Wind in the Willow

Since I just watched the last episode, I thought I’d turn my attention to the new Willow. The original Willow is nostalgic and fun, and I love it, but I would not call it a good movie. This was George Lucas’s Next Big Thing after Star Wars, and it was only okay. The world-building was interesting, and a lot of the characters were memorable. Even though they were the most annoying part of that movie, I talk to the cats in a brownie accent when no one’s around and Nicole is out of the country, so, “A-HA! Does the kiddies want to eat?” But George Lucas proved he’s not an inexhaustible font of ideas by putting both Han Solo and Darth Vader into this movie.

I am getting exhausted with the nostalgia sequels. To all the people worked up about Beetlejuice 2, I want to ask them if there was one nostalgia sequel that actually satisfied them, and their answer would be Bill & Ted Face the Music, and I say, okay, aside from that. How did the new Halloween work out? How was Ghostbusters? Punky Brewster? Sex and the City? Remember Tron: Legacy?You don’t? Shock. Those were movies and TV shows that were actually made, and you forgot them because they were only okay.  

The wild card here is Top Gun: Maverick, which made piles and piles of money, but it doesn’t count because it was always going to make piles of money. Even in these bitter times we live in, we love to see some jingoism and explosive victories thrown at us to the sound of Kenny Loggins.

All of that is to say that I only watched the new Willow because I was curious. And the first episode was not very exciting. None of the characters were particularly interesting, the plot far from compelling. The worst character was kidnapped in the first episode and didn’t come back until the end, so there was that. The action was competent, and sometimes competent is the best you can ask for. And there’s a secret, and it ties all the way up to the most important MacGuffin in the original movie, and the show is so dull and predictable that it sends you obvious clues, and you’re yawning, saying, “I know what the secret is, you telegraphed it, like at the beginning of the episode,” and the show says, “Ha!” and I was completely wrong, and suddenly something really interesting happened with the secret, and that’s has exciting as that twist got.

There was something wrong with the dialogue that I couldn’t put my finger on it until the second episode when one person made an observation, and the other person says, “Right?” in that exact way, you know what I’m talking about, like she’s a sorority girl in 2020 and not a warrior princess in a faraway medieval land. The main character, whose name adorns the franchise, who was the spirit of the movie, high-fives a guy. Folks, I’m not sure I like this. There’s one of two explanations for how this happened:

  1. Disney execs tell them they have to be relatable to young girls, you know, like that Muffin the Vampire Killer, so the writers, probably mostly men with a mostly young, female cast, decide that everyone should be sassy and speak in the same voice.
  2. The writers were just lazy.

If I want to watch a bunch of teenagers lusting after each other in a fantasy setting and speaking the modern lingo, I’d watch The Vampire Diaries. That Damien got sass. But I came to Willow to see high fantasy that’s not as oppressive as Game of Never-ending Spin-Offs.

I read an interview with the showrunner, and he defended the anachronisms by saying he was inspired by Madmartigan, who was the only reason Willow was good, according to him. He said that Madmartigan felt like a person from the eighties transplanted into this fantasy world, and I call bullshit. If they did it his way in the original movie, he would have said, “Don’t have a cow!” Which is kind of what they’re doing in the new show.

It’s not that bad. I remember there were a number of shows and movies that did anachronisms, and none of them did it as smoothly as Willow, not even A Knight’s Tale. It’s still jarring, and I still don’t think I like it, but it’s clearly the work of professionals. The sets are amazing, some of the acting is really good. The expansion of the world has been working marvels. The plot is weak, and it could not sustain eight episodes. Some of the acting is really bad. The MacGuffin of the series is a mouth-breather, and that was hard not to stare at. There are a lot of clichés here. I’m glad that the main characters are teenage girls, even if it means Willow has to step back a little (he steps back way too much).

Then there’s the magic. With one or two exceptions, magic is about throwing green or purple lightning bolts. They have names for spells and curses, and they study for long montages, but in the end, it’s a green or purple lightning spell. See also WandaVision. Put some thought into it, people. Even the Fantastic Beasts movies put together some fun, imaginative magic fights. Even though the green-versus-purple lightning battle was visually stunning, it just felt … dumb. I am exhausted with Sassy Marvel Studios, and now sassy Willow. The hero can’t take the apocalypse seriously, why should the audience?

Late in the series, a character turns evil, and the actor cannot pull it off. They’re not Hayden Christiansen bad, but the whole thing is unconvincing, and it’s supposed to be the dramatic anchor of the final showdown of the season finale. Everybody else can kind of hold it together, but there’s this actor. The last episode was so bad I’m not planning on watching season 2.

You might enjoy it the way I enjoyed the Vampire Diaries franchise, i.e. as fast food with no nutritional value. The theme to the TV show Willow was “be yourself,” which was the exact same theme to just about every kid’s show in the eighties (unless you can be Destro—then you should probably be Destro). “The power was within you all along my apprentice!” What made the movie Willow so memorable was a really young Warwick Davis being the sincerest creature in the realm. The sincerest character in the show Willow, counting Willow himself, is the comic relief, but everybody laughs at them, not with them. Oh, and Spoiler Alert: XX XXXX XX XXX XXX. It doesn’t live up to its message, is what I’m saying.

The first few episodes, I wasn’t particularly blown away, but I thought it was a nice contrast to my current binge show, Babylon 5. Did you know that by the year 2258, Zima has made a huge comeback and is being advertised in dockworker bars on a space station hundreds of light years from Earth? You never know!

I can’t believe I wrote twelve hundred words about such a mediocre, inoffensive show. Something about this lazy, nostalgia strip-mining is really getting under my skin.

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