George Lucas and Ron Howard's 1988 film Willow with Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley and Warwick Davis wasn’t a massive box office success but achieved cult fandom, and now the Disney+ series with the same name, a sequel to the film, is bringing fun and charm to this fantasy adventure.
Set years after Willow (Davis) and Sorsha (Whalley) defeated Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh) in the movie, all in a quest the protect the infant empress Elora Danan, Tir Asleen is threatened once again.
When Prince Airk (Dempsey Bryk), son of Queen Sorsha (the role reprised by Whalley), is captured, an unlikely group comes together to save him and the kingdom, including Sorsha's daughter Kit (Ruby Cruz) and Prince Graydon (Tony Revolori), who Kit is meant to marry. They're joined by Kit's best friend Jade (Erin Kellyman), local criminal Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel) and Dove (Ellie Bamber), a young girl who works in Queen's Sorsha's kitchen and had a romantic relationship with Airk. Of course, the team needs some expert assistance for their quest, with Willow Ufgood (Davis) returning to his days of adventure.
From watching seven of the eight episodes in the series, Willow is set to be one of the highlights when it comes to Disney+ sequels and reimagined shows on the platform.
'Keeping the magic alive' and showing the 'messiness' young women experience
One aspect of the 1980s Willow movie that has been celebrated is the fact that it felt very contemporary, compared to other fantasy films from that time. For this series, as Tony Revolori described, it's "keeping the magic alive," while really focusing on the humanity of each character, that makes it also feel so current.
“It's a fantasy world so we get to have a lot of fun with it, but what they're going through and what their struggles are, are very relatable," Revolori told Yahoo Canada. "I think that, at its core, is what made the original movie very contemporary, and what will hopefully make this show so contemporary.”
“I also think that something wonderful about fantasy is, we can be confronting these really real issues, these very complicated things, but they're manifested into real monsters,” Ruby Cruz added. “Our demons and our monsters are right in front of us, which is really fun too and cathartic to actually slay the things that you're going through.”
In moving the story forward to something being explored in 2022, without spoiling too much of the plot, Kit is really expanding the scope of what and who a princess can be, particularly a princes in a Disney property. We're getting to move past the times when princesses are just waiting for a prince to save them, or have a large part of their story and identity based on their romance with a man.
“Definitely a dream come true honestly, being able to represent the complications and the messiness and the hardheadedness and all of these things that young women definitely go through, but you never really see,” Cruz told Yahoo Canada. “Truth, that's what we're all about. I think that was a wonderful opportunity to get to represent something real and something authentic.”
'Dawson's Creek' and 'Freaks and Geeks' writer brings the wit
In the first seven of eight episodes in the Willow series, the wit and humour of the script is a highlight, not dissimilar to the film, but it makes the series incredibly endearing. It's exactly what you want to see, particularly when you have showrunner Jonathan Kasdan at the helm, who wrote for Solo: A Star Wars Story, but also Dawson's Creek and Freaks and Geeks.
For the actors, they identified that Kasdan really explored their off-screen, personal relationships and dynamics with each other for on-screen content. One relationship to particularly look out for is this charmingly funny "bromance" that develops between Boorman and Prince Graydon.
“It's one of those things where Jonathan Kasdan,...he really kind of encouraged our own chemistry to seep into the show,” Tony Revolori explained. “Whenever he saw us hanging out with each other, whether it would be me and Ellie [Bamber] or [Ruby Cruz] and Erin [Kellyman], whatever the combinations were, he kind of put that into the script.”
“When that happened, it kind of gave me and Amar [Chadha-Patel] the jumping off point to then just dive into the deep end for what we could do, and boy did we.”
With every new piece of content that has a previous legacy to uphold, it can be hard to move beyond what was created in the past. While Val Kilmer wasn't on set for the first season of the Willow series, the presence of Joanne Whalley and Warwick Davis is so enjoyable and welcome, whether you're a dedicated or more passive fan of the movie.
Something particularly interesting in the way Willow blends elements of the film with the new elements of the series is that Davis actually got to work with his children, Annabelle and Harrison, in the show.
“He was so sweet, he's an incredible actor and he's so quick witted and so funny, and working with him was a treat,” Revolori said about working with Davis. “He was able to kind of give us stories of the original and kind of show what it meant to him.”
“[He was] 17 when he did the original movie and he got to work with his son and his daughter in this one, and both of them are young… We could see how much it meant to him and it made us want to work even harder, beyond the love that people have for the original movie. Just seeing how much he cares for it made us all want to work a little bit harder.”