USA / English
Billed as a fantasy to please kids and adults alike in 1988, Willow
was revolutionary in its day. Not only did it have a vertically challenged actor (Warwick Davis) as its leading man, it also set new standards for special effects, using the first known "morfing" (sic) systems. To top it all off it combined the talents of two of Hollywood's biggest names, director Ron Howard and writer-producer George Lucas, and changed Val Kilmer's destiny, influencing both his career and love life. In theory all this should have added up to a rip-roaring success of a film.
Alas, the end result has been unkindly if accurately described as the bastard son of Lord of the Rings, with Star Wars as its doting mother. The plot line (plucky young man sent off on a quest to protect something which could change the reign of evil) has obvious links to Tolkien's classic; Kilmer's Madmartigan (the diamond in the rough) has distinct similarities to Hans Solo. And with the great advances in modern cinemas special effects, Willow's ferocious two-headed dragons now look like something out of 1963's Jason and the Argonauts. However, even though it marked the end of the road for fantasy films in the 1980s, Willow's combination of locations, set design and groundbreaking SFX set new standards and influenced much modern cinema, including Peter Jackson's epic Lord of the Rings. All in all, this is a movie with its heart, soul and magic in the right place.
On the DVD: Willow is brought up to date on DVD with this excellent special effects enhancing anamorphic transfer of the original 2.35:1 screen ratio; the Dolby 5.1 surround sound boosts the power behind Badmorda's roar as well as spotlighting James Horner's swashbuckling score. A lively commentary is offered by Warwick Davis, although he has a tendency to dwell on his own musings rather than the film as a whole. Other features include "The Making of the Adventure", which is a standard TV behind-the-scenes documentary/advert and a wealth of TV spots, trailers and photos. By far the most interesting feature is the "Morf to Morphing: The Dawn of Digital Film" documentary including interviews with George Lucas, Ron Howard and Dennis Muren (the renowned special effects guru) on the creation of morphing and its influence on later movies. ?-Nikki Disney
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