HTF REVIEW: "Willow"

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Nov 6, 2001.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein


    Fox saved the best for last!
    The last time I saw Willow was back
    in the mid 1990's on a VHS, released through
    Columbia Pictures, who held the rights to the
    film. My last memories of this movie was a
    fairly grainy pan & scan release.
    Since the introduction of DVD back in 1997,
    Willow was always one of those movies that
    was readily requested for Columbia to release.
    Alas, the studio never responded to any of our
    inquiries and by the year 2000, most everyone felt
    that this movie would never see the light of day.
    Earlier this year, I was given privileged
    information that LucasFilm had given the rights to
    Willow over to Twentieth Century Fox, and
    that the studio was preparing a Special Edition
    release by year's end. I had been told not to
    broadcast the information, but as many will
    remember, I taunted all of you that Fox had a
    very special release up its sleeve. When the
    news hit that Willow was finally going to
    see the light of day, there was an incredible
    buzz on the internet. It was great to see that
    all of you were sharing the same elation I had
    when I was first told the news.
    It is my best guess that LucasFilm was extremely
    proud of Fox Home Entertainment with the job they
    were doing with Phantom Menace. I don't
    think there was any doubt that the care of this DVD
    be given to any other studio than Fox. I'll tell you
    now, it was the best gamble LucasFilm could have made.
    There is no other studio that could have done as
    much justice to this Willow DVD than the
    people at Fox Home Entertainment. After all, Fox
    has the greatest reputation of all studios for
    putting out incredible DVD product.
    While I was amazed at the transfer of Planet
    Of The Apes, nothing could prepare me for how
    good Willow looks and sounds on DVD. I sit
    here extremely excited about what I have just watched,
    and I'll slowly unfold the details of this remarkable
    DVD release.
    First, let me briefly talk about this film.
    Released in 1988, Willow was a collaboration
    between Executive Producer George Lucas and Director
    Ron Howard. While it turned out to be Ron Howard's
    few Box-Office failures, the movie struck a chord
    with audiences who fell in love with the fantasy
    aspect of the film. In time, the film became one
    of the most well regarded fantasy films of all time.
    Willow is as much a personal film of George
    Lucas as E.T. was for Steven Spielberg. In
    fact, Lucas was determined to pay homage to his
    character by giving him a brief appearance in The
    Phantom Menace pod race sequence.
    The story is of a little peck called Willow
    (Warwick Davis) who finds an abandoned Dalkini baby.
    This is no ordinary baby, for she bears the mark of
    the chosen one who will bring the demise of the evil
    Queen Bavmorda (JeanMarsh), an evil sorceress. It
    is up to Willow to keep this baby safe and deliver
    her from evil. Along the way, he meets a great
    swordsman (Val Kilmer) who unwillingly defends the
    small Willow against Bavmorda's army. So starts the
    adventure of a lifetime filled with special effects,
    incredible action sequences, and creatures of fantasy.
    Never before has the film looked and sounded as
    good as it does in this new anamorphic widescreen
    DVD Special Edition. In fact, based on the fact
    that this film is 13 years old, it's close to
    Pop the DVD in, and an absolutely stunning menu
    sequence begins that sports the Willow logo and
    slowly strolls through the different scenic
    landscapes that encompass the story, while each
    of the main characters appear and slowly come to
    life. It's a wonderfully enchanting menu that
    immediately sets the mood for a great fantasy story.
    From the moment the film began, I knew that this
    transfer was going to be exceptional. The first
    scene is the birth of the chosen child. It's a
    very dark scene, filled with smoke and murky
    photography. A Nursemaid sneaks the baby away
    through dim corridors and out of the castle. Normally
    scenes like these would immediately show graininess
    in the transfer. There wasn't even a hint.
    Keeping in mind that this film came out of the
    late 80's, you can't help but be stunned by how
    remarkable the picture quality of this disc is.
    It rivals anything recently filmed and transferred
    to DVD.
    The reason why this film has taken on a totally
    new meaning for me, is because now in its widescreen
    glory, I can appreciate Willow for its
    scenic beauty. From the deep green colors of Willow's
    home farmland to the white snowy peaks of mountains
    set against deep blue skies, this transfer shines
    like no other! I never knew how gorgeous the
    cinematography in this film was until watching this
    DVD. It's breathtaking, to say the least.
    In fact, the transfer of this DVD looks so good,
    it brings out the deficiencies of the special effects
    from that time period. Take a look at the tiny Brownies
    for instance. With all the grain that VHS brought,
    these tiny little people were flawlessly superimposed
    into the film. Now on DVD, the transfer looks so
    clean, that you can clearly see the rough edges around
    these superimposed effects. You'll see this again
    later in the film when a 2-headed monster attacks a
    The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is another remarkable
    addition to this DVD. The sound cannot be described
    as anything less than tremendous! I had the volume
    turned up rather high, and my entire theater room
    came alive and enveloped me with the crisp, booming
    soundtrack. The sound on this disc is so incredible
    for a film this age. It sounds better than most DVDs
    recently released. From the thunderous booms my SVS
    subwoofer gave off from an approaching army -- to the
    beating hoofs of horses during a climatic wagon chase,
    the soundtrack is full of punch. Even during James
    Horner's magnificent score, you can still hear
    Willow's small footsteps walking across the sand.
    Every tiny noise is dramatically brought out. Even
    the rear speakers remain active through the entire
    movie from thunder that crackles around you -- to
    crickets that encircle a campfire. I can only sum
    all my comments up by saying this was an incredible
    audio experience.
    Let's go to the Special Features.....
    Included on this disc is an original 1988
    featurette that takes you on the sets and across
    Continents to see what it took to bring Willow
    to the screen. Ron Howard and George Lucas give
    their own insights into what they wanted this film to
    Morf to Morphing is a look at the actual
    dawn of the digital effects age. I was amazed to
    learn that MORF technology was experimented
    in Willow, as many of the effects sequences
    demanded something better than simple dissolves.
    We meet effects wizards Doug Smythe and Dennis Muren
    who describe how they first turned to computer graphics
    to produce some of the amazing effects in this film.
    Using mere models that were then later digitally
    manipulated, it is incredible to watch how this
    experimental effects work back in 1988 has now
    become so mainstream. There is so much technical
    information presented here, that effects geeks will
    be glued to their screens.
    There are approximately 8 television spots and 3
    theatrical teasers/trailers included.
    Finally, there is an extensive photo gallery that
    you can flip through using your remote, that shows
    beautiful color photos that take you through the
    making of Willow.
    Final thoughts......
    While Fox's upcoming Planet Of The Apes
    scores high on overall DVD presentation, I feel that
    Willow is the gem that Fox saved for last.
    No other studio could have taken the needed care and
    released such a beautiful audio and video experience
    on DVD. It just goes to prove that there is a studio
    out there willing to go to great lengths to give
    films like this such a remarkable makeover. This
    is certainly one the best transfers of any of Fox's
    catalog titles. Bravo!
    Release Date: November 27th
    Ronald Epstein (pronounced like the English "Ronald Epstein")
    Circa 2000
    Home Theater Forum Administrator
    All forum questions & to get on our private forum mailing list (new members)... Email: [email protected]
    Problems with the webpage or site? Contact WEBMASTER
    Email Packy [email protected]
  2. Sean Oneil

    Sean Oneil Supporting Actor

    Mar 19, 2001
    Likes Received:
    WoW! Sure sounds like a winner.
    I was planning on picking this one up but am now looking forward to it a bit more. WS-RPTV ready to go ...SVS locked and loaded [​IMG]
    I also noticed the 'Peck' during the podrace scene BTW.
  3. Kenneth Cummings

    Kenneth Cummings Supporting Actor

    Aug 7, 2001
    Likes Received:
    I can't wait to get Willow. Disprite the cover(Willow is a bit TOO happy), I just want to see this movie all the way through. Yes, I never got to see all of the movie yet so this will be good. By the way, one question. Is the commentary from Ron Howard on the disc? DVD File reviewed the disc today, but made no mention of this already annouced commentary.
  4. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

    Apr 19, 2000
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  5. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    I rarely listen to Director commentary.
    It's hard enough reviewing up to 4 films
    a week.
    I watch each film in its entirety first.
    Supplents are next. To go back and watch
    a second time with commentary is just too
    much. For that reason, I often accidently
    leave out references to commentary in my
    reviews. I realize that is unfair to many
    of you and I apologize.
    The packaging credits only 1 commentary
    by Warwick Davis.
    Ronald Epstein (pronounced like the English "Ronald Epstein")
    Circa 2000
    Home Theater Forum Administrator
    All forum questions & to get on our private forum mailing list (new members)... Email: [email protected]
    Problems with the webpage or site? Contact WEBMASTER
    Email Packy [email protected]
  6. Shane Martin

    Shane Martin Producer

    Sep 26, 1999
    Likes Received:
    Thank God I can dump my rotting Laserdisc.
    /gesture Columbia Tri Star. It seemed that all Columbia discs were rotters.
    Thank God Fox got the rights to this movie and has released it right(albeit with the help of Lucasfilm).
  7. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

    Aug 3, 2001
    Likes Received:
    My wife, Stephanie, is VERY pleased at this great review. She's been looking forward to this for forever...
    Do you like TV on DVD? Then check THIS out!
  8. Michael Lee

    Michael Lee Supporting Actor

    Jan 7, 1998
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  9. Sean Conklin

    Sean Conklin Screenwriter

    Oct 30, 2000
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    [rubbing hands]Can't wait to get my hands on this gem![/rubbing hands]
    Now let's have some Real Genius and Back To The Future!!
    "I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates who said.......I drank what?"
    [Edited last by Sean Conklin on November 06, 2001 at 11:29 PM]
  10. SteveBjr

    SteveBjr Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 7, 2001
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    Willow is one of my favorite Fantasy movies of all time. I am so excited to hear that Fox has put so much effort into making this a great disc. I can't wait til the 27th to pick this up. Thanks for the review i think, now i'm even more excited than i was already [​IMG]
    DVD Collection
  11. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

    Oct 3, 2000
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    This is my #1 November DVD! I can't wait to pick it up.
    Thanks for the scoop, Ron. Your enthusiasm is duly noted!
    (And don't look now, but wasn't one of those Brownies played by Kevin Pollak!?>?!!? [​IMG] )
    Scott Weinberg
  12. PhilipG

    PhilipG Cinematographer

    Jan 13, 2000
    Likes Received:
    I'm thrilled Fox have given Willow a quality release on DVD. I watched a print earlier this year at a special screening and it was really poor.
    So, bravo, Fox! Superb video and sound is what I care about - the rest is icing on the cake. [​IMG]
  13. Wes Ray

    Wes Ray Supporting Actor

    May 11, 2001
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    I never really liked Willow back in the day, but I just may pick this one up.
  14. Barry S

    Barry S Stunt Coordinator

    Sep 7, 1998
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    Having never seen Willow in OAR, I'm very excited about this one. I was a wee lad when this movie came out and I've always enjoyed it. It should be a revelation since I've never seen the film in anything but pan&scan VHS.
  15. AdrianOC

    AdrianOC Stunt Coordinator

    Feb 19, 2001
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    I have always loved Willow and played my widescreen vhs copy until it wore out completely.
    Now I can gracefully retire it and await for the dvd release.
    Bring it on! :)
    "Want to hold up a bank in Latin?
    "Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam."
    (I have a catapult. Give me all the money, or I will fling an enormous rock at your head.)
    My DVD List
  16. Josh LeClair

    Josh LeClair Agent

    Sep 30, 2001
    Likes Received:
    I almost forgot this was coming out. For those of you that haven't seen it, Sci Fi channel is showing it this sunday and in widescreen.
  17. Mike Voigt

    Mike Voigt Supporting Actor

    Sep 30, 1997
    Likes Received:
    Awesome! I've been waiting for this one since 1997, since I first got a DVD player.
    This will be on my Christmas request list - or on the next day shopping list, if I don't get it!
  18. Craig S

    Craig S Producer

    Mar 4, 2000
    Likes Received:
    League City, Texas
    Real Name:
    Craig Seanor
    I only saw Willow once, on a rented VHS over a decade ago. I wasn't impressed at all and had planned to skip this one.
    Dammit, Ron, now you've got me intrigued and I'm about 98% ready to put this on my pre-order list!! I hate this forum!! It's costing me big bucks!! [​IMG]
    Too many DVDs, too little time...
    AFI 100 Challenge - 36 to go!
  19. Ruben Zamora

    Ruben Zamora Stunt Coordinator

    Sep 5, 2000
    Likes Received:
    This is too good to be true. Just yesterday my cousin was aksing me what DVD to buy me for my birthday on the Nov. 28. I could not think of a DVD I wanted that came out at the time. NOW I SEE this post. OMG I know what DVD she'll be getting me now. I CANT WAIT. Val Kilmer provides Excellent comedic relief in this film.
    Ruben Zamora
    Onkyo TX-575X
    Pioneer DV-333
  20. Dave_P

    Dave_P Stunt Coordinator

    Apr 13, 2000
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    I'm with quite a few of you on this one. I only saw this movie once in OAR when it was out in the theaters when I was 16. I have the VHS P&S copy that I can still watch because this is one of my all time favorite movies, but I cannot wait to get the DVD of this movie. I just cannot wait!!! I'll be in the stores picking this one up come the end of November.

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