Tag Archives: Thorn Drumheller

Willow: The Legacy

6 Apr

Unlike his contribution to the sic-fi genre, Star Wars, George Lucas’s contribution to fantasy, Willow, has been largely forgotten by the public. Very much a film of its time, Willow appeared in 1988 amid a buzz that may now be difficult to believe. Only five years had passed since the triumphant, money-spinning conclusion to the original Star Wars trilogy, the Indiana Jones saga was still going strong and it seemed that everything George Lucas touched (barring Howard the Duck) turned to gold. With the notable exception of The Princess Bride, fantasy films had until then seemed to be box-office poison and it was thought that Willow was the film that would change everything – with the aid of that old Lucas magic of course. Lucas had originally conceived the idea for Willow as long ago as 1972, initially as an alternative to adapting The Lord of the Rings for cinema, since he couldn’t, as a then unknown young film-maker, manage to obtain the rights for Tolkien’s magnum opus. The similarity between the two stories is unmistakable, both in terms of the mythical fantasy world in which Willow is set and, in particular, its eponymous hobbit-like hero, the Nelwyn Willow Ufgood (who was played, incidentally, by Warwick Davis, the same actor who starred as one of the furry Ewoks in Return of the Jedi). Unfortunately, the comparison to Tolkien’s work did nothing to help Lucas’s film, which was only a modest commercial success and drew many critical reviews – a number of which came from the audience of fantasy fans at which it had been mainly aimed (foreshadowing the even worse critical response that The Phantom Menace would receive from Star Wars fans a decade later). Willow might have faded into oblivion entirely were it not for two things – ILM’s visual effects sequences, which led to a revolutionary breakthrough with the digital morphing technology that would later appear in films such as Terminator 2: Judgement Day; and the continuation of Willow Ufgood’s story in the novels which make up the Chronicles of the Shadow War. The question that you might, quite rightly, be asking at this stage is, why on earth should I care about a series of books based on a film that was a bit of a box-office flop?

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