No Magic In The World Can Save This Underdeveloped Legacy Sequel

Dec 17, 2022

Based on a story conceived by George Lucas in 1972, Ron Howard’s 1988 epic fantasy film “Willow,” starring Val Kilmer and Warwick Davis, topped off a decade of stellar high fantasy films. The two played the charming mercenary Madmartigan and a farmer (and aspiring sorcerer) named Willow. Together, they team up to save an infant princess named Elora, who is prophesied to deliver their world from a great evil. Developed by Jonathan Kasdan, the new Disney+ series of the same name serves as a continuation of the story, set a few decades in the future where Madmartigan has gone missing and the great evil has come after his grown children. Unfortunately, while it is nice to see Davis back in the titular role, the sequel has more in common with the tried tropes of modern YA fantasy than it does the beloved film.
READ MORE: ‘Willow’: Jonathan Kasdan Says Val Kilmer Had To Be Written Out Of Reboot Due To COVID Concerns
The winking wit and humor of the original film – where a general was named after Pauline Kael and a dragon after Siskel and Ebert – has been replaced with stilted dialogue that aims for both hip and inclusive but fails miserably at both. Running at just two hours long, the film is packed with a rich mythology and fun action that moved along at a tight pace. Like most legacy sequels, the show has been stretched to eight interminable one-hour episodes, only seven of which were shared with critics. Perhaps that finale episode is such the kicker it will make the slog worth the effort, but that’s doubtful.
Davis as Willow is no longer the main character, although he is the glue that ties the ensemble cast together. New characters include twins born to Madmartigan and his love interest from the film, the warrior princess Sorsha (Joanne Whalley), who helped defeat her villainous mother Bavmorda (Jean Marsh). Their daughter Kit (Ruby Cruz) is a queer-code princess who just wants to fight and have adventures. A will-they-or-won’t-they romance between her and knight-in-training Jade (Erin Kellyman) feels both forced and not nearly as bold as a queer romance should be in the year 2022. 
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Her twin brother Airk (Dempsey Bryk) is a smooth operator currently romancing a kitchen maid named Dove (Ellie Bamber). Although positioned as star-crossed lovers determined to marry and have a happily ever after, Bryk and Bamber have no chemistry and barely enough screen time together to justify any of Dove’s later actions. Of course, Dove is more than just a kitchen maid, as broadcast by her pale skin and otherworldly blonde hair. In fact, it’s so obvious that the reveal of her true identity lands like a sack of wet cement in a moment meant to be a climactic cliffhanger.
After Airk is mysteriously kidnapped one night by magical creatures, Kit, Dove, and a ragtag team ripped directly from the “The Lord of the Rings” films assembles on a quest to find him. After convincing Willow to lead them, their journey takes them toward what lay beyond the end of the Shattered Sea. Early on in the journey, the evil force infects one of the group’s leaders, causing internal chaos and his death. How the show can so blatantly steal beats from the ‘LOTR’ franchise is a question for the ages. 
The group also includes Kit’s sort-of-fiancé Graydon (Tony Revolori), who would rather spend time with Dove, helping her tap into her own magical potential. Much like the flattened queer romance between Kit and Jade, Graydon and Dove’s relationship never fully gels into anything anyone can root for, although it sure thinks audiences are primed to ship them. It’s like the show completely forgot that actual chemistry is needed between two characters for a real ‘ship to form. 
Amar Chadha-Patel adds a wonderful zany energy as Boorman, a thief who once went on a similar quest with Madmartigan in the past. However, since he is the only actor who feels truly committed to a true high fantasy tone to his performance, his energy is lost amongst all the floundering performances from his cast mates. 
In one episode late in the season, Christian Slater appears, and everything perks up for about twenty minutes. Channeling a little bit of Kilmer’s zest, coupled with his own brand of unhinged zeal, Slater makes a whole meal out of a little scrap of a character. It’s refreshing what a veritable movie star’s verve can do for anyone lucky enough to share a scene with one. Too bad it’s too little, too late, and after the character is gone, a huge void is left in his place. 
Despite being the impetus for the group’s journey, Airk himself only reappears towards the back half of the series. Although that may be a good thing, as Bryk plays the character like a Southern California mall king with the most jarring contemporary speech patterns and absolutely none of the charisma needed to pull off a character multiple people would be willing to lose their lives in order to retrieve. 
Although the series is hampered by inconsistent performances and interpersonal drama that would be cheesy even on the CW, it does have some killer fight sequences that are beautifully shot. These act as a nice reprieve from the murky lighting of many shows these days. The fantasy worlds – from endless desert sands to enchanted forests to magical pools of water – are gorgeously rendered with a mixture of practical set design and CGI. It’s a shame the characters inhabiting this unique world were not crafted with the same care and complexity as its design. 
Ultimately, “Willow” is an underdeveloped legacy sequel that somehow stretches the source material to its breaking point, while never reaching the same heights of good old-fashioned fun that a fantasy epic should have at its heart. By chopping up the story into tedious, overlong episodes, the magic has been bleached from its bones, leaving behind a rotting corpse that resembles its inspiration on the surface only. There’s no magic in the world strong enough to save this show from the evil that is lazy writing. [D]
“Willow” debuts on Disney+ on November 30.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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