Though they may have been panned by critics upon release, the post Star Wars Lucas Films productions of Howard the Duck and Willow meant a lot to children of the 80’s, like me. If something new was out to rent at the video store, I’d tell my parents to rent Willow, again. When it came to HBO, you bet I watched it every time it was on. When they announced there was a new Willow series coming to Disney+ with Warwick Davis returning to the role, there was a little kid in me that got excited. But does the final product do enough to bring this strange world to a new era?
There has been an unprecedented time of peace following the events of Willow’s adventures with Madmartigan to protect the prophetic child, Elora Danan. Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) is now Queen and she has hid Elora from the world to protect her. Elora lives a full life, but under a different name. Even she does not know her own true identity. When an evil force awakens and takes aim at the Queen’s empire, searching to plunge the world into darkness. After Sorsha’s son is kidnapped in an attack on their castle, Sorsha’s daughter and a rag-tag team of young blood set out to find Willow (Warwick Davis), and ask for the great sorcerer’s help in getting back her son.
The nostalgia of seeing Warwick Davis, Joanne Whalley, and others return to the world of Willow automatically hits some win points from the get go. But any revisit to the original film as an adult, really does open a window of confusion and disappointment. A lot of messiness and lack of detail carry over from the film into the TV series, and much of it is left unchecked. These are fantasy realms, they don’t have to abide by strict sense of real world cultural borders. That’s why as a child I never questioned why Val Kilmer as Madmartigan speaks in his normal American accent, while everyone else seems to have a decidedly British tone to them.
So, when the TV series comes along, and all the young cast are not speaking with any accent other than their own…I let it slide. However, not speaking with a specific accent is one thing. What is tough to look past is that all of these kids in a far off, old timey fantasy land, speak as if they just finished surfing off the coast at Venice Beach while they dry off and get ready to meet at the Peach Pit for burgers and fries. Doing something different, especially in the world of medieval fantasy is very welcome in the times of George R.R. Martin’s rule. But this actually feels offensive and dirty.
While returning characters and actors are a welcome sight, there are also some strange characters missing from the TV series. At the end of the film, Willow’s best friend Meegosh is alive and well. But as the series kicks off, not only is there no mention of Meegosh, but Willow’s closest, most important companion is a new character, Silas, played by Graham Hughes. First off, let me say that not only is Graham’s performance as Silas really well performed, but he’s probably my favorite character of the whole show. And even though David J. Steinberg who played Meegosh in the film is no longer with us, it doesn’t make sense as to why the character couldn’t have been recast. It’s odd when a world of characters we adored as kids, are just left in the wings.
Willow isn’t a bad show, but it isn’t anything to write home about either. Much like the film, it seems more focused on throwing the fantastic in your face, that the threads needed to tie it all together are left loose and frayed. Some sets are grandiose and magnificent, and others look like they were made for your highschool senior play. As much as one can love Warwick Davis and all he has to offer, maybe Willow should have stayed in 1988.
Final Grade: C
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Here’s the trailer of the film.