No spoilers are to be found in the following review.
The original film sits fondly in the films of my childhood, although i confess i haven’t seen it for over ten years. I didn’t even watch it in preparation for this TV show. To be perfectly honest, the music and Warwick Davis (of whom i have been a lifetime fan) was enough. The original teaser with a behind-the-scenes look at the cast and crew was so heartwarming and so human…i was hooked.
The show is set 20 years after the original. The sons and daughters of Madmartigan (played originally by legend Val Kilmer) are all grown up. Elora Danan (the baby from the movie and most important person) is safely hidden away. However, things are not good in the world. And soon into the pilot the heir to the throne has been kidnapped and the end of the world is nigh.
We need Willow, greatest sorcerer the world has ever known.
The eight part epic begins. We are introduced to a rag tag bunch of wonderful characters. We have the princess Kit (Ruby Cruz), whose brother has been taken. We have Jade Claymore (Erin Kellyman), knight in training. We have Willow (Warwick Davis), of course, as awesome as ever. Ellie Bamber plays Dove, a lowly kitchen maid in love with her prince – but who has possibly the most obvious twist in recent times. Tony Revolori has the haughty and innocence of the neighbouring Lands prince, but who keeps secret a dark past. Then finally, and perhaps the single best character in the show, we have Thraxus Boorman, played expertly by Amar Chadha-Patel for the comedy kicks. One liners and humourous asides are his babies.
The team encounter a wide variety of fantastic beasts, ridiculous scenarios and dramatic situations. Its kind of like a game of Dungeons and Dragons, a classic case of questing and adventuring.
I have heard complaints that this lack of originality for structure is a negative – it most certainly is not. There is no underlying dark arc which is difficult to follow – each episodes end with some kind of exciting plot twist and the whole thing flows like a good book. The scenarios are all born of a wonderful imagination.
What really sells the show is the love put into it, by everyone. The actors are all clearly having an absolute ball, throwing everything they have into the daftness of it all. Each character has a magnificent arc of development, except probably Boorman, who remains as hilarious and charming as he ever is.
Amazingly, a great deal of practical effects and make-up is employed. CGI takes care of the impossible, like the great barrier or the Shattered Sea, but each OTT villain is a person in a suit. Mostly. “The Gales,” in a particular, are a terrifying bunch of henchmen.
A tremendous addition to the roster of Disney+ and quite the distraction from the ‘serious fantasy’ of the likes of House of the Dragon and Rings of Power.
Oh, i cannot describe how excited i was when Christian Slater turned up. Or Julian Glover, for that matter.