So Willow is generally considered kind of a turd. I remember seeing it in high school and loving it. So it was $5 on iTunes, so I bought it and watched it for the first time in 20-something years.
OK it is kinda bad. But when you're a 15-year-old D&D nerd, you sorta gloss over the flaws and focus on cool swords and stuff.
The TVTropes entry is rather tame on its flaws. Like:
- I mean, it's a road movie, but instead of interesting things happening along the way, mostly it's just killing time between castle-battle set-pieces.
- Madmardigan is apparently the first person to ever say anything nice to Sorsha, and she just buys it unquestioningly, immediately deciding to fall in love (or lust).
- Of course, she then gets all hot and bothered when it turns out he's a legit badass.
- The Big Bad General is really just shit on the battlefield.
But I think there's a lot of good there. You can do a 10-ish ep Netflix series thing and I think with some changes, it could be good, without (I think) being GoT ripoff-city.
[NOTE: Yes I am aware there is a novelization that expands on backstory and stuff. I like my ideas better, because we are going to go off the film only. It's out own new expanded universe.]
SO. How do we turn this troll turd into PRESTIGE TV?
Well first, like I said, it's a road movie. The setup is Willow first trying to return the baby, then being tasked with taking the baby to a distant place. So the first thing we do is get rid of the Tir Asleen castle battle entirely, because we don't need it. Instead, have our heroes spend some time moving through the world. This gives us a chance to learn a little about Madmardigan and Willow; later we can use it for other reasons (more on that in a minute). It'll also give Willow more time to practice magic.
Have them visit taverns, and other notable locales in the world. Let them have adventures that are thrilling and not just CG-laden battles. Maybe the run around getting this rep that "hey this baby is prophesied to stop Bavmorda".
Second, we have to fix the "Sorsha is so horny she falls for the first dude to say a word to her" thing. We still let her get captured, but we spend some time (road movie!) letting her and Madmardigan talk, and build up some sexual tension, and most of all, explain her mother.
The novelization apparently has Bavmorda be some generic evil queen. Fuck that: let's do something better. How about this:
So Bavmorda was a benevolent and kind queen to the true King, a noble and wise leader. Together they had a daughter, Sorsha, who they loved deeply.
Then Something Happens, and the King is lost. His death crushes Bavmorda. Distraught and broken over the death of her true love, she searches for a way to reunite with her beloved. She finds it: dark necromancy, evil magics. Seduced by The Dark Side, she devotes her life to mastering it, and takes the entire realm down with her, scouring the world trying to get the power to master death itself.
It's during all this that she forces Sorsha to basically be a dude, making her fight in the vanguard of her armies so she is not reminded of her One True Love.
Sorsha is not super thrilled about all this. She loves riding, and archery, and fencing, but she's not really thrilled about being her mom's hand of vengeance. Also it means she goes from, like, normal 10-year-old kid to General. Her mom kills anyone who so much as talks to her in a romantic way; she justifies it so Sorsha never has to have a broken heart. It doesn't help that Sorsha has no real self-esteem when it comes to romantic shit. She's beautiful - her father's fiery red hair, and her mother's stunning features - but she's been in battle since he was, like, 15. She's got some scars - not just mental, but literal ones.
Another thing we change is the prophecy. It's a new thing, one they just uncovered a little before the start of our story. Instead of rounding up all the babies in the kingdom, Bavmorda learns of it from the "adventures" of Willow and Madmardigan (who, remember, got it from Fairy Lady). Bavmorda spends a fair amount of time trying to figure out what it all means since this kinda came out of nowhere.
We have Ariks army show up a little more, and earlier, and use him to help build on Madmardigan. Maybe they're both orphans who ran away to fight and be heroes; maybe Madmardigan does his "I serve no one" thing because he got stuck in a doomed battle, and blames Arik for it. Survivor guilt and all that. (The novelization has him as a deserter! Fuck that, he's a hero.)
Anyway, by this point we've put everyone in motion for a set piece as the 2 armies clash so Our Heroes can go for it and save the baby.
Everyone ends up in the Spell Room and Bavmorda is trying to kill the baby with the magic spell, but ... it doesn't work! What the hell, the prophecy!
SOMEONE GET M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN ON THE PHONE, BECAUSE IT'S TWIST TIME BABY. Remember when we learned that Sorsha is all sensitive bc she's got all these scars from battles? Yeah turns out the one on her arm ...
Fin Razel finishes casting the spell Bavmorda was starting to use to kill the baby, and Willow turns it: it banishes the "dark side" parts, so she can reunite with her "true love" in whatever the Willowverse Valhalla is. It destroys the evil hold on her, and the kingdom. She briefly reunites with her daughter "as herself" before dying, knowing she'll see her true love again.
Some other stuff: Well for one, we let the Bad General Guy not die. He escapes with part of his army off the battlefield, having rescued some of Bavmordas magic assistant. Looks like the Warmaster is the villain in S2.
We learn the Fairy Lady made up the entire thing (there's 2 twists!). She had to get a banish-the-soul spell happening to beat her at all, and so she fed her dudes the whole "mark on the arm" thing, after the baby had been discovered. The discovery of the baby was all she needed to get someone to make a run at saving Fin Razel so they could stop Bavmorda.