My My Alora Danon, How You’ve Grown: Our Review of ‘Willow’ (2022)

Posted in Disney +, TV, What's Streaming? by - November 30, 2022
My My Alora Danon, How You’ve Grown: Our Review of ‘Willow’ (2022)

34 years after the original Lucasfilm production, Disney + launches the long-awaited follow to Willow as an 8-part series of the same name. The show reunites a handful of the stars from the original film, including Warwick Davis and Joanne Whalley. It also introduces us to the next generation of heroes questing against the remnants of Bavmorda’s followers and other forces determined to see them defeated.

MadMartigan has long left the realm (originally played by Val Kilmer, but his appearance is unlikely due to his health needs), leaving their children Kit (Ruby Cruz) and Arik (Dempsey Bryk) under the firm guarded protection and ever-watching eye of their mother Sorsha (Joanne Whalley).  The children have lived a sheltered life behind the gates and no nothing of real hardship, but that does not stop Kit from longing for adventure and battle with her best friend and sparring partner Jade (Erin Kellyman). Arik on the other hand has inherited his father’s charm for the ladies, though after many flits and flings, Arik seems enthralled and betrothed to Dove (Ellie Bamber), a kitchen worker in the castle. But after a great feast meant to set up the arranged marriage of Kit to Graydon Hastur (Tony Revolori). against her wishes, of course, the castle is descended on by a horde of evil.

During the course of the battle, Arik is kidnapped and transported away through magic. Putting together a fellowship to charge after the forces and retrieve the Prince, the Queen releases Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel), a former ally of Madmartigan’s being held in the dungeon, to lead the group and encourages them to seek out her old friend Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) to help them on their quest. Setting off on their expedition, Kit, Jade, Boorman, and Graydon (sent by his father to impress his would-be queen) discover they are being followed by a determined Dove, who won’t take no for answer as she’s determined to save her beloved. But after the group reaches Willow and the village of the Nelwyn people, allegiances shift, secrets are revealed and the true adventure begins.

Willow was always George Lucas’ attempt to tell a Lord of the Rings-style story without having to adapt the insanely dense tomes from J.R.R. Tolkien. So the fact that this new series comes out on the heels of the Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power spinoff series just seems fitting. Much like that series, Willow doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to set design and environment building, as the series does feel much grander in scale than even the previous film. The grandeur you’d expect from a large-budget fantasy film epic is all there, and the directors of the series do a good job keeping the pacing engaging and thought out. While we were provided with all episodes except for the finale for this review, it would seem very unlikely that the series would fall apart in the finale.

The casting is excellent as the newer characters are fleshed out quite well through script and performance. While Revolori has proved over many years to be as dependable as they come, it’s some of his compatriots that are likely to steal the limelight. Relative newcomer Ruby Cruz delivers a very solid turn as Kit, which is only amplified by her pairing with Kellyman. Ever since her breakout in Solo: A Star Wars Story, through captivating turns in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and The Green Knight, Kellyman seems poised for greatness and she delivers here as well. But audiences may be drawn in by another relative newcomer in Chadha-Patel’s Booorman. Part bumbling oaf, part thief, part trickster, and an accomplished fighter to boot, Boorman is the type of antihero that succeeds well in this environment.

As much as it’s good to see Warwick Davis back out in his Willow garb, staff and all, this time the story is more about the kids, and Davis slides into a more supporting role effortlessly. If the original film succeeded mainly off the chemistry between Whalley, Kilmer, and Davis as a trio, this time it’s the new character’s time to shine, and they do. A sequel most never knew we needed, Willow the series avoids the trappings of completely rehashing the original tale, there are some carryovers mind you, and succeeds in furthering and expanding the universe of Willow and his friends. We’ll be waiting to see if we get a season 2.

This post was written by
"Kirk Haviland is an entertainment industry veteran of over 20 years- starting very young in the exhibition/retail sector before moving into criticism, writing with many websites through the years and ultimately into festival work dealing in programming/presenting and acquisitions. He works tirelessly in the world of Canadian Independent Genre Film - but is also a keen viewer of cinema from all corners of the globe (with a big soft spot for Asian cinema!)
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