Fantasy films have become hot again thanks to the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. It’s no wonder that this adventure from Ron Howard would make its way to Blu-ray. The film may not have aged exactly well, but it does introduce us to the talent named Warwick Davis.
Evil queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh) has been given a prophecy. A child born with a peculiar birthmark will be the one that brings about her downfall. She has sent her militaristic daughter Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) to gather all the pregnant women and death awaits the one born with the sign. When the child is born a sympathetic midwife sneaks the girl (Ruth and Kate Greenfield) out of the fortress and loses her life protecting the child.
The child is sent downriver on a bit of earth (ala Moses) and is found by Willow (Warwick Davis) and his family. Their race, Newlyns, is little people and recognizes the child as a Dakini. Their high priest (Billy Barty) says that they should take the child to a crossroads and give it to the first Dakini they see.
A fellowship of Newlyns does just that but the first Dakini they see is Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), a rogue swordsman who is imprisoned and left to die. They try and give the girl to some passing soldiers but no one will take responsibility.
Madmartigan says that he will, so they free him and give him the girl. Willow sets off towards home but is surprised when the girl flies by in the clutches of a hawk piloted by brownies Rool (Kevin Pollack) and Franjean (Rick Overton).
He follows the hawk and is captured by the brownies and the forest spirit Cherlindrea (Maria Holvoe) says that Willow should take the child to the sorceress Fin Raziel (Patricia Hayes). Willow sets off on his quest but it’s not long before he runs into Madmartigan again and the fun and adventure really begins. Not what Willow was looking for adventure.
Willow was the first big fantasy film of director Ron Howard and perhaps the first big fantasy movie out of Hollywood for a time. It was produced by George Lucas, who also came up with the original story, and his touches can be seen many places, good bad or indifferent.
The real star of the show is Warwick Davis, who played a Ewok in Return of the Jedi, and Lucas came up with the role of Willow with him in mind. He actually creates a wonderful character. It’s a nice touch to have him be the hero where other films might have switched all of that to Kilmer’s character.
Kilmer is also a grand swashbuckler and the romance aspects with Whalley bled into real life since they’d marry soon after the film. It’s nice to think of that if the two didn’t divorce years later. The morphing effect was first used in Willow, but looks quaint now compared to the current technology. I remember it being amazing in 1988 but it hasn’t held up in comparison that you can probably download a morphing app on your phone.
It probably took banks of computers to make it happen in ’88. Willow might bring out the kid in any adults who remember it from the 1980s, but it may also set better with the kids of those 1980s kids. I still had a good time.
The special features are nice, but feel slight since most of the running times are vintage stuff. It would’ve been nice to have the participants do a commentary too or a more expansive making of, but I guess I should be happy that they put any on here at all.
Willow is presented in a 1080p transfer (2.40:1). Special features include 12 minutes of deleted scenes with an introduction by director Ron Howard, the 23 minute vintage “Making of an Adventure” with contemporary intro by Howard, the 17 minute “From Morf to Morfing” where visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren talks about the then revolutionary effect, the 11 minute “An Unlikely Hero” where Warwick Davis shares his video diaries, and 1 minute of matte paintings. You also get a DVD copy.
Don’t judge a hero by their size as Willow is a fun film that features a game Warwick Davis, some swashbuckling by Kilmer, villainous sorceresses, and a touch of romance. Some of the things may not hold up (effects and bickering brownies) but overall Willow is an adventure worth taking or introducing your kids to.
Visit the DVD database for more information.Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.