‘Willow’ Series Review: “A Fresh, Yet Familiar Fantasy Adventure”
With the recent season finales of The Rings of Power and The House of the Dragon, many fans of the sensational realm of magic and fantasy find themselves in need of filling a void. Thankfully, Disney+ just might have the remedy needed to cure what ails them. Based on the hit Lucasfilm movie from 1988 with the same name, Willow is a triumph in every sense of the word and not only expands the lore created by the original film but also creates something fresh and all its own.
Pulling inspiration from the best of the genre that’s come before it, the new series stands apart as something for a new generation of fantasy fans while also providing something familiar for those seeking nostalgia and comfort. Created and developed by Jonathan Kasdan, son of longtime Lucasfilm producer and writer Lawrence Kasdan, it’s clear Willow is a labor of love. The series is intended to both spark memories of the majesty of the source material while creating new ones with a reimagined epic.
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Assembling one of the most charming casts of all time is simply the beginning of what makes the first three episodes of Willow feel like something truly special. Warwick Davis obviously returns to the role of the titular hero, but he is joined by a cast of genuinely remarkable young actors sure to leave their mark on the industry. Chief among them is The Falcon and the Winter Soldier standout Erin Kellyman as an ambitious knight-in-training named Jade and Mare of Easttown star Ruby Cruz as Kit, the rebellious princess and daughter of Joanne Whalley’s Sorsha.
Right away, it was clear this duo nailed what had to be a dynamite chemistry test as both their shared loyalty to and love for each other shine in the very first moments of the series. Later on, it’s made abundantly clear that their bond is one that even the toughest of tasks could not bend or break. Both characters have their ideas of what the world should look like and what needs to be done to get there, but they never truly sacrifice their camaraderie to accomplish it.
Over the course of three episodes, Willow offers a lot of exposition. Since the events of the film, the main characters have seen their relationships deteriorate or disappear altogether. However, the main focus remains the same as the original film: keep Elora Danan safe and sound as she is the only one who can defeat evil in the realm, as foretold in the prophecy. A shocking moment at the end of episode one reveals the true identity of Elora Danan and truly sets the plot into motion. Moreover, there looms a dark, evergrowing mystery that threatens not only the kingdom but the world as a whole.
As the mystery unravels itself, a fellowship of companions set out to rescue Kit’s brother, who those forces of evil have kidnaped. Joining Kit and Jade on this journey is Ellie Bamber’s Dove, a kitchen maid; Amar Chadha-Patel’s Boorman, a thief and swordsman who is offered freedom from prison if he joins the quest; and Tony Revolori’s Tony Revolori Graydon, a scholar and young prince betrothed to Kit. Together, they join with Warwick Davis’ Willow Ufgood and embark on a Fellowship of the Ring-like quest. Complete with beautiful, sprawling landscapes and unforeseen obstacles, the group is put to the test.
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One of the trickiest parts of putting together a solid mystery series is keeping the stakes high, the drama tense, and the moments of brevity light and heartwarming. In all aspects, Willow achieves all three. Specifically, in a moment that shines a light on the life of Willow Ufgood himself since the events of the classic film. Whether it’s visiting his home village where he is now the quasi-mayor or depictions of flashbacks to his heated arguments with Joanne Whalley’s Sorsha, it’s nice to see that the eponymous character gets a bit more development. Most viewers will be tuning in to revisit the charming nature of Warwick’s portrayal of Willow, and they will surely not be disappointed.
Willow feels like a fresh and familiar fantasy adventure all at once. An unraveling mystery mixed with one of the most charming ensembles in recent memory, the series only enhances the magic of the original film in this reimagining for the modern era. – Christian Hubbard
Rating – 8/10
Willow will have its series debut on Disney+ on November 30th.
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