I’m going to spitball this out as a theory. But I think the Disney-Plus sequel series Willow didn’t initially start out as a Willow sequel series. The series was developed by Jonathan Kasdan based on the 1988 movie of the same name. However, I felt that somewhere in a filing cabinet in an office owned by Disney there was a script of a bunch of teenagers set in a fantasy world that had been gathering dust for years.
You see, let’s go back about 10-15 years when the Twilight franchise was popular. We then got The Hunger Games books and movies. Then, there was The Maze Runner books and movies. And finally, we had the Divergent books and movies. It seemed that every year, these movies were competing with each other. They featured young teenage actors and 20-somethings that could pass as teenagers. They were set in science-fiction dystopia and fantasy worlds. And they made a lot of money.
Well, for a while at least. All the movies seemed to mess together with their CW fanbase of actors. The ride wouldn’t last forever. By 2016, Allegiant, the third Divergent movie failed at the box office and then that was all she wrote. The Dark Tower, which spent years in development hell, was accused of trying to market to teenagers by focusing more on Jake Chambers than Roland Deschain. The movie bombed and got some of the worst reviews of the year.
It was apparent that in 2017, no one cared anymore about teenagers set in fantasy worlds. Mainly because the people going to see these movies years earlier had grown up and their tastes changed. So, I’m sure there was a movie Disney had greenlit about teenagers in a Lord of the Rings fantasy world, that they quietly put in turnaround and locked the movie in a filing cabinet never to be seen again. They could recoup whatever production costs on the next MCU movies.
Solo: A Star Wars Story, while a better idea than Rogue One, didn’t do as well so enough was enough was enough. Then The Mandalorian became a big hit during 2019-2020. And now Disney, which owns Lucasfilms, decided they could dust off that script and rework it as a Willow series.
Granted the 1988 movie wasn’t the best. It seemed to be going for a hybrid knock-off of LOTR and The Hidden Fortress, but its heart was in the right place. There was something about Warwick Davis’ performance as the titular character and Val Kilmer as the romantic hero Madmartigan that made it feel like a superior sword and sorcery movie. Most of the fantasy movies being released in the 1980s were mostly filmed in the desert like some 1960s Star Trek episode or they were transport the characters with rubber masks to America like what was done with Masters of the Universe.
So, Willow, which was directed by Ron Howard, and filmed all over the world had some great visuals and excitement to it, even if the plot was dull. Let’s face it, the Brownies played by Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton were very annoying and you were hoping something would eat them. But it was one of the earliest movies to use morphing technology and there was a belief that this fantasy world did exist.
The Disney-Plus series is eight episodes long, which is more than twice as long as it should be. Willow doesn’t even appear until the last few minutes of the first episode and then spends much of the rest of the series just standing around reminding people of things that happened in the movie, such as when they were all turned into pigs and when Madmartigan was able to make himself into a huge snowball.
No, what we get is another boring “Going on a quest to rescue” story in which Princess Kit Thanthalos (Ruby Cruz), daughter of Madmartigan and Queen Sorsha (Joanne Whaley who appears early but disappears) going from Tir Asleen to find her twin brother Prince Airk (Dempsey Byrk), who’s been kidnapped by the Gales, which is a collection of evil magical beings, I guess. It’s never really explained. There’s also Jade (Erin Kellyman), a knight-in-training and Kit’s love interest. Kellyman may just be one of the most obnoxious untalented actresses I’ve seen since Natasha Lyonne did the same Daria impersonation in every movie she was in in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Kellyman, whose whiny voice and demeanor, ruined The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, carries on the same whiny attitude here. I don’t know what blackmail she has over the people of Disney, but she’s appeared in the Star Wars universe, the MCU and now this. Her acting is at least emotional if not forgettable. Cruz acts like a high schooler bored reading a play aloud in an English class after lunch.
Tony Revolori plays Prince Graydon, who brings the same character he brought to Flash Thompson. He thinks he’s all that but he isn’t. Revolori burst on the scene in the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel, a movie I didn’t like, but I did like him in Table 19, a little comedy about a bunch of “rejects” seated together at a wedding reception. His character in that movie had more interest and back story than what he’s brought to three Spider-Man movies and eight Willow episodes.
It’s also revealed that a kitchen maid (Ellie Bamber) known only as “Dove” is actually Elora Danen, the future empress of Tir Asleen. Her identity had been hidden Sorsha who had a disagreement with Willow, who wanted to train her. So,now on the quest, he does get to train her. It doesn’t sound as interesting or as thrilling as it should. Maybe becasue it feels like they counted on nostaglia to carry the series.
Several of the action scenes happen at night during dark misty settings that you never really know what’s happening until it’s over. I don’t really know what else I can say about this show because each episode felt more and more like a letdown. As of this posting, there is no word from Disney about a second season even though the eighth episode leaves the door open. I suggest they do whatever they can to get Val Kilmer back as Madmartigan and get rid of all the other extraneous characters.
What do you think? Please comment.