The baby is the key to the story: According to prophecy, she is to bring about the downfall of the evil Queen. The Queen, naturally, seeks to destroy this usurper and imprisons all the pregnant women. A kind-hearted midwife smuggles the baby out of the prison, places her on a floating raft of reeds where she is plucked from the river by the protagonist, Willow. (Does this sound familiar?)
On Willow’s journey to find safety for the baby, he meets up with the down-on-his-luck hero, a disheartened army captain, a past-her-prime sorceress, and even the Queen’s daughter (who falls for the hero). The evil Queen is ultimately defeated by her own dark magic and the cleverness of Willow as the unlikely gang of allies seeks to rescue the baby from the Queen’s clutches.
As I watched for the first time in a decade, I was disappointed that this movie I’d enjoyed in college hadn’t aged well. The special-effects were dated and many of the comic moments now come off (as my 2020 kids would say) “cringy.”
So perhaps it was in this spirit of critical analysis I noticed something I’d not noticed before: There is a major plot error in the story! The baby doesn’t defeat the Queen! The prophecy is wrong. It is those who love the baby that defeat evil. And they only fight the Queen because she puts the baby in jeopardy in the first place. It’s a bit of a circular plot that at first glance feels a bit contrived.
But upon deeper reflection (because what’s more fun than pulling theology out of cheesy movies) I think this is what George Lucas wanted us to see all along: Like Herod in the Christmas story, fear leads to evil acts and then right back to that which is feared in the first place.
And that’s not the only thing Lucas borrows from the Bible. Lucas’s heroes are misfits just like David, Jacob, and Sarah – too small, too cynical, too old. And yet, they are transformed by love for the weakest of all of them – a completely dependent little baby. United by this love, the group of misfits conquers an evil that vast armies could not.
(Maybe Willow is a Christmas movie after all.)