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Star Wars of the Rings
on 7 December 2012
There wasn't a truly successful sword and sorcery film until Peter Jackson got into the act, and despite a liberal helping of trolls, brownies, dragons (bearing a bit of an unfortunate resemblance to a two-headed version of the Penosaurus from Flesh Gordon) and fairies, Willow certainly didn't break the run. Rather than going the Conan route, producer George Lucas adheres to the Star Wars formula in the form of Pat Roach's Darth Vader clone, the skull-masked General Kael, Val Kilmer's Han Solo-esque hero, Joanne Whalley's headstrong princess and Patricia Hayes' Obi-Wan Kenobi figure, among numerous other visual and narrative touches, with magic standing in for the Force as the power that holds the universe together and helps our diminutive hero triumph.
Even if Willow isn't as much fun as you would like it to be, it holds up surprisingly well with age. Kilmer's no Harrison Ford (and his ex-missus is never at her best when acting with an American accent for that matter) and this is no Star Wars, but if you don't expect too much it's a nice enough fantasy adventure with some magical effects (although, coming from a lowpoint in ILM's output, there are a few too many matte lines in places) and a few (intentionally) funny moments en route to a terrific last half-hour.
The major liability is director Ron Howard, who makes 500 extras look like five at one point and could handle the action better, although he certainly fares better than Peter Yates and Krull, which really pushed an audience's best wishes to the limit. Although Howard doesn't do much with the Scope frame, it's certainly a better film in widescreen than panned-and-scanned on TV, and it boasts one of James Horner's very best scores (albeit one that seems heavily influenced by Bruce Smeaton's score for Iceman). There's also a decent extras package as well - audio commentary by Warwick Davis; featurettes Willow - Making of an Adventure and Morf to Morphing - The Dawn of Digital Filmmaking; stills gallery; 8 TV spots; 2 teaser trailers and full theatrical trailer.