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Willow (DVD)

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Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy.

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    14 Reviews
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      07.07.2010 12:18

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      a must for family fun

      i really loved this film when i was growing up and thought my children might enjoy it to, so i rented for them to watch in the school holidays

      It's an excellent family movie for those long winter nights, with everything from dwarfish, heroic Willow determined to do the right thing as a family man to madcap Madmartigan, out for the main chance but a good guy really. When our fine heroes meet up with the seemingly evil but actually quite sweet Sorsha, daughter of the evil Queen Bavmorda, things start to get really complicated. Add a sorceress who (unwillingly) changes shape about twenty times over the course of the movie and you've got something the kids will go mad for.

      For those adult eyes amongst us, it's sad to admit that this movie hasn't aged as well as we might have hoped. More than a little cheesy and peopled with every fantasy cliche character from inept magician to evil babykilling queen to swordmaster thief turned hero, the watching prompts as many winces as it does smiles.

      At least the kids will love it. And, in theory, they're the ones we're buying it for.

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      12.04.2010 16:00
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      A Very Good Film

      First of all I want to mention that this is a film only review. I have not seen the DVD so can not comment on any features it may or may not have.

      Willow has to be one of my all time favourite kids films. I must have seen it about a hundred times and watched it non stop when I was a kid! The film came out back in 1988 and was a big hit at the box office. The film stars Val Kilmer, Warwick Davis and Joanne Whalley. This is a children's adventure fantasy film but is still a good one for the adults. The film was nominated for two Oscars and picked up a few smaller awards. The film was directed by the legendary Ron Howard.

      The film tells the story of a man named Willow. He lives in his own little world minding his own business. Willow is of the Nelwyn tribe, a dwarf like people who keep separate from the outside world. One day Willow's children find a baby on the shores of the river. Willow takes the child to the high elders who tell him this is a very special child.

      Now Willow must embark on a quest to return the baby to it's home. But along the way he discovers he has got himself involved in something very dangerous and this child's life is wrapped up in a great legend. As Willow fights to keep the child safe he meets lots of new friends and has some magical adventures.

      This is a great film. It set in a magical world with some brilliant characters and some wonderful scenery. The story is such good fun and constantly keeps you entertained. The actors are all excellent and this was probably one of Kilmers best films for me.

      The soundtrack to the film is really good, some really good music comes in over the action and makes the film come to life. There are some great fighting scenes with sword fights, or monsters and other things that are great fun to watch. It's a clever storyline which really get the viewer involved and makes for a fantastic watch.

      The film is rated as PG but there are some scenes that make it unsuitable for very young children. When I was a kid the film did used to scare my a bit!

      The film runs for 126 minutes which really makes it a mini epic! But at no point does the film drag or did I get bored. There is so much going on in the film that it really flies by at a great pace!

      Overall this is a wonderful film. It's just perfect for children and yet it works on two levels so adults can also enjoy this film. It's one that I imagine many people have forgotten about, but if you have children of your own now or maybe just fancy a trip down memory lane, then Willow is a great film for you! Go and watch it!

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        07.02.2010 22:24
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        Tolkienesque George Lucas/Ron Howard family sword and sorcery

        Plot:

        In the volcanic land of Nockmaar the evil sorceress Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh) fears the birth of a baby girl, Elora Danan, prophesised to become a powerful empress. One day the infant is born, but rescued from her clutches just in time. A perilous journey puts the baby in the hands of Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis), a farmer with aspirations of becoming a magician, and a member of a race of small people known as Nelwyns. The mystical forces of good convince the incredulous Willow that Elora has chosen him to carry the baby to the kingdom of Tir Asleen. He is joined by two tiny and mischievous brownies (Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton), a renegade swordsman, Magmartigan (Val Kilmer) and the great sorceress Fin Raziel. The trouble is that the swordsman doesn't have a sword and the sorceress has been turned into a muskrat. Plus on their trail is the infamous General Kael and Bavmorda's own daughter, the warrior Sorsha. However, there is far more to Sorsha than Bavmorda or Elora's protectors can guess...

        "Willow", according to this DVD's full length "Making of", was a refreshing change in an era where nearly every movie has a number after its title. The documentary further explains that "Willow" could only be a film citing its grandeur being too much either the stage or the television screen to give it justice. It was 1988 and, to be fair, it had been a decade of substandard and cynical sequel cash-ins, and in contrast the torrent fantasy films of the 2000s this film was not based on a book. It had been five years since last Star Wars instalment and even the spin-offs (two Ewok movies, the Ewoks' TV series and the Droids TV series) had dried up two years previously. Lucas was truly looking for pastures new and seemed to find it in the form of director, Ron Howard. Howard had shown his ability to handle family fantasy blockbusters with "Splash" and "Cocoon". "Willow" showcased cutting edge technology in its special effects, introducing the mainstream to the concept of "morphing" that would be better received in the 1991 summer blockbuster "Terminator 2: Judgment Day". It also bravely cast 18 year old Warwick Davis as the film's diminutive title role of "Willow", although it should be noted that he is billed after Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley in the credits. Davis had previously starred as "Wicket", the young ewok in the Star Wars franchise, but this gave him an opportunity to show that he was more than capable of handling a "proper" role. His performance is one of the strongest in the picture.

        In the wake of huge success of the 2000 blockbuster family fantasies, "Willow" has earned a very strong cult following. This is a dubious position considering the scope and budget of the picture in its day. Despite a strong marketing campaign and the heavyweights behind it, "Willow" ended up becoming one of Lucas's misfires. The truth is that despite supposedly springing up from Lucas's fertile imagination 15 years previously, it is not the most original concept. Sword and Sorcery B movies had been popping out all over place in the early 1980s, thanks to "Conan the Barbarian", and it is arguable that by the time "Willow" was released the fantasy world concept was getting a little tired. There much in "Willow" that we had seen before, both from Lucas and the genre in general.

        To being with the idea of a special infant or baby being the focus of an epic story is, of course, the stuff of mythology and religion. In fact, the way the child is originally hidden is lifted straight from the story of Moses. It was also not uncommon in 1980s movies (think 1986's fantasy action comedy "The Golden Child"). A vulnerable and reluctant lead character is also a common device and Willow is clearly more than inspired by Tolkien's Bilbo and Frodo characters. Willow also has traits not far removed from other Lucas characters. Think farm boy with dreams outside his allocated role and profession in life. Madmartigan's character is something of a Han Solo/Strider hybrid, making a valiant warrior rogue with a heart of gold. In contrast to Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer's portrayal of his role is not especially memorable and he just seems to serve a set purpose, offering nothing new.

        The character of Sorsha is different. Again, we have to look no further than Tolkien's epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy for a character reference of Éowyn, but she adds a degree of complexity not found in any of the other characters. Joanne Whalley's star was in the ascent at this stage and she has since more than proved herself in subsequent projects. Having a parent who is the main antagonist is, of course, also nothing new for a Lucas film. And there is absolutely nothing new in the form of Queen Bavmorda, a very one dimensional wicked witch queen who acts like just about every other evil magic villain you can imagine. Fortunately the great character actress Patricia Hayes's portrayal of the good sorceress, Raziel, is a refreshing angle on this particular common fantasy story device. She might appear as a different animal throughout the majority of her time on camera, but she is a little different from the sanctimonious and crotchety patriarchal figure that normally takes this role. On that note the whole picture does have a strong female drive to it. It is also worth noting that this is perhaps the first mainstream use of the "Brownie" characters in a movie too, some 14 years before Harry Potter's "house elf", Dobby. These characters form the required comedy relief duo.

        Overall "Willow" should be judged by the films and stories that preceded and followed it. There is much talk about children's films being "darker" in the 2000s, but "Willow" certainly has its moments, particularly during the opening scenes and at the film's climax that would have given it a 12a certificate today. I give Lucas the benefit of the doubt when he says on the "Making of" documentary that he tells stories and the special effects just help to deliver his vision as opposed to making "special effects movies", but unfortunately if we put the film under hard critical analysis it is the special effects of "Willow" that mark it out. However, it is still a very enjoyable family film that doesn't grate on re-viewings. Even the comedy relief isn't annoying, which is no small way down to Kevin Polak. Ron Howard does a good job at steering the good ship Lucas film although it is worth noting that he clearly had his hands tied a lot during production. Lucas is an auteur and Howard, despite his success stories with two summer blockbusters, was still an up-and-coming director at the time.

        Extras

        The aforesaid documentary was one made to promote the film's theatrical release and is a fairly in depth featurette. There is also a very welcome documentary focusing on the film's "morphing" sequences in addition to a photo gallery, trailers and a commentary track.

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          23.01.2010 17:29
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          A story about good versus evil told in a story of sci-fi fantasy.

          This has to be my all time favourite fantasy film from the 80's. I recently had some friends around who have the same age children as mine and I suggested that they borrow my copy of the above so that the kids could enjoy what I love so much. Imagine my shocked expression when they told me that they had never heard of Willow.
          My jaw almost hit the floor. I know that I am a bot of a film buff, I couldn't help but presume that everyone had to have seen what I believe to be one of "Val Kilmers" best roles.
          This encounter is what has led to me deciding to write this review.

          The plot - An evil sorcerous is getting old and has been told a prophecy about a baby that will soon be born with a mark on its arm. A baby that will be the downfall of the sorcerous.
          This leads the sorcerous to hunt down and capture each and every woman that is pregnant that could be having this particular baby. When a mid-wife discovers that she has found the baby, with the mothers wishes, she takes the baby and escapes with it from the clutches of the evil sorcerous.
          After escaping, the midwife attempts to get as far away as possible at the same time as being hunted. This allows us to be taken through a journey of visualy stunning scenery.

          As you can imagine, the midwife is caught and killed, but not before she is able to send the baby on a raft floating down a stream.
          Before long the baby is found by the children of our hero "Willow" (you may know him better as "Warwick Davis" - "Wicket from star wars). And is taken into a village populated by small people "Nelwyns".
          After the village being attacked by ravenous dogs, it is decided by the elder of the village that the baby has to be taken away from the village and given to its own kind.
          Willow is told to lead the expedition and he goes with a small band of his fellow Nelwyns.
          It's not long before they get into trouble and eventually come across "Val Kilmer" - Madmartigan. A man that is locked ina cage and appears to be a bit crazy. Willow ends up having to let Val Kilmer look after the baby and goes on his way.

          Now here's where things get really exciting. As you can imaging, Val Kilmer loses the baby and Willow comes back into the picture and is informed that the baby is a special princess, and that he needs to get her to safety.
          This journey takes us back to Val Kilmer and we get into our brilliant fantasy and action film. Cue, the mythical creatures, goblins, sword battles, more sorcerous, spells and a whole lot of visually stunning sets and scenery.
          We learn that Madmartigan is actually and amazing swordsman and warrior and that there is already a great battle going on between the evil sorcerous and an army called "Erics Army", led by Eric, who is also a friend of Madmartigans. The sorcerous daughter is also a great character "Joanna Whalley" who gets causght up in the whole right or wrong dilema, and becomes the love interest int he story for Val Kilmer.

          Now don't get me wrong, this is no Lord of the Rings, but I can guarantee you that before the Lord of the Rings was made, everyone that knew of Willow would have been thinking "I wonder if it will surpass the fantasy of Willow" I know I did.
          The film is a creation of Geroge Lucas and directed by Ron Howard, which in itself tells you that it must be worth a watch.

          The story takes us on a thrill ride of inspiration, sadness, happyness, fantasy, laughter and stunning visual effects for its time. It is a really uplifting film and something for the whole family. It has an amazing selection of back music and a great cast of actors.

          I also feel that this is, probably for me, one of Val Kilmers best ever performances.

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            05.01.2010 23:31
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            Fantasy film

            Willow is a good family film that is a sci fi fantasy film with a good plot and some good performances. Directed by Ron Howard it stars Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood, he is a Nelwin who are a farming people, he is married to Kaia and they have two children Rannon and Mims. His main desire is to be a great magician and sorceror however he has no ability and is treated as a joke by his fellow villagers and those in the farming community.

            When he comes across a red headed Daikini it is believed that this baby will bring bad luck onto the village and Willow is told to take it away along with some helpers and they come across Madmartigan, played by Val Kilmer locked in a cage, he is a Daikini and offers to look after the baby however Willow does not trust him and sets out to protect the baby.

            The plot can sound a little complicated as there are lots of strange beings and species however it is fundamentally a story of good against evil and Willow is the ill suited hero of the film.

            Val Kilmer is excellent as Madmartigan as he plays a loveable ruffian of a character and he has good chemistry with what came to be his future wife in the form of Joanne Whalley Kilmer while Jean Marsh plays a suitably evil baddie.

            This film is a good fantasy film that is nice and simple in the way that it is put together, the plot moves along at a nice pace and there are some nice comedy moments in the film that will make you laugh.

            I liked the fact that there is a nice feel good factor to the film and as such it is a film that I would crtainly recommend.

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              06.10.2009 16:29
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              A fantasy film about a dwarf and a baby

              Story:
              This is the story of a nelwyn (dwarf) called Willow who lives in a fantasy land in a nelwyn village. His world gets turned upside down when he finds a human baby who turns out to be an emperess. He has to try and find a sorcerer to return the baby to its rightful palace without the wicked queen Bavmorda.

              This story fits into the 1980's film by George Lucas that illustrates hope vs evil in this fantasy world with the unlikely of characters becoming hero's in their own right. It has a slight Princess Bride look about it. Although it isnt a comedy, it is in the form of wit and sarcasm between the characters which lightens the mood fo some scenes. There is alot of different locations and scenery and brings you out of the reality you are in and into the world of dwarfs, swordsman, pixies, fairies and evil armies. I would recommend this film for a good family watching.

              This would be hard to find in your local dvd store so I would purchase it from a big store such as HMV. There are so many different prices but at the moment it is in HMV for £12.99.

              Stars are: Warwick Davis (you'll notice he is in Harry Potter)
              Val Kilmer and Jean Marsh
              Also, Kevin Culkin stars as Willow's son (Malcaulay Culkins brother)

              Directed by Ron Howard
              Written by George Lucas

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              12.03.2009 10:17

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              Has real warmth and sense of adventure

              One of my favorite fantasy movies, but it took some time to get used to...


              What is cool overall however is that it's not a regular fantasy film with a regular hero, but more a 'real hobbit' version of 'lord of the rings'...
              It's George Lucas promoting his love for small, minor characters who end up being the stars.


              The real sense of adventure emerges after half an hour or so, and Willow teams up with the wayward 'Madmartigan' in the form of Val Kilmer.

              Val Kilmer can be really good as a supporting character (see also 'Heat' and that Wyatt Earp movie with Kurt Russell). I can't remember the name oh well.

              There is real character and charisma in this movie, and it drives through a fantasy realm of possibility, magic and sudden adventure....Nothing quite like a good Quest movie all you RPG lovers!


              I like unusual fantasy movies that have some great ideas and atmosphere, and this is certainly one of them. It must have been tricky to 'green light', but it has become a bit of a cult film and it deserves to be.

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              08.02.2009 15:06
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              Full of heart and humour, this is certianly one for all ages, with only a few scary moments

              This is probably one of the darker fantasy fables available, and I will gladly say 'they don't make them like this anymore'.

              If there's one thing I love about Willow, it is that it had a Star-Wars feel to it without being too epic or overpowering. It has a great little story that you can just dip into without planning to watch a six film marathon and then spend the next week repeating your favourite quotes.

              When Willow, a humble 'Nelwyn' farmer, find a 'Daikini' on the banks of a river, he finds himself on a mission to return her to her own kind, unaware that she is the child of a prophey. Willow finds himself battling Bavmorda, an evil, with the help of Fin Raziel, Madmartigan, and a pair of peculiar Brownies.
              Full of heart and humour, this is certianly one for all ages, with only a few scary moments. Oodles of magic and fairy tale creatures, as well as boundry-breaking special effects that have set the stadndard for modern movie; although it may look dated now, without 'Willow', some of the films we see now may never have come to be!

              Warrick Davies sets the standard for a wonderful cast, and is truly the kind of unusual hero kids want to relate to. Who doesn't want to hear a story about the underdog overcoming the odds?

              I can see why this film would be compared to Lord of the Rings, however I do not feel it ever actually tried to come acorss that way, simply being a good versus evil fairy tale that must have done something right to have become a cult classic, long before a good portion of people started saying 'Lord of the Rings? I didn't know the books came before the films!'
              Though this is a fantasy film all the same, it is one that means to entertain us, not make us question the very forces of good and evil. And lets face it, what fantasy film, or book for that matter, hasn't made up different names for the same kind of creature!

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              24.09.2008 16:57
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              Lord of the Rings. If it were fun.

              While it would be safe to say the majority of the world only knows him for his involvement in the creation of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones film legacies, it's wrong to say that this is a fair summary of his career in film. While his directorial career may not be the most consistent, he of beard and plaid shirt has produced a number of notable pictures since he took us back to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. He lent his name and weight to Akira Kurosawa's epic Kagemusha and children's favourite Labyrinth, but arguably the most Lucas-esque of all his producer credited films is Ron Howard's 1988 feature Willow.

              While it would be wrong to say Willow retreads or rehashes Star Wars, it certainly strikes a similar chord, and is the same sort of feel good, family friendly adventure that A New Hope was, unpretentious good time cinema. When you consider Star Wars was basically a fairytale with a Sci Fi setting, it's not surprising Lucas turned to a straight fantasy feature once their original Star Wars trilogy came to its conclusion. What does differ slightly between Willow and Star Wars is that Lucas had some money to play with, hence the directorial duties of Howard and acting abilities of Val Kilmer being at the film's disposal. Making the jump from Lucas' more famous series was Warwick Davis, who had played the most prominent Ewok, Wicket, in Return of the Jedi 5 years earlier.

              The film is set in a mystical realm under the rule of the evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh). While she holds an iron grip on the land with her magic, she lives in fear of a prophecy of a child born with a distinctive mark who will lead to her downfall. She dispatches her daughter Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) and lackeys to inspect every baby born in the kingdom. However, with the help of a kind midwife, a baby with a distinctive birthmark on her arm is smuggled out of the castle and sent down the stream in a hamper...


              Untouched by Bavmorda's evil reign is a small Elywn (that's short-people) village, presided over by High Aldwin (Billy Barty) a powerful magician. The village is also home to Willow Ufgood. Willow is a farmer struggling to get his crops in to keep his wife and kids safe. His world is changed forever when a Dykeenie (read: full size human) baby washes up at the shore of the river behind his crop, bearing a strange mark on her arm.

              High Aldwin senses something special about the baby, and sends Willow and the village's strongest warriors to take the baby to the land of the Dykeenies and hand her over to them. However, the only Dykeenie they find willing to listen to them is a man left to rot in a cage by the road named Madmartigan (Kilmer), against his better judgement Willow hands the baby over to Madmartigan, and tries to set off home, only to be accosted by a fairy, who informs him that the baby, Elora Dannan, has chosen him as her guardian, and he must deliver her to the Kingdom of Tir Asleen where she can help inspire the revolution to defeat the evil Bavmorda. With a reluctant Madmartigan and a couple of spritely Brownies (Rick Overton and Kevin Pollak) in tow, Willow sets off on an adventure to save the world and end Bavmorda and her reign of terror.

              Of course that doesn't do the film's plot total justice, missed out are a good few battles, a wagon cart chase, a two-headed dragon, some beastly trolls, an unlikely romance and a shape-changing good witch, but you get the gist of it. A group of unlikely heroes band together to foil an evil ruler. Certain Star Wars parallels can be seen with the characters, the farmer in Willow/Luke, the lovable rogue in Madmartigan/Han Solo, the pair of sidekicks in the Brownies/The Droids, but its about there the similarities of plot really end, and Willow takes the characters and spins its own enchanting, action packed and perhaps sometimes a bit silly fable with them.

              I mean there is no point whatsoever trying to state an argument that Willow is a great movie filled with insightful dialog and great depth, because to be blunt nothing could be further from the truth, but one thing that Willow most definitely can be accused of being is a damn good time. It's basically Lord of the Rings if you remove all the walking and terrible scenes of emotion (and that awful song that went with them) and replaced them with decent acting and a healthy dollop of fun. It's not perfect, the backstories for Madmartigan and Sorsha that made it into the novelisation and comic adaptation would have went a long way to rounding out their characters, especially Madmartigan's, who shares a great onscreen chemistry with a soldier fighting Bavmorda named Airk (played by Gavan O'Herily), whom he has a history of disappointing which is alluded to, but never explained, in the script. While trying to get too deep into the characters in a film like this could end badly, a lack of any depth to some of the characters is what really lets the film down. Take Pat Roach's General Kael. The head of Bavmorda's army, a prominent face on the film's poster, quite rightly with his imposing black armour and skull mask. Check how many times I mention him in my summary of the plot above. He had the potential to be, and was clearly designed as, the film's Darth Vader, only while Vader's background was shrouded in mystery in A New Hope, his prominent place in the plot in fact made you all the more intrigued. Kael just kind of storms about and looks cool, had they actually perhaps given him a character, and Madmartigan more of a rival, the film could have benefited.

              Yet as is it's still hard to fault Willow, it manages to keep great action set pieces coming, some of Willow and Madmartigan's banter is great, and it does it all while keeping things family friendly. It's a bit like a nice amalgamation of every fantasy story you've ever heard, given that Lucasfilm twist (though oddly, I don't remember the film being well merchandised to take advantage of the numerous great character designs)

              It's well acted, Davis is great as the titular hero, and as I mentioned his chemistry with Kilmer is great. Kilmer's always been a bit hit or miss for me, but he's actually on form here in a role that seems like it was written for him. Marsh and Roach's demonic duo are a hoot to hate, Pollak and Overton are hilarious as the French(?) accented Brownies and Joanne Whalley is great to look at as the fiery redhead Sorsha, even if her character isn't particularly great.

              The bigger budget afforded to Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic effects men is for the most part money well spent, though there are a few discrepancies, mostly with the trolls, which appear to be bad gorilla suits. The 2-headed dragon is well accomplished with stop-motion animation that would have made Ray Harryhausen proud and the blue screen work to bring the minute Brownies to life is actually pretty incredible for the time.

              Likewise James Horner's score is fantastic. Sweeping themes that could only fit a fantasy movie like this.

              Overall, while it may not be perfect, I can't help but recommend Willow to anyone who just wants a fun family adventure movie. It may not change the way you look at film, but it will guarantee you 90 minutes worth of entertainment.

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                09.08.2008 15:16
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                Battle between good and evil

                W.I.L.L.O.W

                Story by George Lucas and Ron Howard
                Staring Val Kilmer(Madmartigan) Joanne Whalley (Shorsha) Warwick Davis (Willow) Billy Barry (General Keel) Jean Marsh(Queen Bavamorda)

                A midget named Willow finds a baby girl on small raft by the river. This infant is important, she is a Princess and evil Queen Sorceress Bavamorda wants her dead.

                Willow is with company containing an infant, a lone swordsman named Madmartingan and two dwarf like critters.

                They trawled to ancient city of Teer Asleen where little infant Elora is destined to rule some day.

                In time they are joined by good sorceress Raziel who fought (and lost) Bavamorda and small troop of solders and Princess Sorsha daughter of Bavamorda.

                In the end Bavamorda dies by her own clumsiness she accidently spills toxic liquid on her self.
                Willow becomes magic man.
                Shorsha and Madmartigan marry and adopt little Elora.
                Willow returns back to his wife and two kids.

                It a fantasy story...story line was classic fairytale.
                Actors very convincing...it showed that Lucas didn't write the dialog.
                I find the movie interesting and it can be watched by all generations because while being classic fairytale it enables children and teens to learn that bad guys loose (right) always (sarcastic right) and story line is simple to understand. For grown ups its...well any grown up has a little kid inside that is just dying to come out plus action is up in up. Sort off.

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                  29.12.2005 17:47
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                  One of the best family films ever made.

                  Somehow Willow had passed me be since its release back in 1988 until just recently, when I saw it for a mere £5 in one of the shops at the hospital I work in. I’ve always been curious about it as I remember a lot of hype at the time of its release, and of course it was brought to us by George Lucas of Star Wars fame.

                  The story is a very traditional fantasy tale with a few biblical overtones thrown in for good measure. An evil queen rules (just where do they find all these evil queens?!?) but there is a prophecy about a child, who bears a certain mark, who will bring about her downfall. She has all babies checked for this mark, and the idea is that when it’s found, the child will be brought to her. (For reason or reasons unknown just killing the child won’t do the job, it must be used in a ritual to banish its soul to the nether regions, but we won’t criticise Lucas for indulging in the sort of hackneyed fantasy plot device seen more recently in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.) Almost with the speed of an Israelite maiden in ancient Egypt, however, the midwife rushes down to the river and puts the baby onto a bed of rushes…

                  The baby ends up drifting downstream to the family of a Nelwyn (dwarf) named Willow, who after initially being reluctant takes in the baby and looks after her. When the Evil Queen dispatches wolf-like creatures to the dwarves’ village to take the infant, it is decided that Willow must take the baby to the “Tall People” for them to look after. On his way he encounters Madmartigan, who claims to be the world’s greatest swordsman but who is behind bars at the time. Then, of course, the fun really begins…

                  With a terrific cast including Val Kilmer in excellent form as Madmartigan, and Warwick Davis starring as the eponymous Willow there’s real quality to the performances, and some superb special effects provided by Lucas’ own Industrial Light & Magic make this movie is a visual feast. The real life and soul of this movie, however, is the script. It borrows from every famous fantasy story ever written but manages to have its own unique charm (if perhaps not originality). The story moves along at a brisk pace and there is plenty of humour throughout, which was a great decision as it makes any unoriginality in the story seem unimportant. In particular the two brownies that help (and hinder) on their quest are hilarious. The music by James Horner is atmospheric and enjoyable, along with being very lively at times. If you look very carefully, you might see Kenny Baker (who played R2D2 in the Star Wars Nelwyn…

                  It was nice to see Warwick Davis have a starring role for once. He is a veteran actor but you probably wouldn’t recognise him. He is normally behind a suit - he has played the mouse Reepicheep in the BBC version of Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Glimfeather the owl in The Silver Chair, an Ewok in Return of the Jedi, Flitwick in the Harry Potter films, Grildrig in Gulliver’s Travels, and more recently was Marvin in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This time however he gets to play himself without too much makeup and without being engulfed in a suit. He as always puts in a superb performance, and somehow makes a much more “real” little hero than the hobbits from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series.

                  So there you have it. It’s got the all-important 3 F’s… Fast, Fun, & Funny. For kids there’s plenty of action without any gore, a heart-warming tale, lots of sight-gags, a good moral to the story, and happy ending. What more could you possibly want? For adults though it’s very good fun, with Kilmer’s performance being very amusing. Directed by Ron Howard (who later directed the marvellous A Beautiful Mind) with assistance from George Lucas, this is a wonderful example of entertainment that the whole family can enjoy.

                  Rating: PG
                  Runtime: 126 minutes

                  Extras

                  DVD extras include:

                  Audio commentary by Warwick Davis
                  Theatrical Trailer
                  2 Theatrical Teaser Tralers
                  8 TV Spots

                  Stills Gallery – now this is a lot better than most galleries I’ve seen on DVD extras since it features many production stills, so you see some behind the scenes images.

                  There are also two featurettes:

                  “Willow: Making of an Adventure”
                  “Morf to Morphing: The Dawn of Digital Filmmaking”

                  These are the best extras on the DVD by a long way. There are plenty of interviews with the cast and crew, all presented in the same madcap, carefree style that the movie itself has. Two really nice points from this featurette: firstly (unfortunately this has been made much less sweet by their divorce in 1996) the bit where Val Kilmer admits to continually fluffing his lines following the scene where he kisses evil princess Sorsha, played by Joanne Whalley, who married Val a year after they met on the set of Willow. The second was that most of the inhabitants of the dwarf village were not actors (since they needed a lot more than they’d have been able to get), and when on set there Ron Howard said that he understood for the first time how they must feel from day to day because there, as he said: “I was the outsider, the one who was a different size to everyone else.”) Well I thought they were nice anyway! :-D

                  The feature on morphing is also very interesting. At the time it was a new technique, and the late 80s saw the beginning of the end of chemical photography and the beginning of the digital photography age. How the techniques were envisaged and created is quite fascinating, and the feature does go on to demonstrate how the technology continued to develop after Willow, most noticeably in The Abyss and Terminator 2. So, very unusually for me, I was actually impressed with the extras as well as the actual movie.


                  For £5 it’s a truly excellent buy, but even if you end up paying quite a bit more for it you won’t have wasted your money by any means. Terrific stuff, nice one George!!


                  Quotes

                  Madmartigan: What happened back there?
                  Willow: You started spouting poetry. "I love you Sorsha! I worship you Sorsha!" You almost got us killed!
                  Madmartigan: "I love you Sorsha?" I don't love her, she kicked me in the face! I hate her... Don't I?

                  Franjean: You are drunk, and when you are drunk you forget that I am in charge!

                  Llug: Wanna breed?
                  Madmartigan: [disguised as Hilda] Tempting... but No.

                  Rool: We'll never catch up with those horses!
                  Franjean: Then we will have to track them.
                  Rool: That would take forever. Besides, even if we found them, they'd capture us, stick us in cages, torture us and then finally devour us!
                  Franjean: Are you suggesting we go home?
                  Rool: Nah, this is more fun.
                  Franjean: All right, fine then. Come on!

                  (Franjean and Rool are the Brownies, in case you hadn’t worked it out! :-D)



                  Availability
                  -------------

                  The shop I bought it from was a "United News" newsagents, who are hardly known for their cheapness... however, this was on sale for £5.99 or 2 for £10. I suspect that this range is going to be on sale at a number of chain or independently-owned newsagents around the UK. A quick check on Amazon reveals that it's on sale for £12.99 new, or a bit under a fiver on the Marketplace (but the postage charge would take it way over a £5...) - so check your local newsagents pronto for this!!

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                    27.11.2005 14:56
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                    Funny magical good v's evil tale

                    I've been amazed recently by how many people haven't seen this film. It's a classic, it's funny, it's clever and suitable for everyone. Due to this shocking amount of neglect from the general public I've decided to review Willow in the hope that at least a few more people may give it a try.

                    Firstly it's directed by Ron Howard, written and produced by George Lucas so we already have some pretty impressive credits. The film also has a great cast which I will come to later and if you don't recognise their names you will probably recognise at least a few of their faces.

                    Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis - Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire) is a Nelwin, a race of pretty peaceful farming people. Willow's main goals in life are to look after his wife Kaia, his children Rannon and Mims and to one day to become a great sorceror. Unfortunately Willow isn't a great sorceror, in fact his magic is pretty dismal and results in him becoming seen as a village joke.

                    Willow's life is turned upside down when his children find a red-headed Daikini (human like) baby washed up, unhurt, at the side of the river. After dogs attack the village it's decided by the elder that the baby should be taken to the Daikini crossroads for the safety of the Nelwins. Willow is told to take the baby and he and a small group of Nelwin begin their journey.

                    At the crossroads they come across the Daikini Madmartigan (Val Kilmer - Top Gun,The Doors) locked in a cage. Madmartigan says that he will look after the baby if they let him out and as the Nelwin are scared and want to return to their village they agree. Willow, however, doesn't trust Madmartigan and when he sees the baby on the back of an eagle with a Brownie (a little elf type creature, not the chocolate cake) he decides that he must save the baby.

                    I don't want to go in to any more of the story as I might get carried away and spoil it. In a nutshell Willow finds out that the baby is Elora Dannon, a princess, who will one day overthrow the evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh). Bavmorda is aware of this and has sent her troops, including her daughter Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) to find the baby.

                    The rest of the film consists of Willow and Madmartigan's quest to keep Elora safe - with a little help from their friends along the way. Although the effects now look quite dated that's easily forgiven as the humour and story totally makes up for it. The music is, again, nothing mind blowing but that doesn't seem to matter either.

                    Although Davis is good as Willow, Kilmer totally steals the film as Madmartigan the loveable rogue character. Madmartigan is irresistable, a slightly off the rails charmer who had great chemistry with Sorcha (Whalley). In fact, Joanne Whalley actually became Joanne Whalley-Kilmer so something obviously clicked!
                    The Brownies are hilarious and Jean Marsh is suitably scary as the evil queen

                    This is, in my humble opinion, the best fantasy film of its time and there were a lot - far bettter than Legend and Princess Bride, even slightly better than Krull. It's suitable for all the family although adults may prefer it as unfortunately kids are used to seeing amazing effects now and may feel let down.

                    It wont matter if you like fantasy films or not, this is an entertaining, feel good film that will have you laughing and really feeling for Willow and his struggle with his confidence. At worst, you'll have had a mildly entertaining couple of hours, at best you will have added it to your all time favourites. Either way, give it a go!

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                      20.10.2004 11:48
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                      Back in the good old days of 80's, there was a period there when the vogue in films was the fantasy epic. From Conan and alike. Many fantasy films popped up, with dwarves, giants, dragons and all the usual elements of a good yarn. These were the days before Lord of the Rings, which took the genre to another level.

                      Willow is predominately a kids film, or should I say a film for all the family. Good wholesome entertainment. When I saw the DVD was out I had to grab it. So many childhood memories wrapped up in what is a brilliant film. Perfect for a rainy Saturday afternoon stuck in with the kids. Whatever age they are.

                      The basic premise of the story is... A baby girl, destined by prophecy to bring about the downfall of an evil queen, is rescued from a massacre by being set adrift on a river. She is found by an apprentice wizard of a race of dwarves who then embarks on an adventure that teams him with a rogeish outlaw swordsman and a good witch and puts him in conflict with the evil witch queen. There is also a woman warrior, armies fighting battles, and a pair of silly "Brownies." Lots of swordfighting action, magic spell-casting, and humor.

                      So you see... A ripping yarn for all the family.

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                        06.05.2004 16:37
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                        Long ago in the distant 80's before Peter Jackson made the fantasy genre his own with 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy fantasy films were going through a bit of a rebirth. The genre seemed to become popular with filmmakers following on from the Star Wars sci-fi boom of the late 70's. Unfortunately the output was largely dreadful, for every quality film like 'Excalibur' there were also plenty of dreadful ones like 'Beastmaster' or 'Red Sonja'. Willow came out towards the end of this period and at the time was touted has showing off the most sophisticated special effect of any fantasy film made. Seeing as it was out of the George Lucas stable this was not surprising but its also not surprising that after 16 years that the special effects technology now looks quite dated. However the special effect are not the only thing that make this movie appealing and that's why it is still enjoyable to watch. THE PLOT In an unspecified world not unlike our own world in the middle ages a wicked sorcerer/queen Queen Bvmorda is worried by a prophesy stating that she will be defeated and usurped by a powerful child princess just born. Not wanting to take any chances she decided as any self-respecting evil ruler does that the mass murder of all newborn female babies is the only way she can be safe. Unfortunately for her the child Elora Danan is placed on a small boat and set free on a river only to be found by Willow Ufgood and his family. Luckily for the child Willow is not human but belongs to a race of dwarves the Nelwyn that have not heard of the prophecy and have little contact with men, they decide to take in the child but are eventually after some violent attacks on the village they are forced by their village council to take the child back to be looked
                        after by its own kind. This journey to the outer borders of his land turn into a dangerous adventure for Willow and the friends he makes on the way. CAST, PERFORMANCES AND OPINION Val Kilmer .... Madmartigan Joanne Whalley .... Sorsha Warwick Davis .... Willow Ufgood Jean Marsh .... Queen Bavmorda Patricia Hayes .... Fin Raziel Billy Barty .... High Aldwin Pat Roach .... Gen. Kael Gavan O'Herlihy .... Airk Thaughbaer David Steinberg .... Meegosh Phil Fondacaro .... Vohnkar Mark Northover .... Burglekutt Kevin Pollak .... Rool Directed by Ron Howard, writers Bob Dolman and George Lucas The story is not that different from your usual fantasy format, an orphaned child of great power his threatened by the forces of evil in order to fulfil its destiny but in this case the leading roles are taken up by the characters around the child. Warwick Davis makes his first starring role and only 18 at the time excels as the diminutive would-be wizard Willow. He more than holds his own with the other more experienced actors. He manages to be convincing as the reluctant hero trying to do the right thing at great risk to himself. Davis had appeared in the Star wars trilogy before this but it is this film that allowed him to show off hi talents and this has led him to appear in many other films including Gulliver's Travels and more recently the Harry Potter series. Ron Howard decided to avoid using special effects to portray the dwarf characters in the film instead opting to use 'smaller' actors in
                        the same way Terry Gilliam did in the earlier Time Bandits. This strategy worked well and the performances in general were of high standard the added bonus being that it provided substantial roles for actor who might not normally be considered as main performers. The other main role is taken by one of my least favourite actor Val Kilmer as the swashbuckling but comical warrior Madmartigan who willow teams up with on his travels. It is true that of all the films I have seen Kilmer in I have thought his acting at best 'hammy' at worst dreadful 'The Saint' film adaptation is a good example of the depth he can sink to! However on the odd occasion even he can manage a passable performance. 'Willow' is one of his best and provided him with his first starring role. As the lack Oscar nominations for acting in TLOTR trilogy proves, in fantasy films the story and effects usually take away attention from the acting performances and in Kilmer's case this is an advantage. He shows he does have a skill for humour and does his 'swashbuckling' well enough. Jean Marsh is very good as the evil Bavmorda and Joanne Whalley provided the eye candy for the male viewers and the evil queen's daughter. An other notable performance is provided by the late Patricia Hayes (a distinguished British comic/character actress) as the metamorphed good witch Fin Raziel and Kevin Pollack (Usual Suspects and Casino) proves very funny in early role for him as a blundering sprite. Despite a surprising PG rating this is an ideal film for all the family. The characters are comical and the story is simple enough for even the youngest to follow. At 130min it has enough time to develop both story and characters giving both more depth than you would expect in
                        a 'run of the mill' fantasy film. The evil queen is scary enough but will not give anyone nightmares and there are enough monsters, mythical creatures and action to keep even grown up viewers happy. Ron Howard keeps the action moving along nicely and there is thankfully a lack of his distinctive over sentimental style of storytelling that have marred some of his later films. He makes good use of the stunning scenery, which continually changes as Willow's adventure progresses. The soundtrack is competent if not all that memorable and it is worth noting that it is composed by James Horner who went on to have greater success with the soundtrack to 'Titanic'. I've already mentioned that the special effect look dated and this is most obvious in the big battle sequence but that is a judgment made post Lord of the Rings and Matrix so it is a very high standard to judge it by. The effects are still good by most standards and do not detract from the enjoyment of the film (unless you're a FX anorak). The final battle involving a contest of magic is still impressive. THE DVD This is the special edition version and sometimes the special edition promises more than it delivers? How does this compare? There are a good bundle of special features on the DVD. We have an audio commentary but not as is more usual by the director but by the star Warwick Davis. Davis as in the film has an engaging tone and does provide some useful personal insights to the scenes and the filmmaking in general. I am not a huge fan of this feature as in most cases it doesn't provide much of interest beyond inane comments on how a scene was set up, but I would say this is above average. Two short featurettes are included: Willow: Making of an Adventure,
                        which is an interesting insight into the making of the film but fairly standard fare these days for a DVD package and "Morf to Morphing: The Dawn of Digital Filmmaking", this is a more worthwhile offering since it provides us with a view of the techniques of digital special effects which at the time the film was made were just being introduced into films but which we now take very much for granted. Included are interviews with Ron Howard George Lucas, and Dennis Muren the special effect expert who shed some light of the adoption of digital techniques in to the Hollywood mainstream. The rest of the features include the theatrical trailers a couple of which are slightly more revealing than the original and a collection of short TV spots used to promote the film. Finally we get a 'stills' gallery. The scene selection menu is good and easy to navigate and the DVD partition id more than adequate. The main feature subtitles include Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish as well as English for the hearing impaired. Overall the DVD anamorphic transfer is excellent in providing a sharpness of the image and enhancing the special effects. The clarity of James Horner's rousing score in Dolby 5.1 surround is also worth mentioning. At the time this film was not a huge box office success, maybe the appeal for fantasy films was already on the wane but 'Willow' does deserve serious consideration for purchasing on DVD it is a very good story and can be watched over and over again. 'Willow' can be bought on DVD from play.com as a special edition DVD for only £7.99 delivered and for this price I would highly recommend it! Thank you for reading and rating this opinion. © Mauri 2004

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