Willow loses creativity in new TV adaptation

Grace Wininger '23 , Web Editor in Chief

WILLOW Though the above poster does seem enticing, the show doesn’t manage to maintain the same sense of magic and humor. (Disney Plus)

When “Willow” was released in 1988, the idea of a fairy changed forever. Gone were the damsels in distress and charming princes — in their place appeared villain-turned-hero princesses and unexpectedly relatable protagonists. The 2022 adaptation of the film, also entitled Willow, struggles to live up to those remarkable standards.

In the original film, Willow (Warwick Davis) finds magical child Elora Danan, and must destroy the evil queen Bavmorda to ensure the safety of his home. With the help of the roguish swordsman Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) and Bavmorda’s daughter Sorsha (Joanne Whalley), Willow manages to overthrow the ruler of darkness and become a powerful sorcerer. The 2022 show takes place years after the movie, and tells the story of Sorsha and Madmartigan’s children in their dangerous and enchanted realm.

One of the show’s greatest weaknesses is its main character, Kit. The eldest daughter of Sorsha, she is the central focus of the plot as a whole. Her character, however, is rather bland and unoriginal compared to what it could be. There are plenty of modern fantasy shows with female protagonists: Shadow and Bone, The Witcher, Arcane, etc. These shows all take classic female characters and mold them into something more interesting to watch on screen. Willow doesn’t do that — instead, we end up with the same overpowered yet underdeveloped character we’ve seen so many times before. Kit’s main focus is to leave her role as heir to the kingdom, feeling constrained by the rules of being the heir. She even goes so far as to run away from her arranged marriage in the dead of night. In a turn of events that surprised no one, her plan is foiled by invaders, and she chooses to stay and fight. Now, picture this: Kit feels stifled in her role as heir not because of the freedom she has to sacrifice, but because of the compromises she must make. She wishes to help her kingdom, and feels she cannot do so sitting from the throne. She, though not an excellent fighter, trains to one day aid her people in a more hands-on manner. That is a more compelling backstory for Kit. Alternatively, she could go through some tough-love situations. Something to make Kit question her choices is exactly what the show needs — because at the moment, Kit is far from inspiring.

My other complaint is the set. At first glance, it appears to be a Lord of the Rings spin-off. Now, I love that franchise as much as the next reader, but Willow and Lord of the Rings are incredibly different fantasy worlds. Tolkien’s Middle Earth is a deeply rich and serious place, with danger lurking around every corner, and pages upon pages of lore for every monster a group could encounter (and even the ones they won’t). Willow, on the other hand, is far more campy and humorous. With sassy one-liners, Val Kilmer in an extravagant wig and 90s CGI, the movie is meant to make viewers laugh. And that comical stance makes the characters more relatable; it’s hard to see oneself in the undefeatable, fantastic-haired, immortal elven archer that is Legolas, but it’s a bit easier with an unsure, sassy and creative dwarf named Willow. By changing the tone from the original work, viewers miss out on that sense of nostalgia we were all waiting for. The creativity of the previous cinematic masterpiece is lost in a sea of muddled fantasy tropes. One character in the new film, however, was executed perfectly. Kit’s betrothed, Prince Graydon (Toni Revolori), is the perfect mix of heart-warming and laugh-inducing. His anti-nature hijinks certainly give the cast of hardened warriors a bit more intrigue and comedy, and he brings some small comic relief that is entirely necessary in the show.

Despite all of these flaws, the show definitely has its high points — it includes many from the original cast, which provides some fantastic callbacks to the original movie, it has an interesting (though somewhat overused) plotline and some very exciting and hilarious characters. It is far from the top of my list, but it’s certainly something I’ll continue watching.