on December 28, 2001
What do you get when you have George Lucas AND Ron Howard, both famous for their work in the movie-making industry, producing and directing this movie? You've got it, a fantastic, rollicking fantasy-adventure!
The evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh) has for years been searching for the baby who, according to an ancient prophecy, will end her reign of terror. Taking all the pregnant women, she searches each and every baby when one day, the sacred girl is born. But before Bavmorda could kill her, a faithful midwife takes the child away from the castle. When she realizes she is being pursued, she lets the baby drift away on a river. The abandoned girl is found by a Nelwyn named Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis). But Willow quickly finds out that the baby is being tracked down Bavmorda's armies, including her daughter Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) and General Kael (Pat Roach). Willow sets out to the crossroads to give the baby back to the Daikini, or the big humans. He finds out though through the magical Cherlindrea (Maria Holvoe) about the baby, Elora Danan (played by both Ruth and Kate Greenfield) and the prophecy about her. Willow, with the companionship of swordsman and warrior Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) and Brownies Rool and Franjean (Kevin Pollak & Rick Overton), they go to seek help from sorceress Fin Raziel (Patricia Hayes).
A totally charming movie, "Willow" will be one of my favorite movies to watch for a long time. Though people must be warned that though it is rated PG, it's more like PG-13 in some areas and I strongly suggest that adults watch before their children do.
Everything is wonderful about the movie, from the directing, the acting by the whole cast, an enchanting plot, pretty good special effects, and plenty of humor and action. There's humor that is witty, sarcastic, and laugh-out-loud funny. Val Kilmer as Madmartigan and the two Brownies gets plenty of great lines. Yet at the same time the movie is pretty serious with all of the battles against good and evil, and Val Kilmer is a great swash-buckling swordfighter and handles the sword pretty well.
And this DVD isn't called "Special Edition" for no reason. Though it may not have as many special features as many recent movie special editions, "Willow" will satisfy you. 1) Commentary by Warwick Davis, 2) Willow: Making of an Adventure Featurette, 3) Featurette: Morf to Morphing, 4) Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery, 5) Theatrical Teasers and Trailers, 6) 8 TV Spots, and a few more. One thing you must watch is the 'Making of an Adventure Featurette'. Looking at an older Ron Howard with his mustache certainly was a little shock to me after seeing him play Opie on the "Andy Griffith Show" and acting in "Happy Days". One part that was fun about it is when they were talking about the love scenes in the movie. Val Kilmer admits that whenever he had to kiss Joanne Whalley, afterwards he always forgot his lines and no matter how many times they had to do it, he never got it right. They were married after making the movie but unfortunately, they were divorced later on.
So if you are thinking about getting "Willow", I strongly recommend that you watch it! Enjoyable for the whole family, if your children are old enough to handle some parts of the film. And if you have a chance to check out the quotes and trivia page on Amazon, I suggest you do because you can find out all sorts of things.
on January 1, 2000
A great story about a Nelwyn named Willow (Warwick Davis) who finds a baby in the river. It turns out that this baby, named Elora Dannan, is part of a profecy that was said to destroy the evil Queen Bavmorda when the child grew older. Willow sets out on an adventure with a warrior named Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) to save the baby from being killed by the queen. Fairies, trolls, dragons and sorcerers magic bring this story to life by the talents of Industrial Light and Magic. My favorite scene is when all these fairies are flying around in the woods and the head fairy Shalindria gives Willow her wand and tells him to protect the baby and how important his quest is to the whole kingdom. The brownies are very funny too. One of them is played by Kevin Pollack. I highly recommend this movie for people that really like fantasy and adventure.
I've seen some pretty poorly done transfers of older movies to Blu-Ray format, ones that look little better than the standard definition DVD version. This one looks very good. Very good indeed.
I watched this movie in Germany when it was first released, and loved it. Had it on DVD and loved it, now on blu ray and I love it even more. Very crisp and clear picture. The menu is quick, no frustrating animation that takes forever to do what you want it to do. Play kicked off right away. Even the time menu for skipping chapters is well done and very very visible - brown blocks that look like the top of a flute and a nice thumbnail of the chapter that you're jumping to.
The Extras on the DVD (deleted scenes) is nice - Ron Howard talking about the movie and things they did gives some nice insight. The only downside is the 4:3 format for some of the extras, but the deleted scenes themselves are in the widescreen format and look good, although some of them you can tell they didn't get the audio processing finished. But they give some nice insight to the story since some of them are deleted story arcs and backstory bits that they cut for time. But the sad thing is that there's only a few of them, a total of like 12 and a half minutes total, half of that is Ron Howard talking about things. I had expected a movie like this to have had more deleted scenes, but there's the other extras such as the Making Of (a little under 24 minutes long), a part about the morphing (not quite 17 and a half minutes long), the video journal of Warwick Davis (just under 11 minutes long and has some slick footage from when he was just starting acting in Return of the Jedi as a 13 year old in an Ewok outfit), and the matte paintings.
The story's been reviewed often enough so I'll just suffice it to say that it's still a joy to watch, even all these years later. The action scenes are crisp, and the special effects actually look a little less obvious than they did on the DVD. I remember the brownies and the hydra-like creature looking painfully done on the DVD, and while it's still obvious in some scenes how things were superimposed, it's far less glaring and in some scenes is not even noticeable.
If you were a fan of the movie, and have a Blu-ray player, this is a MUST have for any collection. Worth every penny, very well done.
on December 2, 2001
An ancient prophecy tells of a sacred child that will bring an end to the reign of the evil Queen Bavmorda(Jean Marsh). The sacred child is smuggled out of the castle and finds her way to Willow Ufgood(Warwick Davis). He leaves his village on a quest to return the baby but he becomes trapped in the middle of a battle beween good and evil. With the help of Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) Willow must protect the baby from the queen and her daughter Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) and fulfill the prophecy.
Willow has received a very nice transfer that is a step up from the old laser disk. It is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1). There is no edge enhancement and very little grain which is amazing for a picture from 1988. The sound however doesnt make use of the surrounds. Very few times are the rear speakers used. The film is in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround.
The audio commentary by Warwick Davis is very informative and every fan of the movie should listen to it. I just wish that George Lucas and Ron Howard participated as well. Two great featurettes are included along with several trailers and stills. Unlike most fantasy movies it is suited for all ages. Willow is a movie that I grew up with and today am still very fond of it. This film has it all, action, adventure, comedy and romance. Highly recommended.
on October 10, 2001
"Willow" is a mixed bag of different movie venues and audience reactions, ranging from originality to predictability, from exciting to downright weird. It lacks the ingenuity and spirit of such child-oriented movies as "The Neverending Story" and "The Goonies," but for the most part, it pays off, and you may be surprised to find yourself enjoying different sections of the film.
The beginning is wonderful, a highly suspenseful opening in which an evil queen brings all pregnant mothers in her kingdom before her in hopes of locating and destroying the one chosen to bring her reign of terror to an end. A midwife smuggles the child out of the castle, and before she is set upon by wildebeests, she sends the child floating down the river, where it comes to the attention of the Nelywn community.
In the world of "Willow," there are two sets of people: the Nelwyns, a community of short, midget people, and the Daikinis, regular-sized humans. The baby is a Daikini, and so Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) is called upon to return the baby to its original habitat. Setting out on the dangerous journey, he soon meets adventurous Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), and the two pair up to take the baby to its destination, which changes almost every minute as they encounter such beings as a forest fairy, and a sorceress who comes in the form of a rat, a bird, a goat, etc.
The movie isn't really interested in setting a straight course for itself. The constant changing of setting, pace, and destination are all a reminder that a movie such as this is more of a device for action and humor rather than logical plot. Because this movie is aimed at children, and has a childlike quality of its own, it gets away with such a tactic.
Having said that, the film is exceptionally entertaining. It's full of humor and yes, even a little bit of suspense, likeable characters, who are sometimes so goofy and cumbersome that you'll laugh until you cry, and a story that is the stuff dreams are made of. Kilmer's character is a throwback of sorts to the swashbuckling heroes of yesteryear, while Davis is a hero as well, and the one we all come out rooting for.
The action sequences are mindless good fun, ranging from a high-speed horse chase to some showdowns at various castles throughout the land. These scenes all give Lucas and director Ron Howard a chance to showcase some of the finer set pieces in a children's movie, from knights in armor and beautiful yet foreboding vistas, to dark, gothic castles and otherworldly creatures conjured out of magical powers.
Watching the movie as an adult proves to be far different than from seeing it in my childhood. As a child, I remembered the excitement of such scenes, and looking back on them, I find that it is unfair to dismiss the movie on its logic. I do find that some scenes are somewhat disturbing for younger children, at whom the movie is aimed, such as the sequence in which a two-headed dragon rises out of a river; they seem a bit too daring for a children's movie.
The fantasy land created in "Willow" lives up to the expectations of the genre, and even goes a bit further. The story is a bit befuddled, but paying attention to its flaws takes away from the fun and excitement it has in spinning its tale. The special effects are dazzling without being jaw-dropping, and the action is intense without being gratuitous. As a children's movie, "Willow" is pure, nonsensical satisfaction.
on September 12, 2000
WILLOW is a terrific movie, one of my favorites of all time. Val Kilmer, who can often seem a little too "weird" or simply annoyed to be there in some of his other roles, is the perfect reluctant hero. Joanne Whaley (Kilmer) is the best female fantasy character ever filmed. She's neither too vulnerable nor too testosteroned. The only other "princess" that can even hold a candle to her is Buttercup from THE PRINCESS BRIDE, but as much as I love TPB, I feel that Sorsha is a cooler heroine. Warwick Davis puts in an excellent central performance and is the heart of the film. The special effects were terrific, the story is simple yet rich, so that the film stands up to repeated viewings. Simply put, this was the last great fantasy film, and certainly one of the best of all time.
Now if only they would release it on DVD. My VHS copy long ago went the way of the socks in the dryer (i.e. lost between moves). I know Lucas invested $$ in Laserdisc, but it's time for him to give it up and release STAR WARS, RAIDERS, and WILLOW on DVD. Pretty please George?
on January 7, 2001
Admit it. Willow is the best fantasy genre movie ever madesince the 80's, next to The Princess Bride.
All around, the actingis excellent. Of the lead roles, Val Kilmer nearly steals the show, playing one of his best roles ever as legendary Madmartigan as if he was born for it.
For the fantasy gamer out there, this movie has it all. Powerful swordsmen, novitiate wizards and mighty sorcerers, thieves, brownies, fairies, trolls, worgs, castles and kingdoms, and more -- everything a fantasy story should have to stimulate the imagination of young and old.
Willow doesn't make the mistake that they made in the Dungeons and Dragons movie that came out at the end of 2000. If you know the good guys are going to win, you just can't expect to capitalize on drama, suspense, and beating sheer odds -- Hello Hollywood, that's only fun with dice! In Willow, the jokes and dialogue are playful, colorful, and plentiful. And they don't go anachronistic! Argh! Don't expect to sustain yourself on drama and suspense when writing a kid's fantasy movie.
Willow of course makes none of these mistakes. The soundtrack is great, the replay value is excellent, the jokes make you laugh out loud. If you know what's good for you, you'll eat your blackroot and watch this movie!
on April 11, 2005
Contrary to popular belief, there were fantasy films made before The Lord of the Rings series, and some of them are excellent, as is the case with Willow (1988), which I not only had the pleasure of seeing in the theatres when it was originally released, but also watching it last night as I now own the DVD. I suppose comparisons of this film with others could be made, especially since nearly all epic fantasy adventure films involve a quest of sorts, but I'll just be talking about this film, and why it's worth anyone's interest to see it if they haven't already. By the way, I read George Lucas, who not only produced but also had a hand in writing this movie, had two sequels planned, but after the box office totals barely covered the cost to make the film, said sequels got nixed, only seeing the light of day in novel form (it's not that the film did poorly, but the production costs incredibly high as the technology to create the effects was cutting edge at the time, and the production itself was huge, including a cast of literally hundreds). Directed by Ron `Lil Opie Cunningham' Howard, the film stars Warwick Davis, who would later go on to appear in a number of Leprechaun films as the title character. Also appearing is Val Kilmer (Real Genius, Top Gun), Joanne Whalley (Scandal, Navy SEALS) -incidentally, Kilmer and Whalley got married after meeting on this film...it didn't last---, Jean Marsh (Jane Eyre, Frenzy), Billy Barty (Under the Rainbow), Pat Roach (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Gavan O'Herlihy (Never Say Never Again), Rick Overton (Groundhog Day), and Kevin Pollak (Grumpy Old Men, The Usual Suspects).
As the story begins, we learn that the evil Queen Bavmorda's (Marsh) reign of terror is strong, and virtually unopposed, due to a mixture of her own magical prowess and the ferocious strength of her Nockmaar army, lead by the skull-masked General Kael (Roach). But there's a fly in the ointment...prophecy says a baby will be born (one with a mark), and that baby will bring forth the destruction of not only Queen Bavmorda, but the evil she's spread across the lands. This causes Bavmorda to send her minions, including her daughter Sorsha (Whalley), to scour the lands, as the Queen must retrieve the newborn for some sort of ritual. The baby is born, but spirited away by a sympathetic midwife, only to end up in the hands of a Nelwyn (people diminutive in size) named Willow (Warwick). It's decided that Willow should take the baby forth and relinquish her to the first Daikini (`normal' sized people) he meets, which happens to be a roguish sort named Madmartigan (Kilmer). Various events take place and eventually Willow ends up with another quest, one involving delivering the babe to a faraway kingdom, assisted by motley crew including Madmartigan, a couple of Brownies (itty bitty people), and a sorceress, all while being pursued by Bavmorda's deadly forces. Will Willow find the strength and courage to protect the child and deliver her to safety? Or will Bavmorda and her forces succeed, solidifying her stranglehold on the lands, plunging them forever into the darkness?
One thing people should know that when Willow came out in the late 80's, it was ahead of its time in terms of special effects, being the first feature to utilize the effect of `morphing', or the visual transformation of a character into something else (the technology was also highlighted in Michael Jackson's early 90's video Black or White). But this isn't to say the film relied on special effects to prop up film as they're incorporated to support the fairly detailed and well-developed story. There were a couple of things that have always felt a little odd to me, like the battle scene at Tir Asleen featuring sometimes cartoonish looking trolls, or that whole `sledding' sequence followed by Madmartigan rolling down the hill in a giant snowball (I've only really ever seen this done believably within cartoons), but the strengths of the film far outweigh these minor elements. Director Howard does a really great job balancing out the action, presenting an engaging and epic adventure throughout. I thought the overall casting to be very well done, and many of the performances perfectly suited for the characters. I especially liked Marsh's performance as Queen Bavmorda, as she reminded me of those evil witch-type characters from the classic Disney cartoons, not only in her dress, but also her demeanor. There was a sense of her character being over the top at times, but it didn't detract from the film at all, given the fantasy nature of the story. I also appreciated the comical elements of the Brownies Franjean and Rool, played respectively by Overton and Pollock...some have criticized this aspect, but I thought their goofiness was well placed. Also, I was amazed how the filmmakers were able to get the baby (whose name we later learn as Elora Danan), played by twins Ruth and Kate Greenfield, to express and react as appropriately as they, the twins, did, given the various situations in the story. I suppose it's easy enough to make a baby cry, but it went far beyond that, as the character seemed aware of much more than we would have given a child of that age credit for...one thing I thought was done well was the romantical element that eventually developed between two of the main characters...it's pretty rare to have a story like this and not have something along those lines, but here it was blended in nicely rather than thrust upon the audience as the fulfillment of a requirement. The film is filled with vast, vibrant, beautiful location shots and wonderfully developed sets, and features an amazing musical score by composer James Horner.
The anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) picture on this DVD is sharp and clear, and the Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround is as good as I've ever heard. There are a few special features including featurettes titled Willow: The Making of an Adventure, and From Morf to Morphing: The Dawn of Digital Filmmaking, along with some TV spots and trailers, a photo gallery, a THX Optimizer, and a commentary track with Warwick Davis. The film may not be suitable for very young viewers, as there's a good deal of scariness, especially during the battle of Tir Asleen featuring a two-headed beastie I've heard was named Eborsisk after film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.
on March 12, 2013
Based on some recent older films being released on Blu-ray I didn't expect the best transfer for Willow, however the video quality and the audio quality are outstanding. I was very suprised and quite happy with the purchase over-all. The extras are decent for this particular movie and we will enjoy it again and again for years to come.
Many claim 'Willow' bears uncanny resemblances to Lord of the Rings and Star Wars (Madmartigan is Han Solo with a sword instead of a gun, and the short, pastorial, innocent Nelwyns are highly reminisent of the Shire-dwelling Hobbits). Though this is true, both Star Wars and Lord of the Rings are good books/movies - thus reason dictates that 'Willow' is too! People of all ages should enjoy this movie, centred on the universal theme that just one person can make a difference, and filled with adventure, romance, comedy, danger and intrigue.
The story is centred around a baby rather than a Ring, and the infant is not to be destroyed, but saved at all costs. The reason is that this child - Elora Danan - is prophesied to bring about the downfall of the tyrannical Queen Bavmorda (played to great effect by Jean Marsh). Through a series of fortunate events, Elora escapes the clutches of the Queen and comes to the Nelwyn village, a small community of tiny woodland folk, and the guardianship of the sorcerer wannabe - Willow Ufgood (played by Warwick Davis in perhaps the best role of his career - for once he's not hidden behind a mask or facial prosthetics!) Because the presence of the baby puts the community at risk, Willow is chosen to take the baby far away, into the care of the Dakini (or human) race. On the way, Willow has (inevitably) many amazing adventures with a series of diverse characters, learning not only of Elora's true destiny, but that even someone as small as he can have an impact on the world.
The story, on the whole, hangs together well, although there is some back-and-forth travelling between the characters, and some logic flaws (ie. there's no way even a magical baby could survive even half the things that Elora does, and Sorsha is accepted without question into the ranks of the 'good guys').
The movie makes up for these faults by presenting a wide range of interesting and well-portrayed characters that fit perfectly into the fanasty genre - no one should be disappointed by the variety, whether it be from the shape-changing enchantress Fin Raziel (Patricia Hayes), to the skeleton-masked Kael (Pat Roach), the etheral faerie Cherlindrea (Maria Holvoe) to the comic relief - the brownies Rool (Kevin Pollack) and Franjean (Rick Overton). Likewise, the scenery and sets are beautiful (Lord of the Rings wasn't the first to discover New Zealand!) and most of the special effects hold up reasonably well against today's technology. Furthermore, the musical score is lovely - both poignant and heroic, and the costumes are colourful but realistic.
Although the love/hate romance between the stars of the movie (Val Kilmer as Madmortigan and Joanne Whalley as Bavmorda's daughter Sorsha) is a nice twist on the typical fairytale treatment, it could of been handled better, especially since the two actors fell in love on set (although they did later divorce...). Oh well, this is only a minor gripe, and by no means ruins the story.
The major dampener is nothing to do with the movie, but with the DVD, as it does not include the vast majority of deleted scenes that were filmed but never shown. If you're interested, they include: scenes that deepen the friendship between Willow and Meegosh, and gives a legitimate reason as to why Meegosh would leave his friend (he breaks his arm when falling down the brownie pit); a run-in with a sea-monster when Willow rows out to Raziel's island; important background information on Sorsha, explaining that her father was the ruler of Tir Asleen and once in love with Raziel until Bavmorda placed him under a love spell before turning him to stone along with the rest of his kingdom; a large battle sequence between Airk and Kael's troops; banter between Kael and a captured Madmortigan; Sorsha calling Willow into her tent to tend for Elora where they discuss Madmortigan; Airk questioning Sorsha's sudden change from evil to good; and Sorsha actually *using* the quiver of arrows she carries around on her back for the entire movie.
These deleted scenes could have made up a substantial part of the DVD and heightened it's collectibility considerably. Perhaps before buying this DVD we should wait a bit longer and see if they are released on another edition in the future.
If you like the Willow movie and are interested in 'what happens next' - try tracking down the trilogy of books that are set after the events in 'Willow' - Shadow Moon, Shadow Dawn and Shadow Star.