E and I absolutely loved the revival of the original 1988 Willow film as a television series on DisneyPlus!
That wasn’t a guaranteed outcome.
Even though Willow is one of the first films I can remember watching in a movie theatre, when I heard that it was being rebooted for Disney’s streaming service my reaction was somewhere on the spectrum from disinterested to actively hostile.
I love having my nostalgia buttons pushed as much as anyone, but can’t we just let some things live in our memories untouched as a single bold and often-silly original film? And a startlingly good novelization by Wayland Drew? And a pair of little-known sequel novels written by Chris Claremont(!)?
The question contains the answer. Extending properties like Willow for an audience of devoted geeky fans is nothing new. What’s new is that geekdom has pervaded pop culture so thoroughly that these properties are wagered on as movies and major tentpoles for streaming networks!
I’ll admit, I wasn’t wild about the first episode of this eight-episode season. Even with Warwick Davis on board, without Val Kilmer could it possibly recapture the inane magic of the film? Despite high production value, at first it seemed to be mired in focusing on a group of preternaturally attractive young adults who seemed to have only a passing connection to the original movie.
In fact, the show almost lost me with a ponderous third episode that was almost too dark to decipher – even with the lights turned off and the contrast cranked up!
What ultimately won me over to the show wasn’t just continued improvement in production value as it centered a queer love story. (More on that in a moment!) It was also something it shares with the original film.
Willow was a Hero’s Journey that turned the Hero’s Journey on its head. The movie was ostensibly about finding and saving a chosen one, but that chosen one was a defenseless baby. This was not a story about Luke Skywalker becoming an unstoppable space sorcerer. Willow himself was a bumbling wannabe wizard. Sorsha was a privileged princes and Madmartigan a feckless mercenary.
Willow was a story about unlikely heroes deciding to care about the fate of the world, as well as the fate of each other.
This new Willow show follows a similar trajectory. It has a cast full of seemingly “chosen” characters. Everyone in the main ensemble comes from an important lineage, has a major quest, or has been imbued with special power. In a world that has grown complacent while great evil grew at its margins, they were all satisfied to simply play the roles they were assigned: vapid prince, bored princess, dutiful soldier, directionless commoner, hopeless prisoner, and a humble patriarch.
The reemergence of evil forces each character to confront those roles and the assumptions that came with them in unexpected ways. [Read more…] about Crushing On: Willow Season 1 on Disney Plus