Willow TV Review

Plot: The Nelwyn sorcerer returns, years after rescuing the infant empress Elora Danan, to lead a group of misfit heroes on a harrowing rescue mission through a world beyond imagination.

Review: Of all the sequels and continuations that I have wanted, few ranks as high on my list as Willow. As an eight-year-old, I saw Willow on the big screen based purely on being from the imagination of George Lucas. I was unprepared for the sword and sorcery and dark fantasy about to unfold on a scale I had not seen on the big screen before. Ron Howard‘s epic direction, James Horner’s immortal score, and the performances of Warwick Davis, Joanne Whalley, and Val Kilmer had me absolutely blown away. Like Star Wars, for over twenty years I have been stuck with rumors of a possible sequel and only a trilogy of novels to take me back to the story of Willow, Elora Danan, and the fight against the forces of evil. Now, thanks to Disney+ and Lucasfilm’s dedication to telling stories in the series format, we finally have the next chapter in the story. Featuring the best production values of any Disney+ series to date, Willow is a rousing entry to the mythical tale as well as a satisfying continuation of the feature film.

Willow picks up decades after the title character defeated the evil Queen Bavmorda alongside her daughter Sorsha and swordsman Madmartigan. Bringing peace to the kingdom, Willow returned to Nelwyn a hero and the world seemingly living happily ever after. As the series begins, we learn that Willow (Warwick Davis) has turned into a somewhat jaded elder similar to Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi after Sorsha refused to allow him to teach Elora Danan how to perform magic. Sorsha (Joanne Whalley), now queen, is raising twins fathered by Madmartigan who has been missing on a quest for years. In his absence, Prince Airk (Dempsey Bryk) and Princess Kit (Ruby Cruz) have grown wary of their duties to the kingdom. Airk is a ladies’ man who is also in love with kitchen maid Dove (Ellie Bamber) while Kit desires to be a warrior. Despite training alongside her best friend Jade (Erin Kellyman), Kit is betrothed to Graydon, a prince of a neighboring kingdom.

The series quickly introduces the young cast who serve as the next generation of this story much like Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac did in The Force Awakens. Their quest begins when monstrous beings infiltrate Tir Asleen and kidnap Airk, prompting Sorsha to send them to find Willow Ufgood. She also sends imprisoned thief Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel), an accomplished swordsman, as they race to save the prince and the kingdom. The band of ragtag heroes, who are really misfits at the outset, head to Nelwyn where they make a dramatic discovery. All of that is just the first episode of Willow which bodes well for what comes in the subsequent seven chapters. Each episode is presented as a chapter in a storybook retelling the quest of Willow and chronicles both the main narrative as well as flashbacks that fill in the events we missed in the intervening years since the 1988 film concluded. Along the way, we also learn details about these characters as their bond strengthens and their role in this tale becomes clear. Plus, Warwick Davis is every bit as good thirty-four years after the first film and maybe even better.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7It1yQqPDwk

The hour-long episodes of Willow benefit from the stunning location shoot in Wales which lends the series a tangible look and feel reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings. There is also a great mix of humor and action, something I was very happy to see kept from the original film. While we do have the return of Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton as the diminutive brownies Rool and Franjean, we also have excellent additions to the cast like Christian Slater and Ralph Ineson. The comedy here is natural and fits the story which feels more contemporary than the original movie but still maintains a balance of light and dark fantasy. As scary as elements of the feature film were, this Willow packs some inventive practical effects for the villains and monsters, something that sets this series as a far darker property than most other Lucasfilm and Marvel Disney+ fare.

Jon Kasdan, son of Lawrence Kasdan, created this series by drawing inspiration from the George Lucas sequel novels but takes this tale in an all-new direction. Kasdan enlisted Willow screenwriter Bob Dolman to join the project as a writer which helps keep the consistency in the feel of the two stories and allows them to feel like parts of the same tale. It also helps that Willow works as a standalone story that newcomers can enjoy without having seen the film. There is a lot more of that long-time fans will appreciate whether it be easter eggs, references to names and places from the original movie, or James Newton Howard’s beautiful score that accentuates James Horner’s themes while taking things in a new direction. Director Stephen Woolfenden, a veteran of small-screen fare like Doctor Who and Outlander, makes a firm case for being considered for any number of big-screen projects after the stunning quality of Willow’s visuals. Alongside fellow directors Debs Paterson, Jamie Childs, and Philippa Lowthorpe, Willow is a gorgeous successor to Ron Howard’s feature film.

Willow is a beautiful follow-up that exceeded my expectations in every way. Quite possibly the best sequel Lucasfilm has ever done, Willow makes a strong case for this franchise to continue and expand in every way. As funny as it is exciting, this is the adventure of the year. I loved every minute of returning to this story and only wish it had happened twenty years ago so that we could keep watching Warwick Davis in this role as well as Val Kilmer play Madmartigan for sequel after sequel. Thankfully, Jon Kasdan and his creative team have introduced a great cast of newcomers to take Willow into the future and I cannot wait to see where it goes. This is a series that is exciting, scary, funny, and an absolute blast. If you have not seen the original movie, stream Willow right now and then dive in for the best Disney+ series of the year.

Willow premieres on November 30th on Disney+.

Willow

AMAZING

9

Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.