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Willow review: A spoiler-free look at the new Disney+ series

Willow review: A spoiler-free look at the new Disney+ series

More than 30 years after the original Ron Howard-directed dark fantasy adventure film was released, an epic new follow-up series is coming to Disney+ this November. For a long time Willow fans, it was well worth the wait.

The first three episodes of Disney+ Willow was available to the press, and what follows is a spoiler-free look at the series.

ONE Willow Refreshment

The new 8-episode series picks up roughly 20 years after the events of the original film, which starred Davis, Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley, and relies on past events to set up this new chapter. The opening episode helpfully provides a quick recap of key details, including a reminder that young farmer Willow Ufgood (Davis) was chosen to take a red-headed baby named Elora Danen under her protection after a prophecy foretold that the child would be the downfall of the evil Bavmorda of Nockmaar. With the help of rogue mercenary Madmartigan (Kilmer) and Sorsha (Whalley), the eventual turncoat warrior daughter of Bavmorda, Willow and his friends managed to safely protect young Elora, thus defeating Bavmorda. Viewers can also watch the 1988 film on Disney+ to fully prepare for the series’ upcoming release.

Believing that evil had been defeated, the kingdom’s heroes returned home and continued to live peaceful lives. In an effort to protect her and allow her a normal life, Elora grew up sheltered – not knowing her origin story or true name. One day, an ancient evil rises again, aiming to destroy Elora Danen once and for all and create a new dark age. With the child of prophecy once again finding herself at the center of this great doom, it is predicted that she will be the only one who will bring unity against the darkness. With a new band of heroes (Erin Kellyman, Tony Revolori, Ellie Bamber, Amar Chadha-Patel and Ruby Cruz) taking up the call, their fight to save the world takes them to places they could never have imagined.

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The return of familiar favourites

The original Willow casts a huge shadow over the new series, not only in terms of direct storytelling and effective flashback sequences, but in the casting. Davis, who has long spoken of his desire for one Willow the sequel, returns to the title role along with Whalley’s retaliation against Sorsha. It has also been revealed that Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton would return to their roles as the mischievous brownies, Rool and Franjean. While Kilmer was unable to return as Madmartigan due to his health, the character remains a major presence throughout.

It’s heartwarming to see the original stars return, especially Davis. The Harry Potter the actor clearly has an affinity for the role and brings as much charm and charisma to the role as he did 34 years ago. It’s also great to see the actor’s real-life daughter, Annabelle Davis, take on the role of Willow’s daughter, Mims, who makes several appearances in beautiful father-daughter scenes in the show’s early episodes.

A must-see reboot

Those who are afraid of a new Disney+ taking on the original Willow the story would dilute the ever-present darkness of 80s kids movies don’t worry. The series is just as dark as one would have hoped, and it manages to present the familiar Willow embellish on an even larger and darker scale. This is a lavish world with a stunning look, built on what Howard and cinematographer Adrian Biddle created for the original film, and with an incredible eye for detail. There are fantastic creatures here too, well created and scary enough for young and old.

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One of the things Disney+ is Willow the best is to put a band of female adventurers and heroes at the forefront of the story. While Whalley’s Sorsha may have paved the way as a warrior in the 1988 film, the trio of Kellyman, Cruz and Bamber are dynamic on screen. There are no damsels in distress to be found here, with Princess Kit (Cruz) coming to the rescue of her friends and husband-to-be, Graydon (Revolori). The female characters are each given agency and something interesting to do, instead of blending into the background of the posse.

Developed by Jonathan Kasdan, who also wrote three of the episodes, Willow is full of warm-hearted humor. Offering consistent bright moments along the way, the tone stays true to that set by writers George Lucas and Bob Dolman in 1988. The sequel also features a score that captures adventure on a grand scale, and to top it all off, each episode ends with a atmospheric cover of a famous pop music track for some unexpected fun. Nobody had covers of Metallica or Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” on Willow sequel to bingo cards. It all adds to the nostalgic fun of the series as a whole.

One of the most delightful and fun reboots in recent memory, Disney+ Willow sure to delight not only existing fans but also total newcomers.

The first episode of Willow premieres November 30, exclusively on Disney+with new episodes after every consecutive Wednesday.

Watch the trailer and check out more photos from the series below.

(L-R): Dove (Ellie Bamber), Kit (Ruby Cruz), Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel), Graydon (Tony Revolori) and Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) in Lucasfilm’s WILLOW exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All rights reserved.

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Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) in Lucasfilm’s WILLOW exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All rights reserved.

(L-R): A mudmander and Graydon (Tony Revolori) in Lucasfilm’s WILLOW exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All rights reserved.

(L-R): Graydon (Tony Revolori), Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel), Dove (Ellie Bamber), Kit (Ruby Cruz), Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) and Jade (Erin Kellyman) in Lucasfilm’s WILLOW exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All rights reserved.

(L-R): Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis), Graydon (Tony Revolori), Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel), Dove (Ellie Bamber), Kit (Ruby Cruz) and Jade (Erin Kellyman) in Lucasfilm’s WILLOW, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All rights reserved.

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