Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review: Average "Willow" Entertains

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 69 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Willow (1988)
Running time: 126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
WRITERS: Bob Dolman; based upon a story by George Lucas
PRODUCER: Nigel Wooll
EDITORS: Daniel Hanley, Michael Hill, and Richard Hiscott
COMPOSER: James Horner
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Jean Marsh, Patricia Hayes, Billy Barty, Pat Roach, Gavan O’Herlihy, David Steinberg, Mark Northover, Kevin Pollack, Rick Overton, Maria Holvoe, Julie Peters, Mark Vande Brake, Dawn Downing, Tony Cox, and Ruth & Kate Greenfield

The subject of this movie review is Willow, the 1988 fantasy film that was a collaboration between George Lucas and Ron Howard. Joe Johnston was also an associate producer on the film.

The 1988 film, Willow, which Ron Howard directed, was George Lucas’ attempt to do for fantasy films what Star Wars had done for science fiction films, but Willow’s box office receipts barely paid back the film’s production costs. Lucas reportedly studied mythology from around the world in the process of writing this film’s story, but in the end, he borrowed heavily from author J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (which nearly a decade and a half later became an international super hit film trilogy) the way he borrowed from author Frank Herbert’s Dune for Star Wars. Willow is by no means great, but it’s a good, entertaining fantasy adventure for the juvenile, teens, and adults who like fantasy films, although Willow is low-wattage compared to the intensity of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films.

In the story, Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis), the member of a dwarfish race called the “Nelwyn,” takes possession of Elora Danan (Ruth & Kate Greenfield), a special baby girl sought by an evil sorceress, Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh). Bavmorda wants to kill Elora because a certain prophecy says the child will cause Bavmorda’s destruction. Willow, who is also an apprentice sorcerer, must take the baby girl back to her people, all while being pursued by Bavmorda’s soldiers. Through the difficult journey, Willow is joined on his quest by the boastful and loony swordsman, Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), and two sarcastic brownies, a type of diminutive fairy.

Although Willow borrows from such high fantasy tales at the Rings trilogy, the film is more grounded in reality, more earthy. In Willow, magic is inconsistent, and practitioners must rely as much on their wits and skills to survive as they do on magic. The film is notable for the fact that the hero is played by a dwarf actor, and the both of the powerful magic users are old women. However, nothing much about the film stands out as memorable, except for James Horner’s fabulous score, which borrows heavily from other musical sources, in particularly Mozart. The other item of note is a giant two-headed dragon that appears in the middle of the film’s narrative. It was one of the early attempts at adding computer-generated characters into live action film.

5 of 10

Friday, May 20, 2005

1989 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing” (Ben Burtt and Richard Hymns) and “Best Effects, Visual Effects” (Dennis Muren, Michael J. McAlister, Phil Tippett, and Christopher Evans)

1989 Razzie Awards: 2 nominations: “Worst Screenplay” (Bob Dolman; George Lucas-story) and “Worst Supporting Actor” (Billy Barty)

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