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'Willow' Is A Watered-Down Version Of 'The Lord Of The Rings'

Updated May 30, 2018 9.3k views10 items

The creator of one of the most epic space adventures of all time also gets to claim credit for one of the silliest sci-fi movies ever created. There are a lot of bad '80s films, but a definite standout is George Lucas's Willow. Lucas wrote and produced this story, which centers around a heroic dwarf named Willow (Warwick Davis) who just wants to be a sorcerer, tasked with protecting a baby from the evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh) with the help of Madmartigan (Val Kilmer).

It's one of those fantasy films that couldn't find a tonal balance, but that doesn't completely cover Willow's problems. The movie tried to copy the formula established by The Lord of the Rings novels, but while Peter Jackson's adaptation became of the best in the history of cinema, Willow grew more ridiculous in hindsight.

Unlike delightfully dark and strange films like Labyrinth or Dark Crystal, Willow was not destined to become one of the most beloved fantasy movies of the '80s. It was destined to become nothing more than George Lucas's embarrassing attempt at fantasy (and to a lesser extent, Ron Howard, but he was still a young director so he gets a pass).

  • They Meet A Handsome Rogue Who Joins Their Party

    Photo: MGM

    At a crossroads they meet a capable loner, Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), a carbon copy of the Tolkienian Ranger, Aragorn. Madmartigan joins them, and here the dwarf party splits, which happens earlier in this movie than the Hobbits going their separate ways in The Lord of the Rings. Once again, the filmmakers narrowly dodge excessive similarities between the two stories.

    Madmartigan introduces Willow to his friend, a general named Airk Thaughbaer (Gavan O'Herlihy), who they fight beside later.

  • Their Group Then Attracts More Companions, Forming A Sort Of Fellowship

    Photo: MGM

    Willow's cadre grows again when Franjean (Rick Overton) and Rool (Kevin Polak), two Brownies (a mischievous race of warriors), are instructed to aid him in his quest given to him by the Fairy Queen Cherlindrea (Maria Holvoe). This entire scene resembles the Fellowship meeting Galadriel for the first time.

    At this point Meegosh is sent home, perhaps to keep audiences from seeing his obvious parallel with Samwise Gamgee. The remaining companions seek out and add the sorceress Raziel (Patricia Hayes) to their group.

  • Airk Thaughbaer Is A Combination Of Faramir And Eomer

    Photo: MGM

    Airk is a substitute for both Faramir and Eomer, since both men lead forces against the overarching villain's army. Airk also dies at the hands of the enemy, much like Faramir. Madmartigan assists in the siege, like Aragorn does, with the final battle being more akin to the retaking of Gondor than the attack on Mordor itself. Nothing in Willow comes close to matching the scale of the siege on Mordor in The Lord of the Rings.

  • After Successfully Saving The Kingdom, The Dwarf Is Rewarded With A Book

    Photo: MGM

    Willow's desire to become a sorcerer is finally fulfilled when he's rewarded with a book of magic at the end of his heroic journey. The book is not titled There and Back Again, but it sure is reminiscent of Frodo sitting down with the tome at the end of The Lord of the Rings. Willow returns home to his quiet farming village with his book, instead of sailing off into the sunset like Frodo.