Willow (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Ron Howard
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 126 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; DTS 5.1 French; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, others
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French, others
MSRP: $ 24.99
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Review Date: March 14, 2013
The evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh) has knowledge that a newly born young girl named Elora Danan will bring about her downfall, so she sends her soldiers to fetch the baby so it can be killed. The baby, however, has been sent drifting down the river where she’s found by Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis), a farmer who wants to become a wizard. He’s instructed by the High Aldwin (Billy Barty) that he must take the baby and deliver her to a sorceress Fin Raziel (Patricia Hayes) who will see to it that the baby lives to fulfill her destiny. Along the way, Willow meets condemned but good-natured thief Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) who’s actually a mighty warrior who serves as the protector for Willow and the baby. But the Queen’s warrior daughter Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) is hot on the trail of the heroes determined to retrieve the baby and not to let her mother down.
George Lucas wrote the story for the film (so there’s little wonder that Sorsha resembles the combative Princess Leia and Madmartigan is merely the cocky Han Solo in different clothing and hairstyle; there’s even a Darth Vader stand-in: a ruthless dark knight Gen. Kael who defeats all comers played by Pat Roach), and Bob Dolman’s screen adaptation includes all of those impossible to remember names and a plethora of action scenes – some comic, some thrilling – that draw the film out to an uncomfortable two-plus hours. Ron Howard directs the mammoth undertaking with surety, but even he can’t give support to the sagging middle portion of the movie with its many baits and switches. There’s plenty of enchantment with the brownies (Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton play the tiny tagalongs for mostly comic effect) and faeries and magical acorns and wands and spells, and a scene where Raziel morphs through a half a dozen animals before finally assuming human form (an effective running gag has Willow attempting to change her but getting it wrong) which shows the early iterations of computer graphics at work. The siege of a troll castle is well directed, but the film’s climax drags on interminably resulting in lots of noise and nastiness but not really many thrills.
Warwick Davis is a splendid hero for the film with his feisty determination to do the right thing and his humorous attempts to fulfill his destiny to be a real wizard. Val Kilmer Americanized Madmartigan seems rather odd amid the rest of the British-accented cast, but he certainly has no problem pulling off the derring-do as necessary. Joanne Whalley (who later married Kilmer after they met on this movie) doesn’t have much sparkle or real presence as the inevitable leading lady (nor is she any more convincing as a warrior than Carrie Fisher was), but Jean Marsh as her evil mother gets to chew the scenery to her heart’s content throughout the picture. Billy Barty is funny and effective as the winking wizard High Aldwin while Rick Overton and Kevin Pollak are taken best in small (no pun intended) doses as the fussy, finicky brownies.
The film’s Panavision 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. At its best, the image is extraordinarily sharp, detailed, and colorful. The problem is that these reference quality scenes are interspersed with scenes featuring milky contrast, indistinct detail, and sometimes soft, unimpressive shots. (Long shots are often particularly mediocre.) Flesh tones are generally believable, but black levels are rather average with unimpressive shadow detail on occasion. There aren’t any age-related artifacts, however, to its credit. The film has been divided into 36 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound design is a very effective remix of the original stereo surround elements (a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround mix is also included on the disc for purists). Wonderful split surround effects dot the entire film, and there is effective panning through the soundfield on occasion (an attack on the village of the little people by devil dogs is most effective). James Horner’s score is nicely placed in the fronts and rears for optimum effect. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
The featurettes are presented in 1080p unless otherwise noted.
A montage of three deleted scenes with narrative commentary by director Ron Howard runs 12 ½ minutes.
“Willow: The Making of an Adventure” is a 1988 television special on the behind-the-scenes activity making the movie. Presented in 1080i, it features director Ron Howard, producer/writer George Lucas, stars Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, Rick Overton, Kevin Pollak, special effects supervisor Dennis Muren, and others discussing the film’s story, the location filming in London, Wales, and New Zealand, and the innovative effects work by Industrial Light & Magic bringing it all together. It runs 23 ¾ minutes.
“From Morf to Morphing” is a 17 ½-minute look at the new technology of computer graphics allowing the artists to morph from one animal to another in one of the film’s most important sequences. It’s truly documenting the dawn of digital technology in filmmaking as described by Dennis Muren, George Lucas, and other ILM personnel. It’s in 1080i.
“Willow: An Unlikely Hero” features star Warwick Davis’ home movies taken behind-the-scenes during production and narrated by Davis in 2012 looking back on them. It’s in 1080p and runs 10 ¾ minutes.
A 1 ¼-minute montage of matte paintings used in the movie is in 1080p.
The second disc in the set is the DVD version of the movie.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Willow wasn’t particularly successful at the box-office during its initial theatrical release, but its reputation has grown over the years, and it’s enjoyable if a trifle drawn out. A decent video transfer and excellent sound encode combines with some good bonus material that fans of the movie will undoubtedly enjoy.