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Willow

**
2022

‘…it’s hard to imagine exactly who might dig Willow’s weird fantasy of ‘finger tests’, force fields and other ephemera…’

Yikes! It’s time for some nostalgia for times that never existed; yes, this new production from Lucasfilm is both a sequel and a reboot of the 1988 film. Even as a teenager, I steered clear of this sub-Tolkein mish-mash of elves, princesses and whatever, and didn’t really expect to see such a compromised IP resurrected in my lifetime. Rotten Tomatoes are politely running with ‘this series-length sequel should satisfy fans who’ve been patiently waiting for more Willow’ which is probably true, but who exactly has been patiently waiting for more Willow? In several decades of writing about and talking about films, I’m yet to encounter a single soul who has anything good to say about Ron Howard’s original film. (Narrator’s voice; No-one ever has).

Yet with Howard, Kathleen Kennedy and Brian Grazer producing, Indiana Jones 5 scribe Jonathan Kasdan developing the script and a name cast from Joanne Whalley to Ralph Ineson to boot, shouldn’t 2022’s Willow be given a chance to appeal to a wider audience than before? As the first two episodes drop on Disney+, we wrap up a quick recap of the original film’s rather forgettable events before diving into a new story; Elora Danan, future Empress of Tir Asleen has grown up to be played by Ellie Bamber, and now works as a kitchen maid at the court of Queen Sorcha (Whalley). Sorcha has two grown-up kids, laconic Princess Kit (Ruby Cruz) and her twin brother Airk (Heartland’s Dempsey Bryk). Airk gets kidnapped by the Gales running a foggy assault on their home, and Kit and Elora set out to locate the fabled sorcerer Willow (Warwick Davies) to tell them what they should do….

The regular reader of this review-site will know that I’ve never seen a dwarf banquet that I liked; I’m not good with rule-free fantasy universes, and despite coming from the imagination of George Lucas, the world of Willow always seemed like a tiresome one. ‘I am me!’ announces Willow once we finally find him, but such cuteness feels largely un-essential in a violent mix of LotR and GoT that left me FuBAR. The Val Kilmer character Madmartigan, a Han Solo-type rogue that provides comic relief from the po-faced magical dwarf action, is sorely missing, although the personable Cruz is a stand-out as his snarko daughter. And while the story is fairly bogged-down in classic tropes, there are the dashes of wit we might hope for from a Kasdan script; ‘I’m afraid of dying. That, and communal bathing’ says one character, while there’s some fairly anachronistic jokes including Donovan’s Hurdy-Gurdy Man and amusing use of the modern slang word ‘really’.

I guess if Disney+ want to create a big-budget fantasy series, they’ve got more chance of finding an audience if it links to an existing IP, but in Willow’s case, that IP seems to be so poorly remembered that it drags the new venture down, and the Willow tv show will have to stand on its own dubious merits. There seem to be enough Star Wars fans to make each return to that universe some kind of fan-boy event, but it’s hard to imagine exactly who might dig Willow’s dated fantasy of ‘finger tests’, force fields and other ephemera. Breathing new life into venerable, unloved IP like Willow is a fairly impossible task; with Disney’s recent pivot from film-makers to a moneybags streamer disrupting cinema a la Netflix and Prime currently under question, Willow feels like a dead end for considerable talent and investment. Sure, fans may dig it, but it’s hard to see who else Willow’s wacky 80’s world might even work for.

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  1. I don’t think that the original movie is the worst thing ever made, but… I don’t think I’ll spend time on a series based on it. And that’s coming from me, I started reading Ron Howard’s biography a week ago! X–D

  2. I truly cannot remember if I’ve seen Willow or not. That may be the most damning statement that can be made about a film, even worse than hating it!

    I don’t dislike the fantasy stuff quite as much as you do, but I’m very, very unlikely to invest the time it takes to watch at TV series about. I want me fantasy stories wrapped up under 3 hours, thank you very much.

    Pass.

    • Agree; can’t remember is worse than hated. I had to watch the Cinema Sins to remind me of what I wasn’t sure I’d forgotten…

  3. Disney continues to reimagine, rework, reboot, and reinvent every single property they have rights to. I don’t think many outside of Disney HQ was clamoring for this, and I suspect it will be met with indifference by the masses.

  4. Avoided Willow at the time. This seemed the weirdest film to choose to revive. Don’t tell me streamers are running out of ideas. What next – Four Hats for Lisa?

  5. Just finishing off some crumpets now . . .

    What did you think of Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) being voted greatest film of all time in the most recent Sight and Sound poll?

    • My repeated vote for Paddington 2 seems to have been disregarded. Some kind of ballot fraud at work, I’d imagine.

      Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is a worthy winner. Everyone from cab drivers to aged aunts knows it, and yes, it is a Christmas movie that can be enjoyed all the year round. Currently being developed as a Disney one-off special with Florence Pugh as Dielman in a straight continuation of the 1080 Bruxelles cinematic universe.

      • Looking forward to the remake. I was wondering if anyone aside from the people voting in that poll had even heard of it. Good to hear it’s all the rage with cabbies in Glasgow.

        Keep working for Paddington 2. It think it still has the higher ranking on RT.

        • Sight and Sound is a thing, but they have a fairly inconsistent critical stance on things, so polls like this are designed to troll some sense of recognition from the wider public of the mag’s esoteric orientation. Successful in trolling Schrader but tells you more about the critics than it does about the film.

  6. Not a fan though I did sit through it some long time ago and can’t remember the plot if there was one. Anyway I won’t be joining the Willows Appreciation Society tea party, nopety nope.

  7. You really didn’t like Willow? I watched it as a kid when it came out on vhs and watched it at a friends house, so it has some serious nostalgia for me. To be fair, it is a corny, screwball movie that is probably b-list at best, even with the actors involved.

    However, that defense in no way would ever get me to watch something like this reboot. I know the depths that Disney will go to destroy a beloved ip, so I’m just waiting for them to poison this well too. And don’t worry, without fail, they will. I believe that is their purpose. Not to make money, not to provide entertainment, not to tell a good story, but to simply destroy. Whoever the head of Disney now is needs to be have some horns, a pitchfork and little red goatee…

  8. I remember thinking the original was OK. I might have even had it on VHS. Or I taped it at one point off of TV. Not much interest in a redo, or whatever this is. Really seems as though Hollywood is running especially low on new ideas lately. I know that’s an old complaint, but it feels worse than ever.

    • Your faint praise still makes you the current top of my list of those who have any sense of Willow appreciation.

      Is brand recognition enough to sell a ramshackle remix like this? I really doubt it.

      • Yikes back at you; guess I’m THAT single soul fan of the 80s movie with a worn DVD, though I agree the redo IS a terrible, tragic ‘mishmash.’ The fae world has lots of rules—just ask Darby O’Gill…

        • I should clarify that while I live in the fairy world, it’s the weak on screen representations of it that annoy me; yes, the fairy world has rules, but they’re a lot harder to quantify than the rules in Willow. Glad to hear that the film does have genuine admirers! If everyone thought like me, we would be in deep trouble…

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