What do you get when you combine George Lucas & Ron Howard? Willow…
Once Upon a Time, George Lucas had finished his Star Wars opus and needed a project. So, five years after Return of the Jedi, Lucasfilm released Willow.
Set in an entirely made-up world, it retreads a lot of old fantasy tropes into a fun, often-silly romp of an 80s action fantasy movie, yet still has a lot of heart (it was directly by Ron Howard, after all). The main character, Willow, is a Nelwyn (i.e. Hobbit), whose kids stumble across a Daikini (i.e. Human) baby washed up on the riverbank. Unbeknownst at the time, the baby is prophesied to bring about the downfall of the evil sorceress-queen Bavmorda.
As you can see, this plot is copied right out of a standard D&D module.
There are spirits in forests, polymorphed mentors, magical items, a brash swordsman played to hammy perfection by Val Kilmer, and so much “believe in yourself” and “trust your feelings” that I’m surprised we didn’t see any lightsabers.
Overall, however, it’s a great, lighthearted movie. Even some 30+ years later. The settings are gorgeous (much was filmed in New Zealand, which may have given Peter Jackson some ideas), the humor holds up, and the special effects fall into that grandfathered “well, that was good at the time” category (except for a couple times, when it doesn’t quite). Don’t go in looking for breadth of world-building, but individual scenes are chock full of rich detail and stuff happening even in the background.
Also, if there were an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Infant, the baby in this would have won that year for sheer diversity of facial expressions.
And while it remains to be seen if it will fall on the “brilliant” to “travesty” spectrum, Disney+ series by the same name coming in late November.
While you wait, check out the original 1988 movie Willow on Disney+