Offbeat fantasy doesn’t get significantly better than Ron Howard’s Willow. The 1988 movie might have performed out like a by-the-numbers epic about plucky heroes overcoming despotic evils, however its popularity as an all-ages journey outweighs its triteness.
Now, with a sequel collection on Disney+ (premiering right now), Willow Ufgood (once more performed by Warwick Davis) and the denizens of this quirky universe make their long-awaited return. Fortunately, judging by the primary three episodes, Disney might have a brand new household favourite on its palms.
Willow‘s boiled-down lore and steadfast dedication to enjoyable assist reinforce the present’s accessibility, nevertheless it’s the brand new solid members who promote this eight-episode follow-up. The fleshed-out plot, immediately lovable characters and geographically complete battle replicate the alacrity of a world begging to be revisited. We don’t see a lot of this universe past what’s related to the central quest, and that enables the writers to construct out this world by means of its characters. In any case, it’s the characters, not essentially the world itself, that originally bought many people on the 1988 movie.
The plot right here is simple: Twenty years after Willow and Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) defeated the depraved Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh), Sorsha’s daughter, Package (performed by Ruby Cruz), and a ragtag group of misfits should rally towards a brand new menace hell-bent on their destruction.
On paper, it’s fairly customary stuff. In follow, it’s much better.
One of many issues showrunner Jonathan Kasdan does finest right here is emphasize simply how a lot the brand new characters run the present. Package, the ostensible protagonist, is snarky, likable and insecure. Dove (Ellie Bamber) is the basic underdog with greater than sufficient power and braveness to show herself. Tony Revolori’s Prince Graydon is a sympathetic inversion of the boneheaded, next-in-line archetype, a delicate teenager with a coronary heart of gold and a knack for seeing others’ strengths. This man doesn’t need this marriage any greater than Package does, and each point out of their imminent union shuts him down.
And as a lot as we miss Val Kilmer’s Madmartigan, the story doesn’t want him. (Kilmer was hoped to be concerned, however well being points and COVID precluded his encore.) Right here, it’s two characters, not one, who fill the “quippy swashbuckler” void that his absence creates. The primary is Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel), a rogue swordsman imprisoned within the dungeons beneath the town. The second is Jade (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s Erin Kellyman), an formidable younger warrior on the cusp of knighthood who serves as a self-serious foil for the extra playful Package. Collectively, they scratch this explicit itch — and have a blast doing it.
Davis is on the prime of his recreation, delivering what would be the collection’ standout efficiency (proper and correct). His return as Willow Ufgood proves each bit as mild, endearing and good-natured because it was within the unique, however right here he provides layers to the character. As highly effective as Willow is, he steadily contends with those that underestimate him. More often than not, this doesn’t appear to trouble him; however generally, particularly when casting a posh spell, he lets self-doubt slip into his eyes and — very fleetingly — contorts his face right into a masks of insecurity. Davis communicates this turmoil fantastically, expertly flitting from comical exasperation to crippling uncertainty earlier than defaulting to his no-nonsense demeanor.
Couple top-notch appearing with partaking visuals and also you’ve bought a sequel that’s shaping as much as be much more enjoyable than its predecessor. Every little thing from the costume design to the resplendence of Willow’s spellcasting oozes ardour for the fabric. Kasdan and firm really care about this story and each element displays that.
Much more putting than its characters and its visuals, although, is how creative Willow is with its views. The opening minutes of the premiere cleverly set up a thriller that followers of the movie virtually definitely received’t see coming. It’s a basic case of writers taking an idea additional than they must and turning it right into a superior model of itself.
Willow is a bouncy, buoyant sequel that leans closely on the brand new solid and makes good on the unstated promise that every one nice follow-ups inherently make: enrich what got here earlier than by diving deeper into why this world and its characters resonated within the first place. The ultimate product is one thing that stands as nicely by itself because it does as a continuation of Ron Howard’s basic movie.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: Disney+’s Willow is a formula-faithful — but tonally intrepid — sequel collection that’s completely definitely worth the wait.