Ron Howard recently confirmed that he’s developing a series for Disney+ based on the 1988 fantasy film Willow, which he created with George Lucas. Science fiction author Tom Gerencer was surprised to see Willow return, given the reception to the original film.
“It wasn’t quite up to Star Wars standards,” Gerencer says in Episode 406 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I wasn’t 100 percent in love with it, but I didn’t think it was completely awful either.”
Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley agrees that Willow is enjoyable in some ways, but notes that it doesn’t display much in the way of imagination.
“Star Wars draws on Flash Gordon, samurai movies, Westerns, and a bunch of other stuff,” he says. “I feel like Willow pretty much just draws on Lord of the Rings and Conan the Barbarian. I feel like George Lucas wasn’t as knowledgeable about—or maybe as passionate about—fantasy.”
The Disney+ series isn’t the first attempt to continue the story of Willow. There’s also the Chronicles of the Shadow War books, written by George Lucas and Chris Claremont. Film critic Andrea Kail wasn’t impressed by the series. “I bought one,” she says. “I remember buying it, and being completely bored. That was it. I got a couple of chapters in, and I’m like, ‘And … done.’”
But science fiction author Matthew Kressel says he’d give the new Willow a chance. “I would check out the Disney+ series, just one or two episodes, because I think there’s an interesting world there,” he says. “Yeah it’s a Lord of the Rings ripoff, but I would check it out. I was entertained enough by the movie that I would be curious to see what they do with it.”
Listen to the complete interview with Tom Gerencer, Andrea Kail, and Matthew Kressel in Episode 406 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Tom Gerencer on expectations:
“In 1988 I had just graduated from high school, and I was like, ‘Oh sweet. George Lucas is done with Star Wars. He’s going into fantasy. He’s going to show us this movie.’ I knew all the hype leading up to it. I knew he could have done another Star Wars movie—that he had this idea for nine movies total, that the next ones were going to be prequels—and I was like, ‘Why isn’t he doing the prequels? Why is he doing this movie? I don’t know, let me go watch this thing and find out what it is. Maybe this will be really cool.’ So I went and watched it, and I remember sitting in the theater and going, ‘This is kind of cool, I guess. But really? He did this instead of another Star Wars movie? I guess he needed a break.’ That was the impression that I had then.”
Matthew Kressel on humor:
“I remember Willow being on HBO every other hour. I mean, it was always, always on. It got to the point where I just started hating this movie, because it was on so much. … My least favorite part was the brownies—Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton. There’d be scenes that were emotionally affecting or exciting, then they’d come in and do this stupid little joke, and I’m like, ‘Oh shut up. Just get out of the scene.’ So I could have done without them. And it was definitely a Lord of the Rings ripoff—the brownies are basically Merry and Pippin. I do like Val Kilmer‘s swagger in this. When I saw it as a kid, I didn’t quite pick up on the humor, and now when I’m watching it, I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, he’s just completely playing this over-the-top,’ and I really enjoyed that.”
David Barr Kirtley on Fin Raziel:
“There’s this character Fin Raziel, who’s the good wizard, and she’s been turned into some sort of small mammal. And she gets turned into different animals throughout the movie, but she tells them that her true form is a beautiful young woman. And then when Willow turns her back into a human, she’s an old lady. And there’s something really memorable and poignant about that to me, that you got turned into an animal, and you think, ‘Oh, if I can just get turned back into a human, it’ll be like it was, and I’ll be powerful.’ And then you’re like, ‘Wait, I didn’t realize it had been so long, and my whole life went by while I was an animal on this island.’”
David Barr Kirtley on Warwick Davis:
“This was the first movie that I ever watched the DVD commentary for. It’s actually Warwick Davis doing the commentary, and it’s great. He’s really, really into it, really passionate about it. The thing that’s always stuck out in my mind is he was saying that since this was before CGI, there’s the scene where the army rides by—when he’s trying to give the baby away, near the beginning of the movie. And he’s like, ‘That was a real army. We didn’t duplicate people. There was this actual army that rode by me, and it was so amazing to see.’ And that it helps your acting so much, because it’s not like there’s a tennis ball and you’re like, ‘That’s an army.’ There’s an actual army riding past you.”