“Willow” 2022 takes fantasy tropes and flips them on their head. It creates a breath of fresh air for the genre alongside amazing practical and visual effects. Stand-out performances from Ellie Bamber, Ruby Cruz, Tony Revolori, Amar Chadha-Patel, and Warwick Davis take the series to a level in a fantasy show I haven’t yet seen.
Our story is set 20 years after “Willow” 1998. It opens with one of the main characters, Kit (Ruby Cruz), princess of Tir Asleen, and her friend Jade (Erin Kellyman). Immediately, the chemistry between the two jumped out to me and set up a great arch between the two women. We’re also introduced to Kit’s mother, Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) and brother Airk (Dempsey Bryk). Kit’s betrothed, Prince Graydon (Tony Revolori), and criminal Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel). After an intense battle sequence in the first episode, our plot for the season kicks in as Prince Airk is taken after a mysterious attack by the Gales. Kit volunteers to go and save him. Jade, Graydon, Boorman, and baker/Airk’s sworn lover, Brünhilde (Ellie Bamber), join her.
The first episode has trouble finding its footing; the dialogue is the biggest problem in the beginning. Despite the actor’s best efforts, the script comes off as an older person trying to appeal to a younger audience. Because of this, the show’s beginning stumbles to find its way, but I promise that it quickly finds its place within its own universe and the fantasy genre as a whole.
The practical effects deserve a round of applause. From the in-person sets full of greenery, fantastic costuming, stellar SFX makeup, and original character design, the show truly lends itself to feeling like a real world that the viewer could step into. The attention to detail in the fellowship’s travelling across multiple areas of the world shows every crew member’s attention to detail. The writers work through the awkward start with the ensemble of heroes, wrapping us into the story and having us root for them when all hope seems lost. The camera work is also phenomenal. The sweeping shots of the beautiful landscape made me feel like a bird watching our heroes ride their horses onward.
The best part of the series for me is how the plot subverts outdated stereotypes within its genre. The prince is kidnapped, and his sister has to save him. Those magically inclined aren’t inherently the top magic user within an episode. The amazing diverse casting within the fellowship is also new for the fantasy genre. They’re also very complex characters who have clearly lived before the show’s start and have clear passions and motivations. Ruby’s character, Kit and Erin’s character Jade are two standouts as their relationship are rarely seen in fantasy. The characters also move through a natural progression throughout the seven episodes; nothing feels forced or like they got out of a dangerous situation because the writers needed to move on.
Although the show has some great comedy, it still has moments that deal with real and serious issues. It’s addressed with a tender respectfulness that I appreciate. I found Ellie effortlessly hilarious and was laughing the most when she was on screen,
Overall, Willow is a love letter to the 1998 movie and the fantasy genre. Full of fun for anybody who comes across it. Tony Revolori recommends you sit down with a bunch of your friends, have a blast, and figure out who in your group is like the characters on screen. You can read my interview with Tony and Ruby here.
Willow has a bit of a bumpy start, but it is 100% worth the watch, especially for fantasy lovers. A diverse world with stunning performances from the entire cast, and profound undertones, it’s an amazing time. Watch Willow on Disney Plus, streaming on November 30th.