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Blu-ray Review: Willow (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Willow BD combo box art croppedGenre: Fantasy | Adventure

Director: Ron Howard

Writer: George Lucas (story), Bob Dolman (screenplay)

Cast: Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Jean Marsh

MPAA Rating: PG

Total Run Time: BD 3:11:50, DVD 2:06:00

Synopsis:

Journey to the far corners of your imagination with Willow, for the first time ever on stunning Blu-ray! Written and produced by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard, the film tells a timeless fantasy tale in which heroes come in all sizes…and adventure is the greatest magic of all. In celebration of its 25th anniversary, the unforgettable classic has been fully digitally restored and debuts on Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack March 12, 2013 from Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

When young Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis; Harry Potter franchise) finds an abandoned baby girl, he learns she is destined to end the reign of the wicked Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh; Upstairs, Downstairs). In order to protect the child, Willow must team up with a rogue swordsman (Val Kilmer; Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang) and overcome the forces of darkness in the ultimate battle of good versus evil!

Trailer : Willow – Blu-ray 
YouTube Preview Image

Before Frodo and his friends went to Mordor, before Bilbo went to the Misty Mountains, at least before they went there successfully in theatres, even before they went to New Zealand to film, Willow was there first. Directed by Ron Howard from a story by George Lucas, it was one of the first epic journey fantasy movies ever. It is enchanting.

It’s quieter than the Tolkien-based moves, not as gruesome, not as visually astounding, but there are some nice similarities. An unlikely hero, small in stature, on a quest that he couldn’t possibly accomplish on his own, but has the help of some excellent friends. The trolls are very different, and there are 6 inch tall brownies who provide the comic relief in this outing – Kevin Pollack, I kid you not – and a beautiful ethereal lady in a flowing white dress, and wow, that New Zealand landscape. There is an entity who is evil incarnate – a witch queen this time – who has powerful minions. Call it Tolkien Lite, if you will. But there are enough differences that Willow easily stands on its own as a sweet, fun fantasy adventure.

Directed by Ron Howard, based on a story by George Lucas, the special effects of this movie were created by Industrial Light & Magic and were cutting-edge in 1988 – see the Special Features discussion below for more about just how cutting-edge. Ron Howard says in one of the bonus features that Willow was epic when it came out, but with all of the technological advances in the past 25 years, it now seems kind of quaint. I’ll take quaint. I love this movie. But that reference to technological advances is a nice segue into the Blu-ray aspect of this movie.

I am happy to  report that the restoration and digital conversion for the 25th anniversary of Willow is stunning. If you didn’t know better, you’d think the movie was made in the digital age. The amount of detail you can see on any given Blu-ray disc is exceptional, but that detail can have the nasty side effect of making a movie look flat, and special effects look tacky. That absolutely does not happen here. There are one or two effects that look slightly dated and/or not fully integrated into a scene, but they are rare. There is no “wait, is that a wire?” or “yowie, that is some bad CG work” here.

The brownies do stand out a little, a nod to their greenscreen filming, but it looks like that may have been necessary. They are very small on the screen, and their color palette is often very similar to the scenery. By making the edges and focus slightly harsh, they don’t get lost.

But there are plenty of other interesting creatures and giant landscapes that clearly required special effects and they do not disappoint. This Blu-ray version of Willow is absolutely beautiful.

Special Features (Blu-ray only)

That “quaint” remark by Ron Howard comes in his new introduction to one of the bonus features, “The Making of an Adventure”, which was clearly a made-for-TV special from back in the day, judging from the visual quality (NOT converted) and the title screens that pop up occasionally and indicate commercial breaks. My favorite part? “Something called a ‘blue screen’” – yes kids, there was a time when that was a new idea.

But speaking of new ideas… this was news to me, or at least something I had forgotten, but “morphing” was a term coined by, and a process developed by, the Willow special effects team. Wow. Certainly it would have come along sooner or later, but wow. And here’s something that to me is equally impressive: the morphing scenes look like they were made this year. That technology was that good right from the start. Clearly, the right people were in on the beginning of this.

The two completely new special features are both quite nicely done. Unlike several “deleted scenes” features found on other Blu-ray/DVD offerings, these are more than a few deleted scenes; they are deleted storylines. In this feature Ron Howard reveals the storylines that had to be removed and explains why they were removed, as narration to the discarded clips.

Warwick Davis‘s video diary is sweet. He was 18 years old when Willow was filmed, and he had a fancy new camcorder that he used to record bits and pieces of the sets, crew, and more. The featurette is comprised of those video bits over which current-day Davis tells the story of his long-ago video work and some of the better, more interesting, and sometimes more harrowing aspects of making the movie.

The “Matte Paintings” feature shows some of the more epic paintings, and their integration into the final version of those scenes. It is really impressive work.

The “Easter Egg”? I’ll leave that for you to figure out. Okay okay, I have no idea, I haven’t had the chance to find out. Good luck!

Special Features
WILLOW is presented in widescreen with 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio (Lossless). Special features include:
● NEW Willow: Deleted Scenes with Ron Howard
● NEW Willow: An Unlikely Hero Personal Video Diary of Warwick Davis
● The Making of an Adventure with an all new introduction from Ron Howard
● From Morf to Morphing with an all new introduction from Dennis Muren
● Matte Paintings
● Easter Egg

WILLOW BLU-RAY: (Catalog # 2283981)
Street Date: March 12, 2013
Screen Format: 16:9
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD-MA
French 5.1 DTS
Spanish 5.1 DTS
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
U.S. Rating: PG
Total Run Time: 03:11:50
Closed Captioned: Yes
WILLOW DVD: (Catalog # 2283982)
Street Date: March 12, 2013
Screen Format: 16:9
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD-MA
French 2.0 Surround DD
Spanish 2.0 Surround DD
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
U.S. Rating: PG
Total Run Time: 02:06:00
Closed Captioned: Yes

The packaging of this combo set is standard, but with lovely artwork on the slipcover and clamshell case. There are two discs, one Blu-ray and one DVD, so you can watch it on your giant screen in Blu-ray, or take it on a trip and watch the DVD on your laptop. In other words, it’s perfect for me, and hopefully for you as well. Again, just a note that the special features are only on the Blu-ray version, so if you don’t have a Blu-ray player and want to get this new digitally restored version just for the DVD, borrow a friend’s PlayStation 3 to see the special features.

If you are a fan of the original non-digital version of Willow, you are going to love this, and clearly you need to add this to your collection. Fantasy movie fans, you need this. Val Kilmer fans, get this movie, he’s a biscuit. Joanne Whalley fans, ditto. If you’re looking for a fun way to lose yourself for a couple of hours, in something beautiful and epic and enchanting but not too heavy, this is for you.

I give Willow (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) Five Out of Five Stars.
fivestars

 

 

Willow (Blu-ray DVD Combo) is available to order from Amazon now! Here’s the link:

Willow (Blu-ray / DVD Combo) (Blu-ray)

Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Warwick Davis, Jean Marsh, Patricia Hayes
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

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!
List Price: $24.99 USD
New From: $15.86 USD In Stock
Used from: $11.96 USD In Stock

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