In times of political and civil turmoil, unrest, war or depression, fantasy provides not only an escape from the harshness of life but an alternate context in which to view and contemplate the events of our era. There’s a reason The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, And the Wardrobe took place during WWI or why Suzanne Collins states her (not strictly fantasy, but you get it) was as a result of seeing news war coverage juxtaposed next to reality television. Granted, allegorical themes in fantasy stories will always be present, even in utopian fantasy there has to be conflict to make for an interesting story, but in bleak times fantasy can be just the prescription for a weary soul.
are certainly always in production, but true fans of the genre all agree, the golden age for fantasy, especially children’s fantasy, was by far the ’80s. In a decade where The NeverEnding Story, Legend, Time Bandits, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, and of course, Willow. Directed by Ron Howard, with a story by George Lucas, the 1988 film includes prophecies, sorceresses, swordsman, monsters, fairies, people of all sizes, princesses, a journey of many miles, and of course a final showdown among sorcerers that clearly influenced Lord of the Rings’ Gandalf/Saruman face-off. Willow opens with “It is a time of dread…” and such a sentiment certainly feels timely. When the world is full of dreadful stories of terrorism, mass murder, political upheaval and poor leadership escapism is most needed.
It’s been 28 years since Willow was released and 2016 has been a bleak year, not only for movies but in current events, as well. Could a sequel to Willow be what the world needs? I think so and more than that, in doing it, for a sequel, and with such a solid first film, the story practically writes itself. Here’s what we fans would want and expect from Willow 2. Let’s hope those in power pay attention.
An Obvious Story Continuation
Willow is about a Nelwyn/dwarf, Willow (Warwick Davis), who finds a baby in the river near his home and realizes the Daikini/tall people will come looking for the child. He and a group of other Nelwyn set out on a mission to return the child to the Daikini (regular sized humans) and they settle on Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), a rogue swordsman who agrees to take the child in return for freedom from a cage. Willow’s conscience gets the best of him, especially when he learns that the baby is actually Elora Danan, a princess prophecied to bring down the queen Bavmorda, so he rejoins her. Bavmorda has sent her warrior daughter, Sorsha (Joanne Whalley), to bring back the child and Willow, Madmartigan, and a couple of tiny Brownies (forest pixie-like people) have to protect Elora, free the good sorceress Fin Raziel, and take down Bavmorda. They fight, they do magic, Madmartigan and Sorsha fall in love, it’s all just fantasy perfection.
This film’s sequel is essentially built in: it’s a story about a baby. A baby with a destiny. Anyone who’s seen the film can’t help but have obvious questions: Does Elora grow up to be a significant or powerful princess? Did Madmartigan and Sorsha raise her? Did Willow get better at magic or train further?
Serious fans of the film are more than likely aware that a series of books was written after the film continuing the story. The series — titled Chronicles of the Shadow War and featuring the books Shadow Moon, Shadow Dawn, and Shadow Star — kills off many of the main characters from the film, changes Willow’s name, and turns grown Elora into a brat. It may have have imagined more of the world within the film, but it’s sorely lacking in plot and certainly doesn’t utilize the film’s best elements in a way that would translate to screen.
How’s This For A Plot?
A smart sequel would pick up with Elora years later (teen years would work well with today’s YA-obsessed audiences), a princess coming to grips with a prophecy she doesn’t understand, training in magic she’s only moderately good at, and forced to keep her identity secret in a kingdom still finding its footing after the great battle at the end of Willow. When a new band of rebels forms with evil intent to rule and use Elora as a weapon to defeat neighboring kingdoms and her own mentor Fin Raziel dies of old age before she can finish her training, Elora has to travel to find Willow. Only he is worth trusting to keep her safe, teach her in the way of magic that he himself has now mastered, and journey (with Brownies, of course) to the man who first made the prophecy that seems to rule Elora’s life and destiny. Throw in a young love interest — son of Madmartigan and Sorsha perhaps? — and we have all the makings of a GREAT sequel. You’re welcome for the idea and I’ll keep a look out for my check, George Lucas and Ron Howard.
Better Technology, Better World Building
While the poorly CG’ed and New Zealand-set film had plenty of fun with its world, there’s so much more that could still be done. The film certainly didn’t play up the scenery of New Zealand like Lord of the Rings did, and there are a few shots of waterfalls and exteriors that are used more than once, essentially recycling scenery. From fairy-filled forest to snowy mountain sled ride, today’s filmmaking tools — drones, , and 3D among them — could add some much needed scope to the intricate world of Willow.
With better technology, the Brownies could be more than green-screened little creatures. They could interact with the characters more and maybe better showcase how its even possible such tiny creatures could keep up with longer-legged beings (that was certainly a question I had when watching Willow). Forget the incredibly weird troll-morphing-to-two-headed-dragon scene toward the end of the film, a modern sequel could have a fully fledged and computer animated monster, or dragons, or fairies. Just imagining Willow 2 with Game of Thrones-level graphics gets this fantasy-freak all riled up!
Loose Threads And Sentimental Touches
With a script that writes itself and technology to make it look beautiful, there’s only one more element that will make our Willow 2 fantasy complete, the nostalgia factor. The best possible way to prod fans’ nostalgia and ensure they feel an affinity for a potential sequel is by far with references from the first film. Here are a few must-have references and cameos any Willow sequel would NEED to have, many of which were story threads left unexplored in the first:
Meegosh (David J. Steinberg) – Willow’s best friend and kind-hearted Nelwyn. He journeyed fairly far with Willow but returned to their home village after the pair of them were caught and roped up by the Brownies. When Willow was chosen by Elora to be her guardian, Meegosh went home. But how fun would a pair of old Nelwyn buddies on a new adventure be? I’m thinking something like Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins in their fifties looking for an excuse to adventure away from their boring everyday lives.
The High Aldwin (Billy Barty) – The Nelwyn wizard who Willow so desires to train with finally gets his chance to train the eager dwarf when he returns at the end of the first film. So how does it go? Already rather aged, would The High Aldwin need to train Willow so he could pass on the magical teachings? Would Willow have his own apprentice? And how better to delve further into the magic of their world?
The Magic – While not quite as defined as Harry Potter’s magical rules, here’s an area with plenty of room for exploration. For instance why do some sorceresses need wands and others not? Or does the wand enhance the magic when used? The magic acorns The High Aldwin gives Willow are poorly utilized, maybe we can find a better use for them in a new film?
Cherlindrea (Maria Holvöe) – The fairy Willow encounters is pivotal in his destiny to being Elora’s guardian, but it’s really the only time we get to encounter these beautiful ephemeral beings. We don’t necessarily need to see Cherlindrea again, but others of her kind could prove useful and interesting on a new journey. Especially in light of their apparent ability to put unsuspecting forest-wanders to sleep for a thousand years. Willow and Elora could encounter some poor soul in the forest who befell such a fate. Could be funny to have a character who not only has to cope with being one thousand years behind the times, but who can fill in ancient history for Willow and Elora as they try to discover the origins of the prophecy.
Madmartigan and Sorsha’s Romance – Seeing these two enemies fall in love is part of the fun of the original film, but what happened after? Did they marry? Have children? Can two such fierce spirits stay together? We romantic fools are dying to know.
Make It So Disney And Fox!
So I’m not entirely certain who owns the rights to Willow. Disney bought all of Lucasfilm but 20th Century Fox distributes the blu-rays of the film. Whoever has the power, now’s the time to be thinking about it. In two years, 2018, we’ll have the 30th anniversary of the film. At that point the novelty of the rebooted Star Wars and Harry Potter franchises will have worn off.
In an election year, one filled with almost constantly sad and upsetting world news, anticipation for Willow 2 could be a bright spot on the dark horizon. It’s sad enough James Horner (RIP) won’t be able to bring us another amazing score for the film’s follow up, but this serves as another reminder that life is short and good fantasy films are in short supply. Let’s hope the studios see it our way and give us the adventure we crave!
Share your ideas for a Willow 2 below!
MP Staff Writer, lover of all things fantastical and spooky. “Only the meek get pinched. The bold survive.” – Ferris Bueller