I was a bit surprised when I first heard that Lucasfilm would be releasing a big-budget miniseries sequel to the 1980s fantasy adventure film Willow. While ’80s nostalgia is definitely having a moment (thanks to hits like Stranger Things), I don’t feel Willow had the same cultural staying power as films like E.T. or Ghostbusters.
When it was released, the film received somewhat mixed reviews from critics and was moderately profitable. I remember watching it as a kid but not having particularly strong feelings about it. It certainly didn’t capture my affections the same way Star Wars or Lord of the Rings did.
However, I started getting curious about the new Willow series on Disney+ and decided that if I wanted to watch it, I needed to go back and revisit the original film. And you know what? I enjoyed the heck out of the original movie. Sure, some moments were a little silly and a few special effects moments are a bit dodgy to the modern eye. But I was surprised by what a fun (and funny) fantasy adventure this was. Also, it made me really, really excited to check out the sequel series.
I had completely forgotten that Ron Howard directed this movie and that the story (though not the screenplay itself) was developed by George Lucas. I definitely see some of the same themes from Star Wars in Willow, although this is more than just a “Star Wars but fantasy!” rehash.
Warwick Davis very much deserved this starring role after his Lucasfilm debut in Return of the Jedi, and he plays a sort of Luke Skywalker-esque everyman with magical powers – the kind of character that an audience can easily relate to.
You’d think Val Kilmer would be playing the rugged, roguish hero, but he’s actually a bit of a wash-up and a goof (I say this with affection). I appreciate that he’s not just the expected, heroic stereotype. Also, it’s always great to see a female villain, and I like that Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) starts off as her mother’s lackey and then decides to take her own path.
Also, this is just a nice little family film in a fantasy setting. While I’m excited for my daughter to one day watch Lord of the Rings, some of the battle scenes can be a little intense/scary for younger viewers. Willow seems like the perfect film to introduce younger kids to the fantasy genre.
The sequel series is to the original Willow what The Force Awakens is to the Star Wars original trilogy (or Ghostbusters: Afterlife is to the original Ghostbusters). It pairs beloved legacy characters with newer, younger characters who are ready to take up the torch and continue the adventure.
Unfortunately, the first episode of the TV series didn’t immediately grab my attention the way my rewatch of the film did. With The Force Awakens, I immediately fell in love with new characters like Rey and Finn; however, the new characters in Willow aren’t blowing me away, particularly when it comes to the actors’ performances.
The actors playing Sorcha’s twins, Kit and Airk, turn in performances that feel stiff, forced and flat, to the point that it draws me out of the story. Unfortunately, it’s the same with Airk’s love interest Dove, who has a secret identity more compelling than the character development we’ve seen from her so far.
Of the younger cast, I wished they’d focused more on Erin Kellyman as Jade, who must strike a difficult balance between her relationship with Princess Kit and her own desires to be a knight. It’s a cool character and a good performance, and it makes me wish Kellyman had been the star of this series.
The first episode also makes you wait quite a while to see Warwick Davis as Willow, which is a shame because he was the character I was most looking forward to revisiting. Will he now serve as a wizened mentor a la Obi-Wan in A New Hope, or in the ensuing years has he become disillusioned and disenchanted like Luke in The Last Jedi?
The battle sequence in the episode was pretty cool, with some genuinely terrifying creatures that inject some much-needed energy into the story.
It’s too soon to tell whether Willow will be a successful revival, but I hope it will, because I always want to see more big budget sci-fi and fantasy stories, whether they’re in the movie theater or on the small screen. Hopefully there’s more magic yet to come!