Just like every other cliché-driven fantasy film that was being pumped out during the 1980s, "Willow" attempts to follow down the beaten path, but suffers from too many missteps where the characters are uninteresting and annoying, the world looks bland and cheap, and the plot is derivative and lacks imagination. In short, this film feels like a dirty cash-in.
Janet Maslin from The New York Times praised Lucas' storytelling, but was critical of Ron Howard's direction. "Howard appears to have had his hands full in simply harnessing the special effects," Maslin said. Desson Thomson writing in The Washington Post, explained "Rob Reiner's similar fairytale adventure The Princess Bride (which the cinematographer Adrian Biddle also shot) managed to evoke volumes more without razzle-dazzle. It's a sad thing to be faulting Lucas, maker of the Star Wars trilogy and Raiders of the Lost Ark, for forgetting the tricks of entertainment." Mike Clark in USA Today wrote that "the rainstorm wrap-up, in which Good edges Evil is like Led Zeppelin Meets The Wild Bunch. The film is probably too much for young children and possibly too much of the same for cynics. But any 6-13-year-old who sees this may be bitten by the "movie bug" for life." I haven´t seen "Willow" for years and decided it was time to re-watch it. It´s quite obvious that "Willow" is modeled on Tolkien´s "Lord of the Rings" trilogy as there´s many similar touching points in the storyline. It most likely appeals to 10-13 year olds and back in 1988 I reckon this fantasty adventure got its audience for sure. This being a Ron Howard movie, we get something conventional and unsurprising. I personally think that Howard has created too many long scenes that really creates a stretch in the story instead of creating dynamics. The films action set pieces are generally solid, while the special effects are not so solid. The special effects is a big minus in the film in my point of view. Then again in 1988 I did most likely have a different opinion. Unfortunately, director Ron Howard and executive producer George Lucas also seems to have put too much focus on the visual effects and practical issues while the direction and character development suffers from less focus throughout the movie. Most actors give as well an uneven and inconsistent performance. It was however nice to re-see Val Kilmer in his heyday and the same for the oh so lovely Joanne Whalley. "Willow" has its entertaining moments, but there´s too much that is unsatisfying for yours truly to feel that this is still special in 2016.