Willow (1988)

This movie was released in the US in 1988, written by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard.

The ILM-produced special effects are what set this movie apart from any other sword-and-sorcery flick to date, which is pretty much what you'd expect from Lucas. In abundance are miniature brownies, magical zaps, a giant two-headed dragon, and a character being transformed from one animal into another via the then-new technology of digital morphing.

As for the story, though, there's nothing spectacular about it. (We are, of course, all quite glad that George Lucas wasn't directing this one as well.) The main characters are a kidnapped baby, an evil witch-queen, a hobbit--er, dwarf--rescuer, one heroic prince--er, swordsman--as a good guy, and a beautiful but vicious woman as the leader of the queen's guard who, naturally, falls in love with him at the end. It starts out like the Biblical tale of Moses and turns into "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" crossed with "Sleeping Beauty" shortly thereafter. Magic and battles abound, but let's face it, this particular facet of the fantasy genre has been so well-traveled in Disney movies by now that there's not much more to see.

In his "Star Wars" movies, Lucas explicitly wanted to take the old sci-fi serials he loved as a kid and make them into a big, beautiful, effects-laden motion picture everyone could watch and remember. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in that, but his ability to use juvenile adventure clich├ęs as fodder for a screenplay is not unlimited.

Methinks he hoped that "Willow" could do for the sword-and-sorcery genre what "Star Wars" did for science fiction, but there just wasn't enough new in this movie to make it happen. Fortunately for the fantasy genre, Peter Jackson finally succeeded at this with the cinematic "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Which, I suppose, only goes to show that originality in Hollywood isn't always something to cheer for.