A movie from 1988 produced by George Lucas
and directed by Ron Howard
. The story is about a young farmer named Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis
), one of a hobbit-like people called Nelwyns, who is drawn away from his sheltered home to save Elora Danan, a baby girl with a destiny, from the evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh) who would see her destroyed.
Willow is aided by the disillusioned swordsman Madmartigan (Val Kilmer
), who has turned to a life of roguery, sorceress Fin Raziel (Patricia Hayes), who has been turned into a possum by Bavmorda, as well as two diminutive brownies Franjean and Rool. They are initially thwarted, but later joined, by the queen's daughter Sorsha (Joanne Whalley). As their journey continues, they face troubles and hardships beyond what any of them had imagined. Through it all, they find love, friendship, and wisdom. In the end we learn that the people we would never suspect are sometimes the bravest of all.
Notable for many reasons, including the use of dwarf actors as major characters, as well as one of the breakout films for Val Kilmer (who played the Jerk with a Heart of Gold
Madmartigan). Despite performing poorly at the box office it quickly became quite a cult film, if the books were any indication. The current reception is that it is a fun, enjoyable story with some great casting and was very well made for its time and still holds up well today.
This film has had three game adaptations: one in 1988 by Mindscape for the Amiga, Atari ST and DOS; two in 1989 by Capcom
for the Arcade and NES. The Arcade one is a side-scrolling action game, while the NES game is more of an Action RPG.
There is also a trilogy of sequel novels by George Lucas
and Chris Claremont
. They do provide a great deal of additional Character Development
, as well as World Building
that the movie lacked.
Not to be confused with the Cute Witch
from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
or the daughter of Will Smith
This film provides examples of:
- 0% Approval Rating: Bavmorda treats her underlings like shit, chastising them at every failure and never commending them when they actually succeed in following her orders.
- Action Girl: Sorsha.
- Adaptation Expansion: The NES game adds quite a bit to the story, as well as giving the title character a much greater focus since he's the only playable one.
- Aerith and Bob: Madmartigan and Willow.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Sorsha's opinion of Madmartigan begins to change only after she sees how Bad Ass a Master Swordsman he is.
- All There in the Manual: The novelisation added extensive back stories for half the cast, including Vonkar, and explains Sorsha's sudden Heel-Face Turn.
- All Swords Are the Same: Inverted when Madmartigan tries to use Airk's sword to avenge his friend's death against Kael. Airk's sword is kind of armored gauntlet with a long swordblade coming out of it called a pata, and initially Kael kicks Madmartigan's ass while trying to rely solely on it, up to and including breaking the sword's blade in half. Once Madmartigan started Dual Wielding the weapon with a regular sword though, he really started to kick some ass.
- All Trolls Are Different: trolls are hairy, unintelligent ape-things approximately Willow's own size.
- Animate Inanimate Object: In the last battle a stray bolt of magic turns an urn on legs into a moving creature that Willow briefly fights.
- Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Madmartigan. "I'm the greatest swordsman who ever lived!" He may well be, too.
- Badass: Madmartigan. Among his deeds we have him single-handedly hold off General Kael's entire army, killing a two-headed dragon by himself, and eventually killing fellow badass Kael in single combat.
- Baleful Polymorph: Finn Raziel has fallen victim to this. She changes shape several times over the course of the film.
- This is pulled on the good guys' entire army near the climax.
- Berserk Button: Played for laughs when Llug discovers Madmartigan's true gender.
Llug: Not a woman!
Madmartigan: Gentlemen, meet Llug.
- Llug then spends the entire barfight continuing his rant. Hilarious.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: When Airk leaves Madmartigan behind, presumably to die in his cage, after Madmartigan offers to help him with his war against Bavmorda, probably figuring the wily swordsman would just run off on his own again as he is implied to have done before, Madmartian angrily yells "I'll be around long after you're dead!" During the climax, Madmartigan can only watch in horror as Airk dies fighting General Kael - leading him on a brief but violent Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Big Damn Heroes: When Rool & Fanjean return with Airk and his army to even the odds.
- Big Damn Kiss: Madmartigan and Sorsha share two positively epic ones: The first in Sorsha's tent as it collapses around them with Madmartigan being the instigator. Later at Tir Asleen Sorsha returns the favor after Madmartigan single-handedly slays the giant two-headed dragon.
- Body Horror: We are treated to simply delightful shots of the army's hands morphing into pig hooves.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: Justified. Elora is just a baby, and is born in captivity. They don't just kill her because she'll be reborn elsewhere. Instead, Bavmorda plans to use the Ritual of Obliteration to banish her soul from the world permanently.
- Born-Again Immortality: Elora has this power.
- Character Title
- Chekhov's Gun: Subverted in the magic acorns; although Willow tries to use them in several situations, and they work, he is unlucky and misses against everything but the Big Bad, who is powerful enough to shake off the effect.
- Chekhov's Skill: The pig trick. Willow actually screws it up when he tries to perform it for his fellow Nelwyn at a festival, but later succeeds when it's a matter of life and death.
- To be fair, he actually succeeds in the pig trick - it's the pig itself that gives the trick away.
- The Chosen One: Elora Danan is prophesied to bring about Bavmorda's end. However, see the Prophecy Twist entry below.
- Contemptible Cover: The DVD release doesn't use the well-made movie poster for its artwork, but rather a rushed clip job featuring Willow doing an extremely cheesy "Ta-da!" flourish.
- Darth Vader Clone: General Kael. Don't think you can miss the Death's Head mask.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Sorsha.
- Determinator: Willow of all people. He continues to push on throughout the entire film despite insurmountable odds placed in his way. This is never better illustrated during the battle at the castle, where he defends Elora from three trolls, a dragon, two soldiers, and only loses her when KAEL rides in on his horse. And not only did Willow SURVIVE his fight with Kael, he's dragging his wounded body after Kael, weapon in hand, ready to try and get Elora back. DAMN.
- Fin Raziel. During the film, she harps on about how young and beautiful she is, and when she discovers she's an old woman, she has the briefest of Heroic BSOD, but then shakes it off and shows a look of determination on her face that leaves no doubt that she also embodies the trope.
- Madmartigan becomes one as the film progresses.
- Disguised in Drag: Madmartigan, in a hasty attempt to avoid the wrath of his paramour's husband. The trope is furthered by the husband's sudden lust for Madmartigan.
Llug: Wanna BREED?
Madmartigan: Tempting, but... no.
- Dissonant Laughter: When Finn Raziel gets the better of Bavmorda during their fight at the end, she gives a laugh that's downright creepy, suggesting that, even if she was a good person, maybe her motives here weren't so noble.
- Even without the novel's added backstory of the bad blood between them (Bavmorda seduced Raziel's lover, among other things), what is explained in the movie is enough to give her a pass. Sometimes you can do things for noble reasons and still enjoy the vengeance it brings in the process.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Madmartigan. In his defense he was under the effects of a powerful love spell. And Sorsha was looking very hot at the time...
- Later the roles are reversed when Sorsha is very much taken by Madmartigan's battle prowess.
- The husband of one of Madmartigan's paramours who becomes smitten by him in drags, until he found out otherwise...
- The Dragon: General Kael.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Sorsha and Madmartigan in the sequel novels.
- Dual Wielding: Madmartigan at several points in the film, most notably during his Unstoppable Rage.
- DVD Commentary: Warwick Davis provides one of the best commentaries ever heard. Everything you want to know about Willow is right here. He tells stories, talks about taking care a baby, points out scenes that were deleted, gives behind the scenes info, talks about working with Ron Howard and George Lucas and explains the joys of working with Val Kilmer.
- Eldritch Abomination: The two-headed dragon. Maybe also at the end the four-legged metal barbecue thing that Willow pushes out of the tower.
- Evil Is Hammy: Bavmorda, so very much.
- Evil Matriarch / Evil Overlord: Bavmorda.
- Evil Sorcerer: Bavmorda has a few in her service, helping her with evil rituals and the like
- Evil Wears Black: Bavmorda and her minions wear black. Also, evil armies only use black horses, whereas the good guys have a mix of brown and white ones.
- Expanded Universe: Three novels by Lucas and Chris Claremont.
- The Fair Folk: Cherlindrea and her fairies
- Fantastic Slurs:
Willow: Don't call me a peck!
Mad Martigan: Oh, I'm sorry! Peck. Peck. Peck, Peck, Peck, Peck, Peck!
- Flynning: Notably averted in Madmatigan's first fight scene.
- Fiery Redhead: Sorsha
- The novelization notes that this trait was inherited from Sorsha's father, the rightful king of Tir Asleen, and, in her mother's eyes, a constant reminder of the man she used to gain power and then abandoned (Bavmorda's claim to royalty was only via marriage). Bavmorda was said to have constantly tried to change Sorsha's hair via magic to any color other than red, only for Sorsha's natural color to grow back in; it took Sorsha standing up to her mother for the first (and, prior to the films, possibly the only) time and refusing a change to get Bavmorda to stop.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: Queen Bavmorda.
- Guile Hero: Willow ultimately saves the day not with awesome magical power, but with a sleight of hand.
- Heel-Face Turn: Sorsha.
- One of the queen's druids predicted that her daughter would betray her, but she wouldn't believe it.
- Interestingly, both the novelization and Marvel Comics adaptation include a scene where Sorsha comes across her long lost father, who had been cursed by Bavmorda years ago. This causes enchanted blocks Bavmorda had placed on her daughter's memories to melt away, justifying her defection further beyond her experiences with Madmartigan.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Ethna, the midwife who saved Elora from certain execution after she was born and who eventually lost her life protecting the child. All this despite owing neither her mother nor the child any loyalty at all.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Madmartigan to Sorsha.
- Hobbits: The Nelwyn are basically halflings with the serial numbers filed off, being a collection of homebodies who live in burrows and tend to be shorter than humans. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, mind you.
- The novels, perhaps actually inspired by the look of the actors, actually describes them with traits more often used in association with fantasy dwarves than hobbits/halflings: stocky, broad, and with impressive upper-body strength.
- Hoist By Her Own Petard: Bavmorda. When Willow successfully tricks her, she's so alarmed and distraught that she accidentally walks into the middle of her own ritual, which promptly banishes her body and soul into the same nether-realm she was plotting to send Elora into..
- Home Sweet Home: Willow gains a hero's welcome when he returns to his village and runs straight into his loving family's arms.
- Humans by Any Other Name: Daikini, which may or may not be a racial slur.
- Human Snowball: A rare live-action example.
- Hypocritical Humor: Lug is jealous when it comes to his wife, but has no problem with adultery, as Madmartigan finds.
- Also Burglekutt, when Vonkar volunteers to go on the quest with Willow.
Burglekutt: Not Vonkar! He's the best warrior in our village! We need him here. Vonkar, step back!
Alwyn: All the quest needs is a leader. And the bones show it should be...you, Burglekutt!
Burglekutt: (looking terrified) Vonkar!
- I Work Alone / Loners Are Freaks / Callback: Madmartigan states "I serve no one". Later, that morphs into "I serve the Nelwyn". (Nelwyn is homophonically very close to "no one".)
- Inept Mage: In a fashion, the High Aldwin. He admits to Willow that the bones he uses for prediction purposes are really useless, and he purely interprets them according to his own judgment. However, he does supply Willow with genuine magical artifacts.
- Indy Ploy: Right at the climax, Bavmorda has Willow and Elora cornered. The only thing Willow can think of is to try and protect Elora using the same sleight-of-hand trick that he failed at in the beginning of the film. And it works.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Madmartigan.
- The Lancer: Madmartigan could be seen as this.
- Lilliputians: Brownies
- Lovable Rogue: Madmartigan
- Love Potion: Well, dust, actually; and the love itself is unrequited.
- MacGuffin: Elora Danan. Definitely qualifies due to the Prophecy Twist.
- MacGuffin Escort Mission: Willow spends a lot time taking the baby places. First he takes Elora Danan to the Crossroads then to the Tir Asleen. With a few side trips to re-rescue her.
- Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Sorsha.
- Magical Incantation: Most magic which doesn't make use of some kind of object is of this type, and Willow is usually channeling it through Chelindria's wand. Strangely, it includes various ritual chants in its own language as well as English.
- Magicians Are Wizards: Invoking this trope is Willow's main goal throughout the movie, struggling to transition from performing stage magic to real magic. Then he subverts it by using his stage magic to trick real magician Bavmorda. This allows him to then play it completely straight as he becomes a true sorcerer in the ending.
- Master Swordsman: Madmartigan
- Meaningful Echo: A clever one. Madmartigan claims he serves "no one". Later, he says he serves "the Nelwyn", which is very similar to "no one".
- Mistaken Age: We are told that Fin Raziel is a young beautiful woman after Madmartigan asks her what she actually looks like. However it seems exile in her animal form has made her grasp of the years gone by tragically wrong.
Fin Raziel: (shocked at her own age) Has it been so long?
- Either that or, because she was in an animal form, she may have aged like an animal.
- They should have picked up on it instantly - Bavmorda and Fin Raziel were contemporaries.
- Moses in the Bullrushes: Elora Danan very literal— she is sent down the river in a basket and found in the rushes.
- Mr. Fanservice: Madmartigan. He runs around with his shirt open.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: when Willow tries to fight off a troll using the magic wand, he accidently turns it into a gigantic, two headed dragon.
- No Ontological Inertia: The spell on Tir Asleen is broken by Bavmorda's death.
- No Sell:
the extent of your powers, little one
- Noodle Incident: We never know why Madmartigan is in a crow-cage at the beginning, nor why Airk thinks he's a thief. The novelization doesn't go into great detail, but notes that after Madmartigan's initial fall from grace, Airk gave his friend a second chance in the Galadoorn army, only for Madmartigan to desert his post when he was needed.
- Not Using the Zed Word: In an interesting twist, this is used on the humans, who are called Daikini.
- Oh, Crap: Willow kills a couple of soliders to protect Elora Danan despite his small stature. And then he looks up to see Kael ride in, and gets this look on his face.
- One-Winged Angel: The Eborsisk used to be a troll until Willow used magic on him, and then...
- Our Dragons Are Different
- Our Fairies Are Different
- Our Monsters Are Different
- Our Monsters Are Weird
- Papa Wolf: Willow is very protective of his children, including Elora Danan.
- Prophecy Twist: Elora Danan is prophesied to bring about Bavmorda's end. However her defeat comes by the hands of those protecting the infant princess; Elora Danan is the catalyst who brings about Bavmorda's end, not herself the agent of it.
- The Quest
- Rage Helm: General Kael's skull-faced helmet.
- Rasputinian Death: General Kael. Madmartigan smashes his skull-mask, and Kael chases Madmartigan up a flight of stairs. Madmartigan stabs him in the chest; Kael responds by punching Madmartigan in the face and trying to strangle him. Madmartigan slashes Kael's belly, then twists the blade still in his chest. Kael does not appear to notice. Madmartigan impales him on his own sword. Kael is still on his feet when Madmartigan finally shoves him off the walkway. Even then he's still moving so Madmartigan throws a dagger into him just for good measure.
- Retreat! Retreat... Attack! Attack!: Madmartigan and Bavmorda's army run away from the two-headed dragon. Then Madmartigan realize he's with the wrong army. Then he runs back inside the castle where the dragon is, with the army chasing after him.
- Real Men Wear Pink: the first time we actually see Madmartigan in action, he is driving a carriage at high speed and fights off the soldiers that follow them, while still wearing the pink dress from his Paper-Thin Disguise.
- Road Apples: A variation - Madmartigan ends up stepping in troll dung.
- Scared of What's Behind You: In Tir Asleen, Madmartigan prepares to make a Last Stand against the Evil Army, only for them to suddenly run away. Madmartigan gets a goofy, happy smile on his face... until he notices the giant, two headed dragon that had risen up out of the moat.
- Scary Impractical Armor: Kael's Death's Head mask may be intimidating, but it shatters rather easily when Madmartigan strikes it with his sword.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
- Sexual Karma: Madmartigan Paper Thin Disguises himself as a woman to dodge an angry husband, only to catch the hulking oaf's eye (which is pretty darn chauvinist of him, considering he barged into the room in a jealous rage). Hilarity Ensues.
Lug: Wanna breed?
: Tempting, but... no
- Shovel Strike
- Skeletons in the Coat Closet: General Kaelís helmet.
- Spell My Name with an "S": One could be forgiven if, when you were young, you thought his name was Martigan and everyone was just really conscientious of using his nickname.
- Airk's name is basically pronounced as "Eric", or close enough to mistake for it.
- Spikes of Villainy: General Kael sometimes has a few on his helmet to show how evil he is (as if the skeleton mask was not enough). Some random mooks have spiked/horned helmets too. Bavmorda has a few twisted spikes on her crowns. Also, much of the bad guys weaponry (from Sorsha's sword to crossbows) has plenty of unnecessary barbs and spikes. Even Bavmorda's fortress has some kind of small pyramidal spikes everywhere on it.
- Supporting Leader: Madmartigan.
- Take That, Critics!: George Lucas named General Kael after Pauline Kael, the New Yorker film critic who famously gave Star Wars a bad review.
- The two-headed dragon goes unnamed in the film, but is referred to as the "Eborsisk," after film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.
- Taken for Granite: Willow's magic acorns can turn whoever touches them to stone. Also, Willow and Madmartigan are instructed by Fin Raziel to take Elora Danan to Tir Asleen to be cared for. Unfortunately, Bavmorda got there first, and encased all the residents in translucent crystal long ago.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Not content with simply killing baby Elora to ensure she cannot bring about her end, Bavmorda intends to banish her very soul into oblivion in the process. Apparently just in case her soul is reborn in a new body.
- Actually, according to the novelization, that's exactly what would happen, and is why Bavmorda has to go to such lengths to prevent the prophecy from coming to pass—or so she thinks (see Prophecy Twist above).
- After Madmartigan runs Kael through with Airk's pata, he props up Kael's own sword by his foot on the hilt, and skewers him again with it!
- Although, considering how tough Kael is, this may not be overkill.
- This Cannot Be!: After Willow pulls off his sleight-of-hand with Elora, Bavmorda gasps in astonishment, yells out "Immmm...POSS-I-BULLLLLLL!!!!", trips over her ritual paraphernalia and ends up triggering her own banishment spell on herself.
- Those Two Guys: Rool and Franjean, played by comedians Kevin Pollack and Rick Overton.
- Ultimate Evil: Bavmorda seems to follow orders from an unknown entity.
- Bavmorda and Raziel were both servants of the spirits, Bavmorda just let her power go to her head.
- The Unfettered: Villainous General Kael is utterly unfazed in the face of not only facing an arriving enemy army but a monstrous two headed dragon. They are simply obstacles to destroy.
General Kael: Destroy the beast! Find the baby!
- Unholy Nuke: Bavmorda wants to use a ritual whose end is to wipe the victim away from existence.
- Unstoppable Rage: Madmartigan after Airk is killed by Kael. He casually kills several men with barely a glance and without hardly breaking his stride on the way to his target.
- "Well Done, My Daughter" Girl: Sorsha often seems desperate to impress her mother, who constantly insults and berates her.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Madmartigan calls this on Airk after the latter greets him eagerly when they find him in a tough situation, after Airk rather smirkingly left Madmartigan to die horribly in a cage.
- It's implied that Airk knew or at least figured Madmartigan would most likely just run off on his own first chance he got, as it's implied that Madmartigan has a history of being an unreliable troublemaker.
- Also as Airk points out later on, his decision to leave Madmartigan behind probably saved the wily swordsman's life.
- Where's the Fun in That?
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 find them, they'd only capture us, stick us in cages, torture us and finally devour us!
Franjean: Are you suggesting we go home?
Rool: Nah, this is more fun.
- Why Did It Have to Be Trolls: Before his adventure begins Willow expresses a deep fear of trolls. Lo and behold he ends up in a fortress crawling with them.
- Wizard Duel: Between Fin Raziel and Bavmorda. Willow very briefly tries, but Bavmorda obviously is too powerful to combat. So he thinks outside the box and hides Elora under the guise of a magic teleportation spell.
- Your Head A Splode: Try putting a sword through one head of a two-headed dragon.