Someone’s eye is watching this show. It just isn’t mine.
In life, there are no true, permanent, happily-ever-after endings. Why not? Because there’s always a sequel.
Take the story of Willow—the small, would-be wizard who helped save the world from the nefarious witch-queen Bavmorda.
Back in the day, he found a baby, floating on a tiny raft near his tiny village. It’s not every day you find a baby in the river, but this baby was specially special: It was none other than the magical baby Elora, who was prophesied to bring about the end of Bavmorda’s reign. And sure enough, Bavmorda’s reign did end—though perhaps more due to the heroism of Willow and his pals than anything Elora actually did. But in any case, the world was saved, evil was defeated, and everyone lived happily ever af—
Oh, yeah, not so much.
Everyone did live happily … for a time. Elora was sent into hiding, her own identity a secret even to herself. Willow went back home to his village as a bigtime hero. His pals, Madmartigan and Sorsha (Bavmorda’s much-nicer daughter) set up home in a nice little castle as the head of a nice little kingdom. And while Madmartigan disappeared on a mysterious quest, Queen Sorsha is still very much present—hoping to marry off her daughter, Kit, to the prince of a neighboring kingdom.
Granted, Kit’s not too keen on the idea—in part because she seems to like girls. But soon they all have much bigger problems to deal with. During a pre-wedding shindig, a quartet of powerful, evil entities attacked Sorsha’s castle and spirited away Kit’s twin brother, Eric. And it’s not like the kingdom can leave that situation alone, can it?
Now a brave party of derring doers is galivanting across lands unknown to face perils numberless, all to retrieve Eric and perhaps save the world from this new evil. Headstrong Kit and her (ahem) best friend, Jade, are part of the team. Boorman, a well-known thief and gadabout, has agreed to go, too (in part to get his record cleared). Dove, a kitchen maid who’s sure that Eric is her one true love, snuck into the group, too (much to Kit’s consternation).
Oh, and Willow? He’s reluctantly joined the team as well. Why? He knows that one member of the party is secretly Elora herself—and he means to protect her and teach her as much as he can. Even if his own visions indicate that this quest’s ending won’t be happily ever after for some of them.
The original Willow was the creation of George Lucas, who also conjured up a little thing called Star Wars. Oscar-winning director Ron Howard helmed the movie production, and it featured a fledgling technology that we’d ultimately call CGI. No wonder it was the most anticipated movie of 1988.
But the would-be fantasy blockbuster missed its own happily ever after, landing a resounding meh from critics and moviegoers alike.
Oddly, the movie wears better than you’d think (antiquated special effects aside). It’ll never be mistaken for The Princess Bride, but it’s a fun diversion. And you could argue that’s the case for Disney+’s TV-based sequel, too.
The special effects, naturally, are far better, and the show doesn’t take itself too seriously. The good-versus-evil stakes still feel high, but Willow is willing to stop swinging swords long enough to laugh at itself.
But some of those laughs come via bawdy jokes or winking double entendres. If The Princess Bride was pinned on the idea of “true love,” many of the characters (Dove aside) are more interested in a little kissy-poo to pass the time. And, of course, there’s the introduction of LGBT content: We can’t say where Kit’s and Jade’s relationship will go (their personalities don’t feel, ultimately, all that compatible anyway), but there’s no question that it will be going somewhere.
The language can be a bit rough, too. The action can be predictably violent and, for younger viewers, quite scary. While this fairy-tale land is much different from our own, intoxicating drinks seem to have made the trip just fine.
And don’t forget the magic: The show certainly won’t.
Willow is indeed a lot like its predecessor, and I’m sure some fans will find it delightful. But for many families, this won’t be the happily ever after you’re looking for.
Queen Sorsha is pleased that soon, her home realm of Tir Asleen will unite with neighboring Galadoorn, thanks to an arranged marriage between her daughter, Kit, and the Galadoorn prince, Graydon. Kit doesn’t share her mother’s enthusiasm. She’s always been more a fighter than a lover. And if she was to smooch someone, it’d be her best friend, Jade. But soon Kit, Sorsha and everyone else have something else to worry about: the unexpected attack of evil forces who make off with Kit’s twin brother, Eric.
A frenetic fight in the castle courtyard precedes Eric’s forced departure. Several people apparently die, and one of the queen’s soldiers is seriously wounded by a burning spear. Swords, arrows, claws and whips are all unleashed, and one villain has the power to vanish as soon as a weapon nears him. Another creature, which looks a little like a mummy, blows smoke as its main weapon. The primary bad guy—a shape-shifting woman/crow thing—is referred to as a witch.
Eric’s subsequent rescue party is chased by “bone reavers,” and one of their group is killed. Kit and Jade spar outside the castle.
Eric, pre-abduction, has a reputation as a ladies’ man, and viewers are introduced to him making out in a field with his current paramour, Dove. (The couple kisses elsewhere, too.) He reassures Dove that he’s “not that guy anymore,” and later gives her something as a “symbol of my commitment to you.” Kit is skeptical that Eric can commit to anyone.
Kit, meanwhile, won’t commit to her marriage. As she prepares to run away, she gives Jade a kiss on the mouth. Jade seems surprised and refuses to go with her, saying it’s always been her dream to serve the queen. When they head off on the quest together, they lie next to each other with their hands almost touching.
The scoundrel Boorman is promised his freedom if he agrees to help rescue Eric. He asks if that pardon includes what he did in the haberdashery. “I just like the feel of velvet on my—”
“Even that,” the queen says before he can finish his sentence.
We see a guy shirtless. Kit seems to get pretty tipsy at her pre-marriage banquet. We hear one s-word. We also hear “a–,” “d–n” and “h—.” God’s name is misused twice.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.
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