Willow is a 1988 fantasy adventure film directed by Ron Howard and produced by George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars. The film stars Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood, a young farmer and aspiring magician who teams up with a rogue warrior named Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) to protect a baby princess from an evil sorceress named Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh). The film features state-of-the-art special effects, including digital morphing technology, and a musical score by James Horner.
But is Willow related to Star Wars, the epic space opera franchise that also began with Lucas? The answer is not as simple as it may seem. While Willow is not officially part of the Star Wars universe, there are some connections and similarities between the two franchises that may surprise you. Here are some of them:
The Lucas Connection
The most obvious link between Willow and Star Wars is George Lucas himself. Lucas wrote the story for Willow and served as an executive producer, while Howard directed the film. Lucas had previously worked with Howard on American Graffiti (1973), which also featured Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo in Star Wars. Lucas was inspired to create Willow after reading The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, and wanted to make a fantasy film that was different from the typical sword-and-sorcery genre. He came up with the idea for Willow in 1972, but did not develop it until after he finished the original Star Wars trilogy.
Lucas also had a hand in creating some of the characters and creatures in Willow, such as the brownies, the two-inch-tall comic relief characters who accompany Willow on his quest. Lucas based them on his own children, who were fond of playing with action figures. He also designed the Nockmaar Hounds, the wolf-like beasts that serve Bavmorda, and the Eborsisk, a two-headed dragon that breathes fire and ice. The name Eborsisk is a reference to Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, two famous film critics who often gave negative reviews to Lucas’ films.
The Star Wars References
Willow also contains some references and homages to Star Wars, both subtle and obvious. For example, one of the brownies, Rool, wears a helmet that resembles Darth Vader’s mask. Another brownie, Franjean, says “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi” when he sees a fairy queen named Cherlindrea. Cherlindrea gives Willow a magic wand that is similar to a lightsaber, and tells him to find a sorceress named Fin Raziel, who is like a Jedi master. Fin Raziel is also played by Patricia Hayes, who voiced Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
The film also features some actors who appeared in Star Wars films, such as Warwick Davis, who played Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi (1983), and Tony Cox, who played an Ewok warrior in the same film. Additionally, Phil Fondacaro, who played one of the brownies in Willow, also played an Ewok in Return of the Jedi. Furthermore, some of the locations used for filming Willow were also used for Star Wars films, such as Elstree Studios in England and Whakapapa ski field in New Zealand.
The Star Wars Influences
Willow also shares some thematic and structural similarities with Star Wars, such as the hero’s journey archetype, the use of magic and technology, and the conflict between good and evil. Both films feature a young protagonist who lives on a remote farm and dreams of adventure, until he meets a mysterious mentor who guides him on a quest to save a princess from an evil empire. Along the way, he befriends a rogue warrior who initially seems selfish but later proves his loyalty and courage. He also encounters various allies and enemies, some of whom have supernatural powers or abilities.
Both films also explore the concept of magic and technology, and how they can be used for good or evil purposes. In Star Wars, magic is represented by the Force, an energy field that binds all living things and can be manipulated by those who are sensitive to it. Technology is represented by the weapons and vehicles used by both sides of the conflict, such as lightsabers, blasters, starships, and Death Stars. In Willow, magic is represented by sorcery, which can be used to cast spells or transform objects or beings. Technology is represented by machines and inventions used by both sides of the conflict, such as crossbows, catapults, shields, and cannons.
Both films also depict a struggle between good and evil forces that have different ideologies and goals. In Star Wars, the good side is represented by the Rebel Alliance, a group of freedom fighters who oppose the tyranny of the Galactic Empire. The evil side is represented by the Empire itself, a totalitarian regime that seeks to dominate the galaxy through fear and oppression. In Willow, the good side is represented by the Nelwyns, a race of dwarves who live in harmony with nature and value peace and friendship. The evil side is represented by the Nockmaar, a race of humans who worship Bavmorda and seek to destroy all life that opposes her.
The Star Wars Legacy
Willow was not as successful as Star Wars at the box office, but it still gained a cult following and a positive reputation among fans and critics. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing, and won two Saturn Awards, for Best Fantasy Film and Best Costumes. The film also spawned various spin-offs and adaptations, such as novels, comics, video games, and an upcoming television series on Disney+.
Star Wars, on the other hand, became one of the most popular and influential franchises of all time, spawning multiple sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and adaptations across various media. The franchise has also inspired countless other works of science fiction and fantasy, both in film and in other forms of art and entertainment.
Is Willow related to Star Wars? The answer is yes and no. While Willow is not officially part of the Star Wars universe, it does have some connections and similarities with the franchise that are worth noting. Both films were created by George Lucas, who used his imagination and vision to craft two different but equally fascinating worlds. Both films also contain references and homages to each other, as well as influences from other sources of mythology and folklore. Both films also share some common themes and elements, such as the hero’s journey, the use of magic and technology, and the conflict between good and evil.
However, Willow is also a unique and original film that stands on its own merits. It has its own style and tone, its own characters and creatures, its own story and message. It is a film that celebrates the power of courage, hope, and love in the face of adversity. It is a film that appeals to both children and adults, to both fans of fantasy and fans of adventure. It is a film that deserves to be recognized and appreciated as a classic of its genre.
So whether you are a fan of Star Wars or not, you should definitely give Willow a chance. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy it. And who knows? You might even find some connections that we missed. After all, as Willow himself says: “The power to control the world is in which finger?”