Back in 1988, Ron Howard directed a fantasy movie written by George Lucas and Bob Dolman that followed a character named Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis), who becomes the caretaker of a child he finds. That child happens to be a chosen one foretold to take down evil Queen Bavmorda. Ultimately, Bavmorda was banished, and while the movie didn’t make box office records when it was released, it’s still a beloved movie by many people. And now, a sequel series has arrived on Disney+. However, 1988 and 2022 are two entirely different eras of filmmaking, can Willow live up to those who view ’80s through rose-colored glasses? Surprisingly, yes.
The new Disney+ series once again follows Willow as he’s recruited by a group to go on a rescue mission, and very quickly, we find that there’s a connection to the first film driving a lot of this story, and of course, the forces of evil that are standing in these heroes’ way. It’s an adventure that really kicks things off from the first couple of episodes, so the details of this group traveling, and who they are, all become a little bit of a spoiler for the season as a whole.
In an era of bundles and bundles of high-quality content being released weekly through various streaming platforms, cable TV, and VOD, it can be hard to grab the attention of a view. If it isn’t engaging by the end of Episode 1, why should we bother? Luckily, Willow kicks things off with a quick recap of the original film.” It’s all the necessary information you need in order to dive right in because Willow doesn’t have time to spare, and the things that aren’t over-explained are part of the fun and mystery. We’re not in the worlds of Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, or Game of Thrones. Things aren’t overly-complicated here. It’s pretty straight-forward fantasy that’s a lot more grounded in reality than other shows in its genre. The first episode feels like you’re coming home. Willow feels like Willow, even though technology behind the production has changed quite a bit.
But even then so, this still looks like Willow. The series relies much more on practical effects rather than CG. Yes, computer generated effects exist, but so much of this show invokes filmmaking from the ’80s and prior. The series seems to lean more on set pieces being just as important to telling this story. There are grand, sweeping shots showing us a vast land these characters are traveling across. There’s moments of this group walking through dense forests or hanging out in camps.
Warwick Davis steps back into the role of the titular character who wants to be a great sorcerer, and this time around, the elder of the group of adventurers comes off a bit cocky and a know-it-all–as he’s been on adventures before. It’s delightful to see a little more of an evolution of the character, one who is still waiting around for his next adventure. Ellie Bamber plays Dove on the series, and in many ways, she steals the show as a character trying to find her own path and identity, without being lost in the shuffle of the group. The cast, as a whole, is exceptionally strong, and there’s not a weak link in the train.
While Willow is a surprisingly fun series, there is one aspect of the series that may take viewers out of the moment, and that’s some of the music chosen for the show. Willow does have a great score, which perfectly fits the series. However, there are moments that are punctuated with modern pop music that feel out of place. It’s jarring to hear this type of music for this series, but that may be because this show is also trying to capture the attention of a younger audience–but the end result is awkward and immersion-breaking..
We didn’t get to see the final episode of the show–as it was not provided for review–the journey to that episode was a blast. While remakes/revamps/continuations of older content may not be very inclusive to newer viewers, Willow is a straight-to-the-point show that is exceptionally welcoming to those well familiar with Willow Ufgood and those who have never heard of him.