Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Willow (1988)

Magic! We're back!

A very upbeat proper start to 2023 with Willow, the 1988 Lucasfilm fantasy cult classic. Now I've had the most tenative exposure to Willow, more in passing or brief reference without knowing at all what the plot was, who the characters were, or anything so I walked in with 99% virgin eyes. The story involves a Nelwyn farmer named Willow who discovers a little baby girl named Elora who has ties to a prophecy to overthrow an evil sorceress named Bavmorda, as he sets off to find the child a safe haven where he soon meets rogue swordmaster Madmartigan who joins his quest as they come into contact with enemy forces, magic wielders, and mythological creatures to protect the child and defeat evil. In my opinion an excellent introduction to high fantasy for children taking elements of Dungeons & Dragons, Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars (George Lucas executive produced and helped write the story), I even saw bits of The Black Cauldron in there. It's 80s fantasy in it's purest and most non-exploitative form, which sucks honestly because fantasy films were box office poison in the 1980s. At best genre films at that time were cult classics like The Princess Bride or perhaps Labyrinth to a lesser extent, and at worst you got stuff like the Deathstalker movies and Beastmaster 2. Even with Lucasfilm, ILM, and a succesful director in Ron Howard the movie only did okay. It's no redefining of a classic story or incredibly introspective in writing, it's just a lot of fun. Warwick Davis does such good work in this and the fact that George wrote this specifically with him in mind while they were filming Return Of The Jedi shows a lot about his character and openess to such roles. He's never looked down on roles in a fantastical genre and loves doing them a lot and I got respect for the guy. Val Kilmer as Madmartigan friggin' kills it in this movie, his comedic timing and personality of being this guy who you know is kinda full of shit but he's just so goddamn charming you don't even care, makes him endlessly entertaining every minute he's on screen. Joanne Whalley as Sorsha, for essentially being a heel turned babyface who slips into a romantic role has that energy and expression where it doesn't feel forced or slapdash, and she just rocks that sunkissed orange hair. Jean Marsh as evil sorceress Bavmorda though not all that much on screen really you can tell she is having a great time, she hams it up just enough to where it's not over the top but dramatic in power as any evil magic wielder should be, and I can't belive it didn't click for me at all she was Morgaine in classic Doctor Who with the Seventh Doctor in Battlefield. I think everybody knew from the director on downwards they were making a fun little fantasy movie but they wanted to make it as good as possible which is evident throughout. Some of these scenery shots were unbelievably amazing, the special effects for the creatures go from simplistic costuming to impressive stop motion effects that hold up pretty solidly today, the costume design is so rustic medieval I adore it so, the battle scenes go on just long enough to where you're not getting bored and you're not craving more, and how the story progresses is engaging. I was even surprised how funny the movie was, it has a more subdued sense of humor, it's not trying to make you laugh out loud but still succeeds in places. I know there are a fair few people who watched it and probably didn't get too much out of it, like I said it's not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but I totally get the fanbase's love and appreciation for it's simplistic, charming, high fantasy story that can be enjoyed by all ages. Hell I'm an advocate for 80s fantasy, I dare say it was the best decade for movies of this genre though the 90s had it's moments, so of course I enjoyed it a great deal. Just wander into this world and soak it up, you may be surprised how much you like it. For me I give it 3.5 stars, 8/10, and the series of the same name is up next!

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