Movie News & Reviews

Big Awful Friday: The fantastic world of 'Willow'

To an outside observer, I was obviously racing toward nerddom from a young age.

The Yoda pacifier was surely a clue, as was illegally changing my name as a 6-year-old to Wookieemonster of Gondor.

The biggest clue of all?

My taste in movies.

I can still sing songs from the cartoon Lord of the Rings I haven't seen in 15 years. I was, for a time, perhaps the only living human who clapped whenever Howard the Duck showed on TV.

And if 1988's Willow popped up, you knew my day was set.

In Willow, it's prophesied that only a certain newborn can bring down the evil queen Jean Marsh. A baby that's carried downriver to Warwick Davis, member of an unassuming, hobbit-like race. Marsh's forces are already hunting him down -- but with the help of ruffian swordsman Val Kilmer, Davis may be able to stop the queen and restore peace to the land.

As for where this land is, I couldn't really tell you. There are the guys who look like hobbits, but with a different name, and the guys who look like humans, but aren't called humans. Not that these groups do anything to differentiate themselves from each other or their variants from other fantasy worlds. The only race with a clear culture is the brownies, who can be identified by their tendency to be nonstop, tremendous jackasses.

Turns out most of Willow is pretty generic, a pile of fantasy conventions used without understanding what they're for. The only qualification for using magic is talking in a wacky wizard voice. For no apparent reason, Marsh has to dispose of the baby with a ritual so long that kid should be in college by the time it's done.

That lack of originality's all well and good when you're a kid yourself, which is also the age at which Willow's hammy situational humor is most likely to make you laugh.

Us adult nerds are more likely to sigh quietly as we realize why so many people consider fantasy a childish genre, then console ourselves with the sippy cup of apple juice Mom left on the table because she loves us the most and the most.

Not that Willow is a total waste. The monsters are every bit as nightmarish as I remember, Davis and Kilmer make fun leads, and the story, standard as it may be, is written with an engaging quest structure.

But with its weak worldbuilding and flat dialogue, it's clear why this never turned into the franchise producer/co-author George Lucas wanted it to be.

* Contact Ed Robertson at