When looking back on movies from the 1980s, besides the teenage angst films, there was a culture and a wanting for fantasy/adventure films. From Legend to The NeverEnding Story and The Dark Crystal to Labyrinth, they all seemed to have the same type of feel, look and appeal that, at the time, drew audiences to the theaters. Many have even become "cult" classics and still have large followings even today. Another example of this genre is 1988's Willow.
Directed by Ron Howard (Apollo 13), it follows the story of Elora Danan and the prophecy that she will grow up the defeat the evil queen, Bavmorda. Of course, one could imagine how the film concluded. However, almost no one, including the cast, could foretell that over three decades later, the movie would be made into a television series, which, will premiere on Disney + on November 30, 2022.
A number of years have passed since Bavmorda was defeated and yet no one believes there really is a warrior such as the prophecy outlined. Then one day, the kingdom is attacked by soldiers of the Withered Crone, and Prince Airk (Dempsey Bryk; The Silence) is kidnapped. His Mother, Queen Sorsha (Joanne Whalley; The Man Who Knew Too Little), desperate to free her son sends a group to the land beyond the Shattered Sea where the Withered Crone resides. However, first, they must seek out the dwarf Sorcerer, Willow (Warwick Davis; Star Wars: Return of The Jedi) who immediately reveals to the group that, much to their surprise, Elora Danan has been with them the entire time.
While Val Kilmer (Top Gun) unfortunately could not join the production due to well-known health reasons, many of the original cast has returned while adding a new generation of actors to the mix. Obviously, the show's namesake, Willow, had to be involved and it is perfect that Davis was able and willing to return. Sorsha's presence, which could have easily been recast, seems all the more authentic since Whalley also signed on to reprise her role from the film. Throughout the limited series other original cast members are expected to show up in later episodes as the group makes the treacherous and dangerous journey to save Prince Airk. It will be interesting to see who might make an appearance over the eight-episode season.
As with all things Disney+ related, the production value on this show is top-notch. Special effects are well done and costumes, scenery, and music are obviously created by those who have a mastery of their trade. The plot is interesting and intriguing and the script isn't a series of fantasy/adventure film clichés simply strung together. There seems to be a conscious effort to elevate the show to the next level of excellence in every way possible. However, only time will tell if they can maintain the standards that were set in the first few episodes.
Of course, there are a few things that could use improvement. The whole project has a very "Lord of the Rings" feel to it which will make some people gravitate towards the show while others will find it to be a very pedestrian, watered-down version of the film series. At this point, we will have to wait and see if the former grouping outweighs the latter and whether or not Willow will get the green light for season two.
Willow will have a built-in audience but it will be interesting to see how many of those loyal to the movie will gravitate and remain with the television show through all eight episodes. From what I have seen so far, if the cast and crew can maintain the bar they have set for themselves, Willow might be worth an hour of your time once a week for eight weeks.