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Category:    Home > Reviews > Fantasy > Action > Magic > Battles > Willow – 25TH Anniversary Edition (1988/LucasFilm/Fox Blu-ray w/DVD)

Willow – 25TH Anniversary Edition (1988/LucasFilm/Fox Blu-ray w/DVD)

Picture: B & C+     Sound: B+ & B-     Extras: D     Film: B+


Willow (1988) is the tale of unwitting hero that proves adventure can happen when you least expect it.  From the visionary minds of Director Ron Howard and George Lucas (with a lot of help from Industrial Light and Magic) Willow uses the classic elements of magic, wisdom, and power to set the stage of an epic tale.

Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) is our unwitting hero who has dreams (despite his size) to be a great and powerful wizard.  Willow is a farmer as well as a loving, devoted father; but his ambitions center on magic and power.  Seemingly Willow has no chance of ever being the great wizard he desires; his lacks of confidence, know-how, and opportunity have left him stagnant in his small village.  If Willow wasn’t going out to find adventure, however, it looks like adventure found him.

Willow’s children find a human baby by the river and Willow accepts the responsibility of returning the baby (Elora) to the human world.  Not long into his journey Willow comes across a brash, cocky, seemingly powerful prisoner named Madmartigan (Val Kilmer).  Madmartigan swears to Willow that he is a strong, seasoned warrior and soon a relationship develops.  From the beginning we have Warwick Davis and Kilmer playing off of each other like Laurel and Hardy, almost with slapstick sensibilities.  The film becomes that road adventure, reminiscent of Indiana Jones but not quite hitting the mark.  The duo develops a bond by coming together to ensure the baby’s safety and as we later discover a common enemy in the form of Bavmorda (Jean Marsh), a witch bent on hunting down and killing the infant.  Bavmorda’s magic and power are only heightened by the powerful army that stands behind her, led by General Kael (Pat Roach).  General Kael is a daunting force, standing tall with the height and muscle of a giant; striking fear into the heart of his enemies with a skull emblazoned face mask and horned helmet.

The film has the George Lucas penned tale using classic archetypes just as he did in Star Wars; in fact he even seems to heavily borrow from Star Wars and even Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  He using the unlikely hero, the bumbling sidekicks (The Brownies), the seemingly unstoppable foes, and many other elements to his advantage; but concurrently the film does (at times) have a slow pace and unbalanced feeling.

Personally, I find that the film has stood up well over the past 25 years and remains fun, relevant, and well made.  Even with the minor gripes here and there with pacing, over the top (almost parody-like) characters, and clichés Willow is a great film that I am even tempted to call a classic.

The picture, sound, and extras for this 25th Anniversary Blu-ray are far from perfect and I am not certain why.  Poor source material or lack of effort, not quite sure, but again not perfect.   The Blu-ray is a 1080p AVC-encoded, MPEG-4, 2.40 X 1 widescreen presentation that claims to be remastered, but I don’t see it.  Certainly far better than any recent TV presentation or DVD I have seen including the anamorphically enhanced DVD included here, but less than I expected for this film favorite.   There is a fine element of grain that doesn’t detract from the viewing experience, if not improving it.  The image is soft at times, though finer details/textures do stand out with skin tones being appreciable.   Colors are bright and bold, though the outdated CGI can be distracting; with another positive factor being the deep, inky, framing black levels. 

The sound is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless mix off of the original 4.1 70mm blow-up print soundmaster that featured Dolby’s superior Spectral Recording (SR) noise reduction system that none of the original Star Wars Trilogy had the opportunity to enjoy because it had just debuted.  The mix has been cleaned up and expanded, utilizing the entire soundscape with musical scores, action, and dialogue all shining through.  The film’s sound is not perfect but has atmosphere and range.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is not bad, but no match for the DTS-MA here.

Extras are very disappointing as (even being a 25th Anniversary presentation) only minimal extras are included:

·         Matte Paintings

·         Deleted Scenes

·         Willow and Unlikely Hero (featurette)

·         From Morf to Morphing (featurette)

·         Making of an Adventure: with all new intro from Ron Howard (featurette)


-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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