Synopsis: Willow, a reluctant hero and aspiring sorcerer, finds himself protecting a destiny-filled baby princess from an evil queen skilled in dark sorcery.
• Director Ron Howard and a talented cast elevate the film well beyond the sum of its parts.
• The performances of Joanne Walley (Sorsha, the evil queen’s daughter), Warwick Davis (Willow, the reluctant yet ambitious hero), and Val Kilmer (Madmartigan, the shifty yet good-heated mercenary) particularly add more than any of the dialogue.
• The innovative special effects hold up well nearly three decades later.
• The comic relief does not take away from the film, as it often can.
• The consistently brisk pacing helps to make up for the film’s weaknesses, as does the undeniable charm.
• The story and plot are somewhat recycled and predictable. A prophesy of a child yet to be born bringing down a despot in some way was common in ancient Greco-Roman myths and Judeo-Christian theology.
• The overall story is somewhat thin, in spite of the sense of a vast Tolkien-esque world.
• The James Horner musical score, though more tailored than many of his from the 1980s, feels tired and too familiar.
• The George Lucas dialogue, while not yet at its worst, is largely unremarkable, as many of the names are just silly. George, was it so impossible to have Madmartigan say something to Sorsha like, “Do you really want to inherit a legacy murdered children?” and have that be the clear turning point for her as a character?
There is no denying how fun Willow is. Though not without it’s truly dark spots, it wants to welcome everyone far more than the similarly built yet far darker Dragonslayer (1981). Ron Howard is truly a great director. The story itself is old and unremarkable, but Howard filmed it in a way that makes the weak script not matter. Indeed, it felt far less thin than it really was, if we pay close attention. It was more than suggested that Sorsha had doubts about her crazed, despotic mother all along, but had yet to feed on those doubts. The wizard leader of the Nelwyn clearly saw Willow’s potential all along, and was relieved when a great quest came along to wake up Willow, who was suggested to be his successor. Val Kilmer practically plays the audience’s avatar, often functioning as the self-aware commentary. The technically forced comic relief of the miniaturized Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton is something that often destroys this kind of film, but was done strategically enough for it to be palatable. Willow is a film that works when it probably shouldn’t, and that is the true greatness of this cult classic.
Rotten Tomatoes — 53%