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Willow
DVD disk
Oct 7, 2004 By: Tony Pacemaker
Willow order
Director:
Ron Howard

Actors:
Warwick Davis
Val Kilmer
Joanne Whalley

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Willow, a Nelwyn, finds an abandoned Dakini (tall person) baby, which according to prophecy, will ultimately triumph over the evil Queen Baymorda. Willow's quest is to protect this child from the queen. He is aided by companions he meets along his way, such as the Brownies, and the rogue swordsman, Madmartigan (Val Kilmer).
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
I want to say from a nostalgia perspective, yes...but during my viewing of this film, I recalled not being that pumped about it as a younger lad either. I am a huge fan of the fantasy genre, but seem to remember several other fantasy films (i.e. LEGEND, LABYRINTH) that are much better than this one. In fact, there are hundreds of fantasy stories that have very similar elements as this film (unlikely hero, evil queen, reluctant warrior, etc...), and while there is a beauty to the repetition of epic themes, it just didn't pan out in this film. I, personally, couldn't get past some of the acting. There was a lot that was way, way over the top, or completely devoid of genuine emotion all together. Jean Marsh (the Queen) is so melodramatically evil they should have given her a waxed moustache to twist from time to time. And Mark Northover's (Burglekutt) performance just felt forced.

There's also the Brownies here as the comic relief. The quasi-French accents are funny at first, and there are a couple of decent one-liners here and there, but the whole routine gets real old, real fast. And the blue screen effects used for them are glaring most of the time. The climatic battle between the Queen and Fin Raziel (Patricia Hayes), both sorcerers, could also have been very exciting and creative, but it ended up being somewhat ridiculous and hackneyed. I set you on fire, you blow ice at me, I spin you in the air a few times, and then you choke me. Val Kilmer is one of my favorite actors, he is incredibly versatile, and that is very evident the character of Madmartigan, one of the few bright spots in the film. Sure, it's the Han Solo role of the film, but Kilmer does it justice. He's got a lot of natural comedy bits that he does in the film that play well, and he convinced me that he was a bad ass even though we don't actually see him pick up a sword until well into the movie.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary by Warwick Davis: Wow, Willow himself on the commentary track. Mysteriously absent were Lucas and Howard, but they are probably busy these days. Anyway, Davis' commentary is very detailed, with very little dead air. However, there were a lot of pats on the back he gave himself, and some of the comments he made gave me the impression that he thought that we (the movie-going public) have never ever seen a film before in our lives (Oh, they used a stunt double when Willow fell 20 feet? Tell me more.) He also tended to repeat himself, but he does shell out quite a bit of trivia about the movie, as well as a few neat stories about the production itself. You actually get to see the guy who plays R2-D2 as an extra! And Davis points out which actors were Ewoks, and who was in Time Bandits, and he even references his role in the Leprechaun movies (hell, yeah).

Willow: Making of an Adventure Featurette: The trailer voice guy (you know who I'm talking about) says stuff during this like "So prepare yourself for an epic adventure..." This featurette was made in 1988 and has interviews with Ron Howard, Lucas, and the cast as well as some behind the scenes footage. It is a basically a sales pitch for the film. Most of it is clips of the film and a description of the plot. Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton (the Brownies) add a bit of comedy by being shot in character for their interviews (i.e. As Brownies they are very small and complain about the Barbie house that has been provided to them for accommodations). I usually despise these types of self-congratulatory- almost-an-infomercial vignettes, and this is no exception. Not a real "value add" for the DVD at all. Lasts approximately 20 minutes.

From Morf to Morphing: The Dawn of Digital Filmmaking: This is a new documentary about the special effects behind the transformation scene in the film where Willow tries to magically turn Fin Raziel back into a woman (she starts out as a rodent). Apparently morphing was invented during and for this film. This is explained in interviews with Howard, Lucas, Dennis Muren (Senior Visual Effects Supervisor and Lucasfilm bigwig), Doug Smythe (Associate Visual Effects Supervisor), and other members of the visual effects team. They discuss the motivations for wanting morphing in WILLOW, as well as the techniques used to accomplish this. I found this to be personally fascinating as morphing became widely used after this film, and it is really a precursor to the CGI that we know in films today. Last about 17 minutes.

The remaining special features on this DVD are TV spots, trailers, and a photo gallery. I could have taken or left the trailers and TV commercials, but the photo gallery had some pretty cool cast and behind-the-scenes shots.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
The video and audio transfer is high quality and easily the most outstanding feature of the DVD. The movie itself is somewhat campy, not the best fantasy film I've seen, and just leaves a bit to be desired. Speaking of bits to be desired, I thought that a Special Edition DVD would have quite a few more extras than this one did. Realistically folks, unless you are a huge fan of the film, make this one a rental at best.
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