The 1988 film Willow is one of my favorite movies. I know not everyone feels that strongly about the Warwick Davis / Val Kilmer fantasy picture, but I have watched it countless times and love it just as much now as I did when I was just a wee lad.
Ron Howard directed that film, and Bob Dolman wrote the script based on the story by George Lucas. Howard returns as a producer for the TV show alongside Jonathan Kasdan (son of Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan) who Howard collaborated with on Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Warwick Davis also returns as the titular character, though like the rest of us he is greyer and a bit more wrinkled—though I think it makes his Willow look more respectable and austere.
In the trailer, we see Willow and a whole brand new cast of characters in a much-overhauled version of the magical land of Willow’s past. Joanne Whalley returns as Sorsha—now, apparently, a queen of sorts. Sorsha was the daughter of the witch queen Bavmorda, and she and her new squeeze, Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) took on the role of parents to Elora Danan.
I’m still trying to puzzle out whether either of those characters will actually be in the show. I suspect that Madmartigan is dead, but it sure seems odd to not have Elora Danan in the sequel series.
An obvious choice for Elora would be the red-haired Erin Kellyman (who worked with Howard in Solo) but she’s been cast as ‘Jade.’ The other female leads—Ruby Cruz and Ellie Bamber—play Kit and Dove. No mention of Elora that I can see, though that may be for a reason. Other cast include Dempsey Bryk, Tony Revolori and Amar Chadha-Patel.
Here’s the trailer:
I think this looks great. It captures the feel and the spirit of the film, though with much nicer visuals and lots of CGI. There are trolls and brownies, Nelwyn and Daikini, and what appears to be a good old-fashioned swashbuckling adventure filled with magic and a colorful cast of characters.
“Into the unknown, that is where we must go,” Willow says. Huzzah to that!
A couple other things to point out.
First, we have an awful lot of adult fantasy these days. Grimdark shows based on grimdark books like Game of Thrones and The Witcher. It’s nice to have a big-budget family fantasy coming out soon. There’s lots of Star Wars and Marvel for families, but very little actual fantasy.
Second, speaking of Star Wars this is pretty much the first thing LucasFilm has done that’s not set in a Galaxy Far Far Away in ages. Sure, we have the new Indiana Jones film to look forward to (or dread, depending on how you feel about it) but mostly LucasFilm has been all about Star Wars for so long you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s all the studio does.
But I like Willow just as much as Star Wars so it’s wonderful to see this take shape. I’ve wanted to spend more time in this world for most of my life, and as fun as the old RPG video game was, I haven’t played that since I was a kid either.
I am sad that Madmartigan will most likely not be part of the show. In many ways, Lucasfilm sort of dropped the ball on all of these great stories by not releasing more of them sooner, when actors like Val Kilmer and Mark Hamill were younger and could reprise their roles in a more timely fashion. C’est la vie.
The show’s official description reads:
“An epic period fantasy series with a modern sensibility set in an enchanted land of breathtaking beauty, “Willow” features a diverse international cast with Jonathan Kasdan, Ron Howard, Wendy Mericle, Kathleen Kennedy, and Michelle Rejwan serving as executive producers. The story began with an aspiring magician from a Nelwyn village and an infant girl destined to unite the realms, who together helped destroy an evil queen and banish the forces of darkness. Now, in a magical world where brownies, sorcerers, trolls, and other mystical creatures flourish, the adventure continues, as an unlikely group of heroes set off on a dangerous quest to places far beyond their home, where they must face their inner demons and come together to save their world.”
Willow comes to Disney+ on November 30th, 2022. I’ll be reviewing here on this blog (so you may as well follow me!)
P.S. Speaking of Elora Danan, if you haven’t watched the wonderful Reservation Dogs on Hulu, you really need to. I won’t explain the connection here, other than to say it’s rather surprising and really great.