What's new

Blu-ray Review Willow Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2006
Messages
23,103
Location
Charlotte, NC
Real Name
Matt Hough
A grab bag of allusions to plots and characters from The Bible, Lord of the Rings, Gulliver’s Travels, Star Wars, and others, Ron Howard’s Willow is entertaining almost in spite of itself. An overlong picaresque adventure with an unlikely hero that gives the movie a freshness it lacks elsewhere, Willow features (for its day) innovative special effects and a brash mix of humor, magic, and adventure that will hold the attention of most who enjoy sword and sorcery-laced escapades.

Willow (Blu-ray Combo Pack) Directed by Ron Howard Studio: MGM Year: 1988 Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 1080p AVC codec Running Time: 126 minutes Rating: PG Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; DTS 5.1 French; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, others Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French, others

Region: A MSRP: $ 24.99

Release Date: March 12, 2013

Review Date: March 14, 2013

The Film

3.5/5 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.

Video Quality

3.5/5 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.

Audio Quality

4.5/5 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.

Special Features

3.5/5 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.

In Conclusion

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. Matt Hough Charlotte, NC

 

Bryan Tuck

Screenwriter
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Messages
1,824
Real Name
Bryan Tuck
Thanks for the review, Matt. It's too bad they decided to drop the Warwick Davis commentary that was on the old DVD, but this is still a pretty solid release.
 

usrunnr

Writer
Joined
Mar 28, 2012
Messages
537
Real Name
usrunnr
This 2-disc set is selling for $159 on Amazon. I can guess it's out of print, but why so much? Anyone know?
 

FatherDude

Agent
Joined
Aug 21, 2016
Messages
33
Real Name
Jason
The Blu-ray went out of print quickly, so the price gouging has had five years to fester.

It's ridiculous, and unfair to the fans who missed out. The Blu-ray sports a filmic, reference quality transfer. I'm not sure what's preventing a simple re-issue.
 

usrunnr

Writer
Joined
Mar 28, 2012
Messages
537
Real Name
usrunnr
I cherish mine. I've always thought highly of the film, even though many people did not.
 

skylark68

Screenwriter
Joined
Apr 1, 2015
Messages
1,448
Location
Pearland, TX
Real Name
Timothy
Yes, I missed this on its short release run. Maybe Disney will see fit to re-release it soon. My Dad actually has the old DVD so I borrow it from him from time to time. I've been holding out on buying a copy of the DVD because I keep hoping that it will get a re-release soon.
 

Dick

Senior HTF Member
Joined
May 22, 1999
Messages
8,804
Real Name
Rick
Not sure why this went OOP. I don't love the film, but I am entertained by it, and had I seen it in a theater when I was 8-12 years old, I'd have cherished it. Perfect Saturday matinee fodder. It's clearly aimed at kids, with a juvenile plot, dialog, and characters. Taken in that light, it's a complete success. If you try to box it into a more sophisticated corner, it quickly loses ground.
 

Jesse Skeen

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 24, 1999
Messages
4,904
The video distribution with this one was always strange. MGM released it, but then RCA/Columbia got the first video release. Don't know why the Blu-Ray was out for such a short time, was one I always meant to pick up eventually but didn't. Meanwhile the stuff I do buy in fear of going out of print gets reissued umpteen times.
 

Malcolm R

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 8, 2002
Messages
19,782
Real Name
Malcolm
The video distribution with this one was always strange. MGM released it, but then RCA/Columbia got the first video release. Don't know why the Blu-Ray was out for such a short time, was one I always meant to pick up eventually but didn't. Meanwhile the stuff I do buy in fear of going out of print gets reissued umpteen times.
As a Lucasfilm production, I'd imagine distribution for each release is by whatever company they made arrangements with at the time. The blu-ray is a Fox release (which I was fortunate enough to have picked up for $12.99 at Costco shortly after release).
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Forum Sponsors

Latest Articles

Staff online

Forum statistics

Threads
347,089
Messages
4,802,120
Members
141,992
Latest member
bhirooajantoom
Top