By: Amanda Guarragi
In 1988, Ron Howard and George Lucas teamed up to make one of the most underrated fantasy films. Willow was about a young farmer chosen to undertake a perilous journey to protect a special baby from an evil queen. Val Kilmer was at the top of his game in the 80s, so to have him as a romantic leading man in a fantasy film was perfect casting. Joanne Whalley and Warwick Davis made it worth watching because of their characters. Now, decades later, Howard’s small, beloved film has been turned into a Disney Plus series. Since world-building was done a bit differently in previous eras, television shows can build the foundation of the world in a more detailed manner. Fantasy shows have been all the rage in 2022 because many viewers want to be transported to another world. It’s almost as if we’ve been deprived of different escapes.
This new series created by Jonathan Kasdan captures the same magic as the original film, but of course, in a modern way. The most important takeaway from the new series is the inclusivity of its cast of characters. Kit Tanthalos (Ruby Cruz) is the princess and daughter of Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) and wants to learn how to fight and be involved with the townspeople. She wants to make her own choices, especially in marriage. Her brother, Airk (Dempsey Bryk), is the golden boy, heir to the throne, and is in love with a kitchen maid named Dove (Ellie Bamber). The siblings have gone in two very different directions, and in this series, they explore their individuality and whom they are destined to be. Kit has the strongest journey in this series. She learns how to fight and to love with her swashbuckling trainer, Jade Claymore (Erin Kellyman), by her side. The relationship between Jade and Kit makes for an interesting dynamic as they go on this journey with Willow.
In this series, twenty years after vanquishing the wicked queen Bavmorda, the sorcerer Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) leads a group of misfits on a dangerous rescue mission into the unknown. Kasdan refocused the story and the lore with the new characters without leaning on the nostalgia of the original film. It was lovely to see Davis back in that element by also giving him a bit more to do with his character. The cast worked together well, and some stylistic choices worked for the modernity of the piece. There are some humorous moments and some song choices to bring these characters into a new generation. It felt refreshing to see a fantastical world highlight a queer romance and characters struggling with their individuality in a kingdom that has expectations for them. This series places women at the forefront and has a unique twist that makes for a compelling story in this first season. Audiences will connect with these characters. And understand what they’re struggling with, which is the importance of representation on screen.
If you have been a long-time supporter of Ron Howard’s Willow, you will appreciate the world-building in this new series. And if you’re a newcomer, who hasn’t watched the original film, then get ready to dive into a brand new world with characters you will love. Kasdan brings together a cast that works together through their individuality and their knowledge of the realm. Each episode brings new lore and magic that pulls you into their world. Cruz, Bamber, and Kellyman are the standouts of the series, and the always-lovely Tony Revolori adds another layer of charm. The pacing is strong as well, nothing feels rushed, and the characters evolve naturally over the length of the episodes. It is a fantasy show that Disney Plus needed on their platform, and each episode will be streaming weekly on Wednesdays.