped in a cage equals dependability in this world.
So, Willow, thinking all is taken care of, starts heading back home when he gets kidnapped by brownies. No, not the delicious chocolaty baked treats, the miniature people. But let’s think about this carefully – a dwarf is captured by mini-people. But not just ANY miniature people, oh no, George Lucas couldn’t let that opportunity pass him by. They’re tiny people dressed like aboriginal Ewoks.
So essentially, Willow gets the baby and finds out through magic fairies that the baby only wants him to guard her. Willow finds Madmartigan again, but this time has the brownies with him, as well as a powerful sorceress who has been turned into a possum. They fight in a castle that has been frozen solid, one of the lesser villains falls in love with Madmartigan, and they form an army to fight the evil queen. The queen turns their army into pigs while Willow turns the sorceress back to normal after many failed attempts, and a huge battle is waged. The baby gets captured and is going to be sent away forever but Willow does a second-rate magic trick, and the queen ends up disappearing forever.
Sound confusing? Watching the actual film only helps a little.
Yes, this film’s a bit strange in the plot department and it’s easy to get lost along the way should you space out. But, if you’ve got your eyes firmly on the screen, you should be fine. The romance between the semi-villainess and Kilmer seems rushed at best, but not to the Anakin-Padme levels. Willow himself, however, is a very likable character and is actually the star of this film, rather than just the title character that gets shoved to the side.
The music is forgettable, and the cinematography is on par with all the other fantasy movies of this era. The film is just really nice to look at, with giant nature shots, great costuming, and well set up shots with are impressive for the pre Lord of the Rings era.
On the acting side of thing, Val Kilmer is probably the weakest player but he’s not god awful like I feared. He plays his part with dignity, and seems to actually try, so you’ve got to give former-Batman that. Again, the acting, like everything else, is on par with the norm, so I feel there’s not much else to say on that aspect.
All in all, Willow is an unassuming cliché adventure into a blend of every fantasy world every created. If you’re not expecting the Citizen Kane of fantasy films, you’ll probably enjoy it just for its silliness and innocent premise. Just be ready to go with flow and suspend your disbelief off a cliff.
Tune in next week when I will review a horror-fantasy film very close to my own heart, Bettlejuice.