FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE YET TO SEE WILLOW, THIS IS A NON-SPOILER REVIEW.
Ron Howard’s original film Willow, which came from a story cooked up by George Lucas himself… is one of those eighties fantasy flicks that I have a soft spot in my heart for. Alongside Legend and The Neverending Story… Willow is the sort of cheesy, light-hearted genre fare that only that Era was capable of cultivating. It’s also a film that critics seemed to completely dismiss when it was released… Yet, it was embraced by audiences and has been able to stand the test of time. And here we are now, in a new Era – one obsessed with nostalgia – so, naturally, we are getting a reboot series trying to capitalize on that.
But, is this new show thirty years too late? Will modern audiences tune in to this more obscure property – in a year that has already provided its fair share of fantasy with House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power? Only time will tell with those questions. But, speaking on the quality of Disney+’s iteration of Willow… this is a wildly entertaining and bingeable series for the entire family to enjoy.
WHAT IS WILLOW ALL ABOUT?
The original film followed an aspiring magician and an infant girl destined to unite the realms… Who together helped destroy an evil queen and banish the forces of darkness. Now, in a magical world where brownies, sorcerers, trolls, and other mystical creatures flourish… The adventure continues. As an unlikely group of heroes set off on a dangerous quest to places far beyond their home, where they must face their inner demons and come together to save their world.
HOW IS THE SERIES ABLE TO CONNECT WITH BOTH OLD & NEW GENERATIONS?
The show is able to capture the goofiness and rough-around-the-edges feel of the original… while making it a bit more palatable for this generation. One of the ways in which it does this, is by making the young-adult lead characters act and talk like they are of this time… while the older characters behave as if they just fell out of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel. And while it is jarring at first (and die-hard fans might hate it)… It does differentiate Willow from many of the other fantasy series to come out recently. In that way (and in many others), this show is more reminiscent of MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles, than the others I mentioned previously.
WHAT ARE THE PROS?
The biggest compliment I can give this series… is that it effortlessly transports us back to this world and has truly excited me for the return. The practical effects are absolutely stunning (and the lack of CGI is refreshing), the creature designs rival that of anything seen on Rings of Power, and the show moves at such a breakneck speed… that you won’t have time to nitpick at most of the flaws. The story crafted here immediately throws us into the action, with just enough set-up of characters and perfectly-placed flashbacks to get us invested again. And each episode throws just a big enough curveball at the audience, to make us clamor for more.
WHAT ARE THE CONS?
The issues I have with Willow (and they are pretty glaring ones), lie in the acting and writing. The veteran actors are strong as ever… And just the sight of Warwick Davis as the titular sorcerer gave me goosebumps. But, the young-adult cast leave much to be desired. I’m not sure if it’s the sometimes ridiculous writing and exposition, the harsh differences in performance-style (as mentioned above), or just their portrayals in general… but, I had a hard time rooting for any of these young characters, because I found them to all be slightly irritating. As the season progresses, I was able to let a lot of that go… and just bask in the show’s breezy and whimsical nature. Though I still yearned to care a little bit more for this ensemble, than I did by the end.
IS WILLOW WORTH WATCHING?
Disney+’s Willow is really going to have to ignite a fiery passion in new followers, if it’s going to continue on. Yet despite its flaws, I think it absolutely deserves a following… and I hope it finds it. This is a world rife with so much potential and the showrunners love for the source material is apparent throughout the entire season. The tricky task of making the show satisfying for old fans, while opening it up for a new generation has been accomplished… so, if Willow is to be called upon for another quest, all the showrunners need to do is work out the kinks.
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