on July 24, 2014
WILLOW  [25th Anniversary Edition] [Blu-ray + DVD] The Next Great Adventure! Even More Magic On Blu-ray!
Journey to the far corners of your imagination with ‘WILLOW,’ for the first time ever on Blu-ray! Now fully digitally restored, this release features a dazzling array of extras, including new, never-before-seen exclusive content.
From legendary filmmakers George Lucas and Ron Howard comes a timeless fantasy tale in which heroes comes 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!
FILM FACT: At the Academy Awards® the film was nominated for Sound Editing and Visual Effects. The film won Best Costume Design at the Saturn Awards, where it was also nominated for Warwick Davis for Best Performance by a Younger Actor and Jean Marsh for Best Supporting Actress.
Cast: Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Warwick Davis, Jean Marsh, Patricia Hayes, Billy Barty, Pat Roach, Gavan O'Herlihy, David Steinberg, Phil Fondacaro, Tony Cox, Robert Gillibrand, Mark Northover, Kevin Pollak, Rick Overton, Maria Holvoe, Julie Peters, Mark Vande Brake, Dawn Downing, Michael Cotterill, Zulema Dene, Joanna Dickens, Jennifer Guy, Ron Tarr, Sallyanne Law, Ruth Greenfield, Kate Greenfield, Edwin Alofs (uncredited), Kenny Baker (uncredited), Malcolm Dixon (uncredited), Cheryl Howard (uncredited), Greg Powell (uncredited), Jack Purvis (uncredited) and Ashley C. Williams (uncredited)
Director: Ron Howard
Producers: George Lucas, Joe Johnston, Nigel Wooll
Screenplay: Bob Dolman and George Lucas
Composer: James Horner
Cinematography: Adrian Biddle
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish: 5.1 Dolby Digital, French: 5.1 DTS, German: 5.1 DTS, Italian: 5.1 DTS, Spanish: 5.1 DTS and Japanese: 5.1 DTS
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Japanese, German, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian and Swedish
Running Time: 126 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 2
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: Courage, heroism and greatness comes in all shapes and sizes and from some of the most unexpected places in Ron Howard's 'WILLOW.' From the oft-visionary mind of George Lucas and the CGI wizardry of George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic, the family film delivers entertaining popcorn escapism while introducing a host of memorable characters. Brimming with spectacle, enchantment, and a great deal of imagination, the sword-and-sorcery fantasy tale plays out in traditional form as an epic adventure to protect a child destined to defeat an evil witch queen. Keeping strictly to formula leaves little room for surprises. The story is also interrupted by some pacing issues early on, but the journey thankfully ends in satisfying fashion, with plenty of hearty laughs and customary happy reunions.
The story follows Willow Ufgood [Warwick Davis], a lowly farmer with a lovely, caring family, but with aspirations of someday becoming a great and powerful wizard. Unfortunately, our soon-to-be unwitting hero lacks the confidence and mettle to even take a stand against who seems like the tallest person of the village, Burglekutt [Mark Northover]. Also, if we go by the looks of the current village wizard [Billy Barty], Willow would need the requisite long white beard, a decorated staff, pointy hat, and probably live a somewhat hermit-like existence. Where does a family fit into all this? What to do when the kids tell dad they're embarrassed he still dresses like a hippie and that he reads from animal bones he's scattered all over the floor? Luckily, he has a supportive wife [Julie Peters] who encourages his dreams but is none too happy that he must now venture off into the world.
Willow Ufgood's quest to go beyond the borders of his village begins soon after his children discover a human baby in a nearby river. On his journey to find another human adult with whom to leave the baby, Elora Danan [Kate Greenfield], Willow Ufgood bumps into Val Kilmer, playing a fast-talking, smarmy, and grossly arrogant prisoner who boasts of being a great warrior named Madmartigan [Val Kilmer]. The character is not much of a stretch for someone of Val Kilmer's calibre and he's at his best as a likeable cocky, self-important schmuck, but it's a terrifically memorable performance, arguably on par with the actor's Jim Morrison and Doc Holliday roles. He manages a great balance of slapstick comedy, as romantic interest to Joanne Whalley's warrior Sorsha and as standard inspiring-hero type. More importantly, Kilmer has a delightful camaraderie with Warwick Davis that feels genuine and comical, playing off each other with excellent timing which sees neither of the actors as sidekick to the other.
Their friendship grows or rather, is brought together by both a concern for the baby's safety and their slow realisation of a common enemy, played with animated caricature by Jean Marsh. As the villainous evil witch Queen Bavmorda [Jean Marsh] chews up the scenery with an oddly charming exaggeration that almost borders on parody. It's just too over-the-top and amplified to be taken seriously by any measure, particularly when the character looks as if she raided the closets of Maleficent and the Queen from Disney's 'Snow White.' Queen Bavmorda's leading henchman General Kael [Pat Roach], with his terrifyingly cool skull helmet, is a bit more developed as a formidable and determined foe, but even he's mostly the obligatory and familiar bad guy who eventually meets his match once the arrogant Madmartigan learns humility and loyalty to a cause.
What makes 'WILLOW' feel largely conventional and routine, which can be viewed both as the film's drawback and strength, is George Lucas borrowing heavily and taking inspiration from some very familiar sources. At times, the story even seems like a reworking of Lucas' own 'Star Wars' mythology, down to the Brownies [Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton] as the bumbling comic relief C-3PO and R2-D2. Nevertheless, director Ron Howard, who was enjoying early success as a filmmaker at the time with 'SPLASH' and 'COCOON,' does what he can to never let the fantasy-adventure film spiral too far into pastiche. He accomplishes an enjoyable piece of entertainment with plenty of laughter and action for the whole family.
Blu-ray Video Quality – It states that it is "Digitally restored and re-mastered" you know, the usual marketing phrasing and 'WILLOW' morphs onto Blu-ray with an excellent video presentation, given the film's age and style. The original photography of Adrian Biddle doesn't really lend itself in spectacular fashion to the high-definition format, but the 1080p encoded image is admirable nonetheless and faithful to the source. The majority of the film falls on the softer side of things with the special-effects sequences looking the worst, but overall resolution and definition offers a first-class upgrade over previous home video editions. Fine object details are fairly sharp and strong while textures in clothing and facial complexions offer plenty of rich, distinct clarity. Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, it is clear some minor enhancements have been made to polish some of the visual effects. But thankfully, it's nothing too intrusive, just an effort to make certain scenes appear cleaner without completely removing their obvious remnants of early, outdated CGI work. The transfer comes with a consistent, very-fine layer of grain throughout, giving the image an appreciable cinematic feel. Colours are bold and cleanly-rendered. It's not a very dramatic palette, favouring the softer pastel hues and earth tones, but primaries are energetic and attractive. Contrast is well-balanced and brilliant with crisp, clean whites, which is particularly noticeable during the sled escape down a snowy mountain. Black levels are deep and true with excellent shadow detailing, making this high-definition presentation an easy one to love.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The real surprise of this Blu-ray is definitely the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sound track, which is simply spectacular. Some digital tweaking and tinkering has taken place, which amazingly improves upon the overall quality of the design for the better. Most apparent is the endless amount of activity in the rears, delivering plenty of discrete and convincing atmospherics. From the constant noise of the surrounding wildlife to arrows landing behind the listener and fire swooshing across the room, the sound mix is splendidly immersive and highly engaging. James Horner's musical score also spreads into the back with very little effort, further enhancing and expanding the sound field. In the front, dynamic range is remarkably broad and extensive with stunning separation between the mids and highs. You can clearly make out each note and instrument in the orchestration, and the continuous clarity in the sword fighting while a two-headed monster shoots fire at terrified soldiers is astounding for a movie of this age and there's never the slightest hint of distortion or noise in the upper ranges. The low-end is incredibly responsive and accurate with a robust punchiness that adds depth to the music and serious weight to action sequences. Dialogue is precise and intelligible at all times. With a detailed and well-balanced soundstage that keeps viewers entertained, 'WILLOW' performs its magic on Blu-ray with this excellent and enveloping high-resolution track.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Deleted Scenes with Ron Howard Commentary [1080p] [15:00] Ron Howard tells us, “That ‘WILLOW’ was my first big cinematic adventure," and goes onto explain in this short making-of documentary and shows some of the film's deleted scenes, including a whole subplot about Sorsha's father, ‘WILLOW’ dazzling a troll with sleight-of-hand magic, and a Jaws-like "fish boy" sequence that was too difficult to pull off with the then-contemporary VFX. We also get set pieces with cast and crew interviews and tons of behind-the-scene footage.
Special Feature: The Making of an Adventure with Ron Howard Introduction  [1080i] [23:39] In this 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.
Special Feature: From Morf to Morphing with Dennis Muren  [1080i] [17:24] Visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren who's since worked on 'Jurassic Park' and 'Terminator 2,' among many other films introduces a documentary about the Industrial Light & Magic's effects shots in the film, specifically the use of then-nascent digital effects. It’s truly documenting the dawn of digital technology in filmmaking as described by Dennis Muren, George Lucas, and other ILM personnel.
Special Feature: Willow: An Unlikely Hero and Personal Video Diary of Warwick Davis [1080p] [10:53] Warwick Davis reminisces and talks fondly of his time on set and doing some of his own stunts while also sharing his personal video diary, which he shot on camcorder video.
Special Feature: Matte Paintings Gallery [1080p] [1:09] A collection of composite shot montages of the film's matte painting with music and very brief bits of dialogue.
Special Feature: Easter Eggs: Owners are given one last hidden gem. Under the "Extras" banner, scroll to the "Willow: An Unlikely Hero" documentary and push up on the cursor. The "W" in the top centre of the screen will highlight. When pressing enter, viewers can enjoy one final video clip with star Warwick Davis making an interesting observation with the letter "W."
Finally, despite some negligible drawbacks, 'WILLOW' remains a delightful and entertaining fantasy adventure for the whole family, with memorable performances from Val Kilmer and Warwick Davis. Celebrating its 25th Anniversary, director Ron Howard's film succeeds by not spiralling into pastiche and manages to keep the story afloat with a satisfying yet predictable conclusion. The Blu-ray arrives with great picture quality and a highly-impressive audio presentation. Supplements are ported over from previous versions, but this high-definition edition also offers a couple new surprises, making the package one fans will surely want to pick up. 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray re-master is itself the stuff of legend and a near-perfect transfer of a 1980s release and the disc includes lots of fun special features, including some rarely seen deleted scenes and Warwick Davis' charming video diaries, and is especially ideal for all age groups. Again like other films of this era that I saw in the cinema, I loved it then and now I love it even more, as the magic is still there and has been brought back to life again with this stunning Blu-ray treatment and such an honour to have it in my Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom