From legendary filmmakers George Lucas and Ron Howard comes a timeless fantasy tale in which heroes come in all sizes, and adventure is the greatest magic of all. When young Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) finds an abandoned baby girl, he learns she is destined to end the reign of the wicked Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh). In order to protect the child, Willow must team up with a rogue swordsman (Val Kilmer) and overcome the forces of darkness in the ultimate battle of good versus evil!
An evil queen, brave heroes, magic and monsters! Willow has it all!
The powerful opening, with beautiful music by James Horner, and classic photography by Adrian Biddle, sets the tone for this wonderfully realized fairytale. Moments later we’re introduced to the instantly likable Willow, his adorable family and the mission he must undertake, and from that point we’re on for the ride, with surprisingly few bumps in the road. And we haven’t even gotten to the devilishly handsome Val Kilmer, in a star making performance, or fiery beauty of Joanne Whalley! Or what about the the outstanding visual effects by Industrial Light and Magic, the gnarly creatures, the wonderfully detailed costumes, and the breathtaking real locations? I could go on!
Big budget fairytales like this are few and far between, and they don’t get much better. Next to Willow, the Lord of the Rings movies almost seem heavy-handed. It’s not surprising that producer George Lucas can hustle up the machinery to get this beast rolling, but director Ron Howard is probably the reason why we even care about the characters in the first place. Perhaps he’s also the reason for the fine balance between drama, action, classic fairly tale elements and humor. Only the tiny Brownies, who serve as clumsy comic relief, outstay their welcome rather quickly, but that’s easily forgivable.
Lucas was accused of being derivative, when Willow came out in 1988, but stealing characters, creatures and story lines from classic fairytales and combining them to a new story is exactly the point here. In that sense this movie is a giant success.
Audio & Video:
This transfer is beautiful. The film has a delicate, soft layer of grain, vibrant colors and solid details – especially in the close-ups. There’s a few soft shots, and a few shots with fixed grain worth noting, but not enough to make a big fuss about it. Overall the visual effects (which predates digital compositing) hold up VERY well, though, the high quality image reveals the inherent problems in some of the of techniques, the blue screen shots in particular.
The sound is solid, with good atmospheric, especially when thunder and lightning rail, and of course when the score gets a chance to soar.
- Willow: Deleted Scenes With Ron Howard (12:32) – A new interview with Ron Howard, intercut with behind the scenes footage, where he explains why various scenes were cut, and then shows them to us. This includes a failed “fish boy” effect sequence, and references to Sorsha’s father. Short, but really good.
- Willow: The Making of an Adventure (23:39) – This is a vintage feature, introduced by Howard. Much better than your average EPK feature.
- From Morf to Morphing (17:24) – A documentary produced for the 2001 DVD, which covers the morphing technique in detail. Very interesting stuff.
- Video diary (10:53) – Bit of behind the scenes footage shot by Warwick Davis back in the day.
- Matte Paintings (1:09) – An all too brief reveal of some of the matte paintings in the film, where we see the original painting, a temp composite and the final shot.
Most of the material is very interesting, but I could watch hours of this stuff, and frankly the film deserves to be covered more extensively. And why is this edition missing the commentary from Davis, from the original DVD?
I’m not sure why Willow was so universally maligned during its initial release. It holds up extremely well, and we need more movies like this. The Blu-ray presentation is very good, and the extras are interesting, so basically there’s no reason not to get this.
A MUST HAVE!
Extra Features: B+