Disney+’s ‘Willow’ series is just like the movie – except much, much worse
To a significant extent, Disney’s streaming strategy seems to involve raiding their archives for every last available property that can be turned into a multi-season series. Arriving in the wake of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, High School Musical: The Musical – The Series and various Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars effort – and ahead The Santa Clauses and National Treasure: Edge of History—Willow continues the tactical trend.
Premiere November 30, Willow visits producer George Lucas and director Ron Howard’s 1988 fantasy film about a sinister queen, a prophesied child, a would-be sorcerer and a formidable mercenary tasked with saving the world. Those with warm and fuzzy feelings about the rollicking adventure will likely be drawn to this big-budget follow-up. Sustained interest, however, will be hampered by a cast of largely bland new characters and, even more pressingly, a lack of sweeping excitement.
While Willow can’t be bothered to make a title that differs from its predecessor – a common reboot-sequel approach that continues to make no sense whatsoever – it creates a new quest for its pint-sized hero, Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) – even though it doesn’t introduce him properly until the final minutes of the premiere episode.
Decades after vanquishing evil by vanquishing Nockmaar’s villainous Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh), Willow is now a convincing sorcerer, and Davis’s performance as the little Nelwyn squire proves the absolute pinnacle of those proceedings. With a vivacity and sense of humor that is aimed at both herself and others, Willow is older and wiser, but fundamentally the same as before. He exudes a measure of kindness and altruism that shines through even the darkest moments of his journey.
His quest once again has to do with Elora Danan, the infant destined to free this magical land from its darkness. Although Willow apparently already saved Elora from harm, Willow informs viewers that shortly after his triumph, he suspected that apocalyptic forces were once again on the horizon, forcing him and Bavmorda’s daughter Sorsha (Joanne Whalley, reprising her role) to hide the baby.
Flashbacks reveal that Willow tried to teach young Elora how to use her powers so she would be ready when they were needed, but Sorsha thought otherwise, causing a rift that was never fully mended. Yet, on the eve of her daughter Kit’s (Ruby Cruz) arranged marriage to Prince Graydon (Tony Revolori)—a union aimed at uniting two kingdoms—Sorsha begins to hear Willow’s whisper of warning: “The Gales. They come.”
The mysterious threat concerns Sorsha greatly, but at first, Willow concentrates on the tensions in and around the track. Kit is a sassy warrior who resists being attached to boring Graydon, not only because she is an independent woman, but because she has romantic feelings for her best friend Jade (Erin Kellyman), who has been raised and trained to be a knight by palace commander Ballantine (Ralph Ineson). Kit’s lothario brother Airk (Dempsey Bryk) is similarly caught up in romantic entanglements, currently with a kitchen maid named Dove (Ellie Bamber), whom he loves almost as much as he loves himself. Together, they’re a distinctly Disney Channel-esque bunch: reasonably sweet, mildly personable and capable of keeping the material on track.
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Willow is not as serious, gloomy or visually striking as The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon, and it’s also not cartoony enough for kids. The target audience seems to be tweens, which is off its nostalgic sweet spot and leads to a bit too much corny comedy.
Still, it manages to generate some nonsensical dynamism thanks to Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel), a thief and fake villain who serves as the plot’s de facto replacement—in spirit, if not narrative function—for Val Kilmer, whose medical difficulties prevented him in reprising his role as the overwhelming Madmartigan. The fate of Kilmer’s beloved character is shrouded in mystery at the start of this saga, and a source of burning curiosity for his daughter Kit, who yearns to find out what happened to her absent father and, in addition, the fabled suit of armor he might be wearing. have applied.
In the aftermath of an attack on the castle that ends with Airk’s abduction, WillowThe remaining characters band together to retrieve him from Immemorial City, a place beyond the edges of this civilization’s map ruled by a withered Crone who desires death and destruction.
Willow’s visions foretell destruction even with the help of Elora Danan (whose identity is obvious from the start), and Kasdan and company conjure up some strikingly sinister panoramas of tragedy and monstrosity, especially with regard to the inventive Gales. However, their sword fight sequences leave a lot to be desired, cut to tape and in one case drenched in darkness and rain that makes everything borderline incomprehensible. In the first three episodes, the troupe’s trek takes them through nothing but nondescript forests and fields, making the series even more aesthetically derivative and ho-hum.
Following in the footsteps of countless streaming companies, Willow whizzes along at a casual pace that’s the opposite of the zippy 1988 film. Numerous scenes exist solely to pad the episodes’ running time, the result being a frustrating absence of urgency. Despite constant talk about the importance of getting down to business, the series is in no rush to reach its goal. Also, it’s not particularly concerned with surprising or thrilling audiences, every development is predictable from a mile away and its battle-heavy centerpiece is no different to a million others.
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The original Willow was also far from entirely original, drawn as it was from bits of Tolkien’s novels and Lucas’s own Star Wars, but at least it thundered with energy and heart. This sequel, on the other hand, only shows a spark of life whenever Davis wises up or exhorts his compatriots to follow his lead, which isn’t often enough.
Maybe Willow has a wonderful surprise around its later corners that justifies this return trip to Tir Asleen. Based on the first installments, however, it mostly comes across as another unnecessary, if passable, bit of IP exploitation.
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