Viewers Hate The New Willow Series
The fans have spoken, and the new Disney+ Willow series is coming up short. The show, which acts as a reboot/sequel to the original 1988 fantasy epic, centers on a band of lovable misfits as they stumble through a fantastic yet quixotic land of adventure and adversity. Though fans are not happy about the series premiere, after it has so far held a 40% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, critics across the board seem to be pleased, leaving many to wonder where this disconnect between critic and audience scores stems from.
The original Willow film touts a 53%, or rotten, critical score on Rotten Tomatoes, while boasting a fresh 79% from the average moviegoer, featuring a host of mixed reviews with those most positive coming from general audiences. This is almost perfectly inverted with the Willow series, which sees a whopping 84% critic score against an abysmal 40% from the average audience. While Rotten Tomatoes is not always a perfect indicator of a film or television show’s quality, and all art is subjective, these numbers can provide some insight into the disconnect between the average moviegoer and the professional critic, and display which aspects of a film are more important to each party.
Perusing the reviews of the Willow series will leave you with more questions than answers, as some find campy acting and comical accent choices to be inconsistent and negligent, forcing some viewers to note that the show was made for an awaiting audience of nobody, while others cherish the return to a childhood favorite. Alex Cranz of The Verge calls the show a “super fun adventure” with “a great ensemble” while IMDB user Danmasucci calls the series “Troll dung.” Perhaps the only true way to measure the quality of the show is to watch for yourself and decide on your own merit.
As noted, many of the original cast have returned to their roles, including Warwick Davis as the titular Willow Ufgood. The series picks up decades after the conclusion of the film but remains open-ended for a new audience which rewards but does not require the viewing of the original Willow film. Perhaps nostalgia is a factor in the series’ milquetoast reaction, given that the average critic may be a bit older than the average Disney+ audience, allowing them additional insight into the characters and the world they inhabit.
In his piece with The Verge, Cranz notes “If you thought the original film was too dopey, you might not like this show. But if you’ve longed for a fantasy series that takes you on an exciting adventure with plenty of jokes, action, and romance, then Willow is a treat.” This may hint at the root of the disconnect for audiences. Many modern legacy reboots have taken on an advanced sense of realism that doesn’t seem to be present here. For examples of this, look no further than the gritty and serious tone of Warner Brothers’ DC Universe films.
For the time being, only the first two episodes of the fantasy epic are available for streaming on Disney+, and we may see audiences warm up to the show as it progresses. Many critics have reviewed access to the first seven episodes, so there is a possibility that some course of action occurs down the line of the first season which changes everything. Of course, Disney’s other latest show Andor saw harsh audience reviews at first before becoming a lauded installment in the Star Wars franchise, so anything is possible.