George Lucas’ fantasy masterpiece Willow: a running diary

okay, no more putting off the inevitable: as alluded to last time, it’s time for that running diary of Willow. i remember seeing this film in the theater as a child, subsequently reading the novelization (and yet, note that i found those Lord of the Rings books too boring to read around the same time) and enjoying both, at least to the extent that i don’t recall hating them in the way i, say, recall hating Legend. even as a youth, my hatred for Tom Cruise was finely honed.

ANYWAY, some decades passed and last summer, my sibling told me that my birthday gift would be something so awesome that, and i quote, “i wouldn’t know how i managed to live without it.” it turned out that this referred to a DVD of Willow (there was another gift as well, but that was the “awesome” part); one year later, i’m now about to watch this DVD twice in 13 days with a little help from my dear friends Stolichnaya and Vincent Van Gogh (uh, the vodka, not, you know, that psycho painter). so let’s get this thing going!

preparatory information: this movie happened because George Lucas couldn’t film a version of the Hobbit (millions of Tolkein fanboys and guys named Del Toro having breathed sighs of relief without knowing why); also, apparently a trilogy would have followed this movie if it had done well at the book office, so i guess we should be grateful that THAT didn’t go down. and now, on with the film.

00:00:00: i am once again reminded how annoying the DVD case that Willow comes in is to operate. i mean, look, i am not blaming alcohol; i happen to think this particular case is extra annoying. whatever, don’t judge me. on with the movie!

eh, Willow
if this was my production to do with whatever i chose, i would have been tempted to make this read “eh, WILLOW; it could have been better with some effort”

00:00:18: seriously, these opening screens of dramatic words are WAY too much for a film called “Willow” that involves a magical dwarf saving the world from, i presume, all that evil. Star Wars was not kind to your production skills beyond the special effects stuff, Lucas.

00:02:47: uh… where did all this snow come from? how far did this woman supposedly walk? i guess this is the kind of thing that makes people say “hey, why are you taking these fantasy movies so goddamn seriously.” i’ll try to calm down here. also, don’t forget, guys, our villain Queen Bavmorda wants to kill “tiny, helpless babies,” so that means she’s EXTRA evil.

00:06:13: we’re introduced to our tiny hero Willow who, while supposedly showing us he’s hilarious and compassionate, has really just proven to me that he’s an irresponsible farmer. also, related fact: Burglekutt (Mark Northover) is just about the ugliest dwarf ever.

00:09:51: Willow’s farm is filled with goats? AWESOME.

dwarfs as far as the eye can see
this is where i should make some cheesy joke about their sizes being small, but their love of life being large or something; my heart is not in it

00:10:00: according to the internet, Willow is noted for “employing more dwarfs than any film in years” and for casting Warwick Davis in the lead (though, frankly, i think the latter is debatable with Val Kilmer soaking up all that screen time). the former is IMMEDIATELY apparent once we get to the village scene. also, movie connection: Billy Barty, who plays the High Aldwin, also played Noodles MacIntosh in UHF, another film my sister won’t let me stop owning and watching.

00:14:55: wow, a pile of dwarfs versus some devil dogs does NOT make for a good fight scene. it’s just… awkward. but at least Lucas confirmed this back in the day so that the Lord of the Rings movies wouldn’t make the same mistake.

00:23:23: awesome, a totally unnecessary baby vomit joke that, i assume, somewhat competent director Ron Howard wanted to remove, but was then ORDERED to leave in by George Lucas. i hate you so much, George Lucas. also, it occurs to me that Bavmorda takes very inconsistent stances on the prophecies that mean so much to her.

00:27:13: ah, Val Kilmer finally enters the scene as Madmartigan. though he is, on a personal level, probably totally insane, he has what i would call “screen presence.” actually, i would sort of give him more credit for doing a competent job here with this shit material as opposed to, say, in Tombstone. because it’s not like Doc Holiday could have been awesome in MANY actors’ hands.

Willow, great sorcerer
Warwick Davis performing all that magic that he studied so hard in preparation for this classic film

00:30:00: since Willow’s claiming to be a powerful sorcerer, this is probably a good time to point out that, according to iMDB’s movie trivia, “in preparation for the movie, Warwick Davis had to learn a modified accent, how to take care of a baby, how to ride a horse, how to sword fight, and how to perform magic.” okay, the first four, maybe (though i don’t remember how much of riding and fighting he does), but “perform magic?” it’s a FANTASY MOVIE; no one is casting actual spells! you wave your hands and say some shit and George Lucas makes the magic happen! literally, in this case.

00:33:27: at this point, i will tell you that if you’d read the novelization like SOME of us have, you’d know there was back story that makes this conversation between Madmartigan and Airk make sense. also, i do NOT recommend that you read the novelization.

00:37:37: “welcome back, boys! you deserve MEDALS!” this so should have been a catchphrase.

00:38:51: why, say hello to a shining example of terrible 1980s-era special effects! cutting Willow free, i think, is the king of the terrible effect shots in this film. also, why do these brownies have outrageous French accents? why is semi-respected actor Kevin Pollack being forced to play a semi-retarded French brownie? this world does not make sense to me any more! also, Willow’s quest gets more complicated or something; foreshadowing the need for Madmartigan to rejoin him is now firmly established.

00:42:45: it might not be the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, but it remains awkward when tiny fantasy people share emotional hugs.

Val Kilmer, looking more feminine than usual
oh, yeah, i get it, it’s very funny because he’s a man, but he’s dressed like a woman, and this leads to misunderstandings!

00:44:20: thanks to Kevin Pollack’s poor decisions, Willow ends up in a boisterous human bar, complete with Madmartigan transitioning from drag queen to awkward fantasy fight machine and yet another unnecessary interlude involving faerie love dust. the drag queen thing and the faerie dust are yet more HILARIOUS ideas that i blame completely on the mind of one George Lucas.

00:48:27: side note: Joanne Whalley’s armor is way too big for her tiny little body. she’s adorable when she dresses like a grown-up!

01:02:00: oh, i see, it turns out that this sorceress or whatever that this band of misfits has been looking for has been trapped in the body of an opossum. luckily for all involved, bullshit wizards like this don’t get to have wizard duels. also, it DOES make it convenient to stuff them in a bag when you’re evil and you capture all our heroes (DRAMA).

01:06:37: back in the snow again? seriously, where are all these people transitioning to that it requires journeys through mountains filled with snow? though it DOES make the upcoming escape scene convenient… also, that fucking faerie dust that was SO funny the first time makes another appearance. LUCAS!

01:16:53: if i might quote Madmartigan immediately after his ridiculous shield-as-sled ride: “love Sorsha? i don’t love her, she kicked me in the face! i hate her!” all i have to say about that line is, guys, use this when referring to all your ladies IMMEDIATELY. but maybe don’t call them Sorsha when you do it.

Madmartigan, picking up ladies in a fantasy realm
Val Kilmer denies his love for Joanne Whalley (she kicked him in the face and all); he would do this some years later in real life when their marriage dissolved

01:19:13: Madmartigan abducts Sorsha with a knife to her throat; this must have been about the time when the Kilmer-Whalley on-set romance kicked into full force. oh, yeah, repeated escapes of various sorts (heroes from villains, villain from heroes, my sanity) ensue and soon she’ll become good and turn against her mother or something, who cares.

01:24:46: you can tell when a magical city has been abandoned or cursed or whatever when, aside from some structural damage, frozen people and troll dung, the public wastebasket has been tipped over.

01:27:13: alright, fantasy heroes (including Madmartigan), here’s the deal: when someone magically becomes a goat, you don’t waste time asking them “what the hell happened to you?” because the answer is clearly “uh, i became more awesome.”

01:29:29: trivia about this “Eborsisk” two-headed dragon our heroes are fighting: because director Ron Howard couldn’t get his brother Clint Howard a role in the film (i am SO disappointed about that), the dragon is modeled to look like Clint? get the fuck out of here!

Clint Howard, in two-headed dragon form
a dragon modeled after Clint Howard; the resemblance is uncanny

01:33:28: awww, rather than kill him, Sorsha makes out a little with Madmartigan. you see, this is the kind of shit that makes me not watch movies. well, that, and these shitty brownies showing up YET AGAIN. Kevin Pollack, you were so much better in Casino. also, villains escape with the stolen baby or something, whatever.

01:37:25: when our hero army goes to confront the villains, they’re all turned to pigs by some random, nondescript “wizard spell.” meanwhile, Willow has protected himself with some random, nondescript “wizard spell.” okay, so, maybe this is the D&D fan in me, but seriously, would it kill a fantasy movie to have a reasonable system of spells? maybe just one little lightning bolt? also, i wish a magical goat would give ME useful advice.

01:42:40: “in my village, we have a lot of gophers.” or, in other words, this is the part of the movie where the humble, folksy wisdom of Willow saves the day for all these stupid giant humans with their stupid human plans. good times! in fairness, though, i think this kind of scene is always mandatory when dwarfs or hobbits or whatever cruise around with humans soaking up insults all day long.

01:46:00: shockingly, Willow’s genius plan works (even though, as far as i can tell, Madmartigan wasn’t actually hidden from view and they sort of didn’t really fight the villains that rushed out of the castle, who fled instead of, say, yelling “CLOSE THE FUCKING DOOR TO THE CASTLE”). great success!

01:49:25: whoops, bullshit wizards like these DO get to have a wizard duel. terrible.

Willow, dramatic and all
seriously, i’m not sure why anyone would need powerful magic to defeat this mess

01:57:20: so we’ve just seen the big final battle between our hero Willow and the evil queen, and let me just say this: seriously, the ending to this movie is terrible. the hero didn’t even need the magic trick he used (OMG IT WORKED THIS TIME, UNLIKE IN THE VILLAGE PRIOR TO HIS ADVENTURES); he could basically have just talked shit for 60 more seconds and the same ending would have occurred. i guess she staggered into her own spell because of her outrage at Willow or something? DISAPPOINTMENT REIGNS

02:00:00: Willow returns home a great hero, blah, blah, blah. homosexual dwarf fucking is minimal (one advantage over Return of the King, anyway).

so, let me sum this film up with a note i took while watching this film the FIRST of recent times: “seriously, i am paying attention to this film and i have NO idea what’s going on. it’s like Robocop 2, but with more insanity!” what more needs to be said?

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2 Responses to George Lucas’ fantasy masterpiece Willow: a running diary

  1. FollenAngel says:

    you also need to sat how its AWESOME and you in fact love that movie and thats why you had the Willow lunchbox whihc i later confiscated. thats right. you love that movie!!

  2. janklow says:

    wow, i TOTALLY forgot about having that lunchbox. what the fuck was with me and this movie?

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