Warwick Davis is back as the larger-than-life titular sorcerer who essentially kickstarted his career.
If there was one series I didn't think I would find myself watching, perhaps ever, it would be a sequel to 1988's fantasy film Willow. Don't get me wrong that movie is brilliant, but since it has been almost 35 years since it landed in theatres and considering other Lucasfilm franchises such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones have continued to thrive long after their 80s heyday, Willow has remained in the past as a beloved relic. However, Disney has been digging away at history as of late and serving up sequels to movies and shows of all kinds, and the latest effort on this behalf sees Warwick Davis back as the very sorcerer who essentially kickstarted his career.
Unlike some of Disney's latest works, this isn't a spinoff, rather it is a direct sequel that brings back a number of faces and characters from the original movie, and continues the plot that the 1988 flick started. Essentially, evil is making a comeback, and after years of protecting and hiding the prophecy child Elora Danan in Queen Sorsha's kingdom, danger comes knocking and leads to a group of adventurers heading out into the big bad world in an effort to save a captured prince, where revelations are soon unearthed and everlasting bonds are forged.
In this regard, it feels very typical fantasy, very The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in places. But there's also a charm and level of charisma to the series that takes it beyond rudimentary and generically geeky fantasy, and instead leans into humour and drama. It's feels fundamentally different to the original movie, in a plethora of ways, including these aforementioned areas, but also in its tone, which comes across as more mature and dark, with characters that are young adults who are facing the challenges of responsibility, and villains that are disgusting, ugly, and horrifying - again similar to the Uruk-hai from Tolkein's work.
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The cast are varied and interesting, with each having their own motives and personalities that conflict and keep the drama engaging. The younger crew are energetic and lively, which works well with Davis' returning performance as Willow, who is now a more grounded character, despite still relentlessly pursuing and protecting all things good. Davis' performance can sometimes feel a little monotonous and flat, especially when compared to some of the other characters, but this is largely offset by the wonderful fantasy world that has been offered up.
Between sets, costumes and make-up, CGI, and so on, it all makes for a wonderfully realised fantasy world, which builds upon the visionary efforts of the original film and improves on it. Where some fantasy worlds come across as dirty and medieval, this has more of that Disney fairy tale light-heartedness and shine.
This is a fantasy series that I never thought I'd need or quite frankly care too much about, but this already shows a lot of promise, which is quite an unusual thing to say when considering the state of many of Disney's works as of late. If you enjoy fantasy, or are a long-time fan of the original movie, then this is definitely worth checking out if you have a Disney+ subscription.