Pop quiz, hotshot: what do Fast & Furious, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Star Trek, Angels & Demons, Terminator Salvation, Land of the Lost, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra all have in common? If you said "summer movies," you're only half right - despite widely disparate plots and genres, not to mention quality, one and all of this summer's big-budget wannabe blockbusters (save Pixar's Up) are continuations or reimaginings of preexisting franchises.
With budgets shooting north and the economy spiraling south, you can hardly fault the studios' hesitance to gamble on pricey new ideas - established franchises make money, which greenlights more franchise movies. It's a vicious cycle, and whether it's the fourth or sixth or eleventh film in an elderly series or a toy movie or a straightforward remake, long ago seems the era of a fresh high concept hitting the screens with the verve and confidence of Star Wars or The Matrix. But if that's the way it's gonna be I must venture a suggestion: one golden property primed for sequel magic sits on a shelf at MGM, gathering dust when it should be flying high in theaters. I speak, of course, of Ron Howard and George Lucas's Willow:
Willow, as all non-retards know, is probably the greatest movie ever made. Or at least the greatest high fantasy of the 80s and probably the best one preceding The Lord of the Rings. (The Princess Bride is the greatest low fantasy and arguably better than either of them, but that's a debate for another day.) It's got dragons, knights, brownies, trolls, good wizards, bad wizards, fairies, wicked swordfights and special effects, awesome music, a likable everyman protagonist, and uses a goddamn baby as a MacGuffin.
Willow is about a Nelwyn (aka hobbit) called Willow Ufgood who has to escort the infant Elora Danan to the kingdom of Tir Asleen, where she is destined to rule and defeat the evil Queen Bavmorda. Bavmorda sends her armies and monsters to rape and pillage the land and recapture the child, but Willow teams up with the barbarian Madmartigan, the sorceress Fin Raziel and eventually Bavmorda's turncoat daughter Sorsha, and they fight back. Armies clash, villains die, and Willow outwits Bavmorda into accidently sending herself into the netherworld. Good triumphs, the rain stops, the black castles turn white, Madmartigan and Sorsha get married and adopt Elora Danan, Willow returns to the Nelwyn village, and all is well. The end.
Yeah fuckin' right the end! Last I checked the prophecy clearly states that Elora Danan is supposed to defeat evil - not Willow and Fin Raziel! It's pretty straightforward about this! And in this movie all Elora Danan does is wiggle around and coo and drink milk and get her diaper changed, because she's a goddamned baby. The grownups do all the work. So way I see it this prophecy isn't even close to fulfilled, and that's where Willow 2 comes in (although in actuality it would probably need a more clever and mellifluous title than Willow 2).
The plot of this epic sequel practically writes itself. Basically, we open on the peaceful and prosperous kingdom of Tir Asleen twenty to twenty-five years later, still ruled by Queen Sorsha (Willow seems to be almost entirely matriarchal societies, so I'll just stick with that assumption), with King Madmartigan and our protagonist, the restless Princess Elora Danan, living in harmony in the castle as well. But all will soon be woe, for Bavmorda is doing like Sauron in The Lord of the Rings and manipulating monsters and the will of evil men from her prison in the netherworld.
Perhaps Bavmorda just wants to cause all the chaos she can, perhaps she has some MacGuffin to obtain that will grant her corporeal form again (maybe Elora Danan's death?), but either way she attacks Tir Asleen with soldiers and devil dogs in a badass opening battle scene just like in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, and Elora Danan finds herself on the run along with Madmartigan and Sorsha. Or if they wanted to up the stakes first thing Sorsha could die in the first twenty minutes. Sorsha obviously has to have a heroic sacrifice at some point in the film to make way for Elora Danan to become queen in the end, so it might as well be now.
What happens next is Ron Howard's call: either Elora Danan meets up with Willow (now a skilled sorcerer) early on and they go on their entire adventure together, or the movie has split parallel storylines ala The Lord of the Rings or The Empire Strikes Back where Willow sets out from the Nelwyn village and we follow his party and Elora Danan's party in alternating scenes for them to meet up to join forces in the final battle. Personally, I think the the former method could work better because we could have a badass scene where Elora is surrounded by monsters, doomed, when suddenly deadly magic rains down on the villains and they run away. She calls out to know who it is, and the wizard steps out from the fog: it's motherfuckin' Willow Ufgood, bitch.
Either way there's lots of epic action scenes with cool special effects, they battle trolls and another dragon (three-headed this time!), and they meet brownies and fairies as they're pursued by the forces of Bavmorda. Elora also has a love interest because this is a mainstream Hollywood movie and there always has to be a goddamned love interest. Elora is forced to mature on her journey and finally accepts her destiny and leads the armies of good in the final battle (during which Sorsha will die if she didn't at the beginning). And just like how Willow was forced to face Bavmorda by himself at the end of Willow, Elora's friends are incapacitated or otherwise preoccupied and she's forced to face the final confrontation alone.
She wins, obviously, killing Bavmorda for good this time, and evil flees the land forever. Elora Danan, now a confident and self-assured hero, is crowned Queen of Tir Asleen as Willow and Madmartigan look on with pride. Applause sweeps through the audience, women and babies cry, the movie makes $250 million at the box office.
A minimum of four actors from Willow would need to return to make this glorious dream into celluloid reality. First off, the titular franchise hero, Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood, Elora's magic instructor. Although he hasn't quite become a household name, Davis has more than kept busy: he's going to be in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in July, he was in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian last year, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the year before that. He's still working, and beyond that he specifically said in an interview as recently as last summer that he'd be happy to play Willow Ufgood again. No problem!
And we need Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley back to play King Madmartigan and Queen Sorsha.
Val Kilmer is of course still a household name, and although I assumed Joanna Whalley had dropped off the map having not heard from her lately, seems I just don't know my shit well enough. She's acted all the way up to this very day and has no less than three projects in development right now, including one with John Hurt and Ray Winstone. She still looks pretty good too! Sign these two up and give them their black and red wigs, because it's time to rock Willow 2 style!
There's also Jean Marsh as Bavmorda, who's in her seventies but to my surprise has continued working right up through this year. I don't know if she would actually appear onscreen or just do a voice, but still, gotta get her. Patricia Hayes has long since passed away, which can be explained by merely saying that Fin Raziel has too, which leaves the one true acting wild card being Julie Peters as Willow's wife Kaiya. She seems to have long since dropped off the face of the earth, so she could be recast or written out, but if they could track Peters down and throw a paycheck in her direction it'd be nice to complete the ensemble.
The big remaining question mark is of course the lead role of Elora Danan, princess of Tir Asleen. First, we'll throw away the usual suspects of Scarlett Johansson, Kirsten Dunst, and Keira Knightley, because I'm sick of them. Here's my top five:
5. Emma Stone - She's actually the closest to my ideal casting age and has natural red hair, but she's primarily a comedic actress so far and who knows if she could anchor a whole epic.
4. Mary Elizabeth Winstead - Pulled off spunky hellraising really well in Live Free or Die Hard. Also looked good as a redhead in Death Proof. Definitely a top contender.
3. Amber Heard - Looking at her huge number of in-production credits, she's definitely a rising star, and I loved her in Pineapple Express. Dye her red, give her a sword, and throw her in there.
2. Gemma Arterton - Her relatively small part as Fields was a highlight of Quantum of Solace. She's also in Prince of Persia so she's obviously on her way up to bigger blockbuster opportunities.
In the end, though, I think I might have to encourage Ron Howard to go for pure nepotism:
1. BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD - Ron Howard's daughter is five or six years older than I would ideally like for Elora, but she's a mega-hot natural redhead, she's magnetic and charismatic onscreen, she'd look great wearing Renaissance faire clothes and swinging a sword, she has no problem doing summer blockbusters, and she's not yet a hot enough commodity that it'd be too hard to get her. I think she's Elora Danan! (Although feel free to debate me on the subject if you feel differently.)
As for the behind-the-camera crew, well, we all know George Lucas is still alive and swimming in money, and not only is Ron Howard still working, he was nominated for Best Director last year and his new summer blockbuster is coming out this very Friday! He's still red hot! Get him his director's chair and some craft service, this bad mofo is directing Willow 2. Beyond that, he still works up through Angels & Demons with the same production designer and same two editors who worked on Willow back in 1988, so get those cats back too.
And the final piece of the puzzle, composer James Horner, not only still alive but still active in the industry, must return to remix his classic themes from the first film and create some new ones.
That is my proposal to Hollywood. Get this script hammered out, assemble that cast and team, $140 million budget, make it happen. Otherwise risk humiliation, because everyone who can read the opening text in Willow knows damn well that Elora Danan did not defeat evil and the story isn't over. And America won't accept a lying prophecy. Ball's in your court, MGM!