Released in 1988, story by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard, this movie is one of my all time favorites. It has everything. Humor. Sword fights. A great cast of characters. A fantasy world. A powerful message. And magic.
And it begins with a prophecy. That a child will bring the downfall of the evil Queen Bavmorda, who lives in Nockmaar Castle.
So, as all bad guys do, she has her daughter Sorsha and General Kael to round up all the pregnant women and search each child for the mark so she can banish it to the Nether realm where it can’t take her power.
The child is born and ordered to be brought to the queen. But the nurse smuggles the baby out. When the evil army finds her, she sets the baby afloat on a river.
Where she is found by two children.
And taken in by a Nelwyn (a race of little people) farmer Willow Ufgood and his family, who live in a small village. Willow has his reservations. First of all, she’s a Daikini (a race of big people, as they call them). Second, the next day is a big one. He will go to the festival and try to become the apprentice to the High Aldwin, a sorcerer.
But he does not succeed… he doubts himself. Amidst the fun, dogs from Nockmaar attack and it seems they are looking for a baby.
Fearing for his family, Willow brings the found baby to the council, who decides it’s best to be rid of it.
A small group of Nelwyns set out to give her to her own kind at the Daikini crossroads.
Willow says good-bye to his wife Kiya… promising to be careful and to return.
And the reach the crossroads.
Where they meet Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) locked in a cage.
“Give me water, peck, or you die!”
Well, that’s enough for most of the group. They vote to give the baby to him and leave. Willow and his good friend Meegosh aren’t convinced, so they stay overnight. But every Daikini that passes ignores them. The King’s army passes, but refuses to help saying they have to battle Bavmorda’s forces. So Madmartigan makes his plea. Free him, he’ll take the baby. He’ll care for as if she were his own…
He seems like he would take care of her… maybe. They could leave her with him… The idea of going home sounds pretty darn good.
So they set Madmartigan free, give him the baby, and head home. They’ll be heroes! Just as they start celebrating a bird flies over them with a crying baby in its grip. A small voice yells, “I stole the baby!”
And Willow calls, “Hey, that’s my baby!”
They follow the bird and are trapped by the Brownies.
And taken to see the fairies and their queen Cherlindrea.
Who gives Willow a mission. The baby Elora Danen is a princess and needs to survive. With the fairy queen’s wand, Willow must find the sorceress Fin Razel and then travel to Tir Asleen where a good king and queen will protect her. So he sends Meegosh home and sets out to save Elora because he loves her.
Two Brownies Franjean and Rool are his guides. I love these guys. I shall put them in my pocket so they can amuse me all day.
After traveling for a while and needing to get out of the rain and find some food, they stop at a tavern.
Where they find Madmartigan. “Not you!” Willow cries.
Madmartigan grabs Elora to pretend to be a woman to trick the husband of a woman he had been sleeping with. Bavmorda’s daughter Sorsha shows up with the guard searching for the baby… chaos follows. Willow, the Brownies, Madmartigan with Elora in tow take off in a horse-pulled wagon.
Chasing. Fighting. But they get away. Madmartigan agrees to go with them to find the sorceress. They arrive at the island where she has been trapped… Madmartigan waves good-bye. But we all know he’s starting to care. Yup.
Willow finds Razel… but she’s not very intimidating.
“Bavmorda transformed me.”
She’ll need a bit of magical help to get back to true form, and it’s up to Willow, who admits that he’s not quite a sorcerer. Oh dear.
But that’s the least of their problems, for here comes Sorsha and the guards with Madmartigan in chains. Captured, they will be taken to Bavmorda. The Brownies left behind. Madmartigan meets Fin Razel, which doesn’t thrill him. And finds a new hatred for Sorsha.
The fuzzy sorceress tries to teach Willow magic as they travel so he can transform her, which he tries as they sit in a cage when the army sets up camp.
Unfortunately, he changes her into a bird. But the Brownies arrive to pick the lock and set them free!
However, Madmartigan gets hit with the fairy dust of broken hearts, which puts him in a daze. They sneak into Sorsha’s tent to steal Elora back, but the dust causes Madmartigan to fall in love with Sorsha.
Which confuses, but possibly excites her. Madmatigan, having proclaimed himself a great swordsman, gets his hands on a sword and they fight their way free.
Grabbing Sorsha as a hostage, they head out on horseback to Tir Asleen.
The fairy dust spell wears off, but maybe Madmartigan and Sorsha are attracted to each other…
On the way, Sorsha escapes, and the rest arrive at Tir Asleen only to find the place under Bavmorda’s spell. Madmartigan finds an armory and starts fortifying the castle and himself.
Willow tries magic again to transform Razel, who ends up as a goat. But there’s no time to worry about that, Bavmorda’s troops are on the way. In trying to help with preparations, Willow runs into trolls.
He uses the wand, transforming one troll into… well, ew and kicks it into the water where it grows into a monster, adding another element of fun to the fight.
A two headed beast…
and Bavmorda’s army lead by General Kael…
There is a very funny scene where Madmartigan does his war cry as the monster erupts from the water behind him. The bad guys run away. Madmartigan thinks he’s awesome until he notices the thing behind him and flees, ending up in the midst of the evil army.
Anyway! To fighting!
The Brownies return with help… the King’s army we met before! Madmartigan fights everyone, protecting Willow and Elora, rushing to his friend’s rescue when the soldiers attack, and kills the beast.
All the while, Sorsha watches. Intrigued by his willingness to fight for love instead of for approval like she has done, trying to make her evil mother love her.
Madmartigan falls to the ground finding Sorsha’s blade pointed at him, yet in a swift move she pulls him to his feet and…
Oh dear. Kissing. And she joins the crew, who wouldn’t? Bleeding, Willow stumbles out crying for Elora, for General Kael has taken the baby. They don’t give up, riding to Nockmaar Castle, with their new army.
Bavmorda is preparing for the ritual to banish Elora, when the army arrives. She is not impressed and turns them into pigs.
Razel (the goat) and Willow use the wand to protect themselves from the spell. But now… NOW is the time for Willow to change her back… it takes a lot of effort…
She changes from one animal to another, but eventually he succeeds! And together they return their friends to human. And form a plan.
The next morning, Razel and Willow stand at the gate.
Busy with her spell…
Bavmorda sends Kael and her forces to kill them.
But the King’s army isn’t gone, just hidden in large holes under the tents. As soon as the gate is open, they attack, driving their way into the castle. Madmartigan, Sorsha, Willow, and Razel race to save Elora.
Sorsha pleads with her mother, who throws her daughter across the room.
While Razel and Bavmorda have an epic sorceress dual, Madmartigan kills Kael in a bloody battle.
Willow sneaks into the room to take Elora as Razel falls. Bavmorda turns to him, unafraid and unimpressed as he declares himself to be a great sorcerer. Using slight of hand, he makes the queen believe he has sent Elora to a dimension where evil can’t touch her. Shocked, Bavmorda stumbles into her own spell and is destroyed in a swirl of red smoke.
Razel crawls from the rubble, pleased when Willow pulls Elora from her hiding spot.
Madmartigan and Sorsha go to Tir Alseen, now released from Bavmorda’s spell, to stay and look after Elora. Willow says good-bye and prepares to go home.
Where he is welcomed as a hero.
And as the sweeping score plays, beautiful music by James Horner, I sigh.
Evil has been defeated. In all honesty, it always beats itself, doesn’t it? If Bavmorda hadn’t been so bent on that prophecy… if she hadn’t been so focused on Elora… who knows?
But it isn’t about her. It’s about Willow. A Nelwyn farmer who dreamed of being something else. It took a great journey to show him who he truly is. For all we need is to believe in ourselves.
As the High Aldwin says… “Power to control the universe is in which finger?”