Willow: Special Edition (1988)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
THX Trailer-Liquid Metal
Featurette-Willow: The Making Of An Adventure
Featurette-From Morf To Morphing: The Dawn Of Digital Filmmaking
|Year Of Production||1988|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (60:49)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Ron Howard|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English Audio Commentary
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, the credits roll over the final shot of the movie.|
The story of Willow follows the fortunes of Nelwyn farmer and would-be mage Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis), who finds a baby floating down a river. The Nelwyn are a race of short people. The trouble for Willow is that the child is the princess Elora Danan - the person prophesied to bring down the evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean March). As in any good fantasy, the Evil Queen is obsessed with finding and destroying the girl, and sends her best general, along with her daughter - Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) - to find the child and bring her back for a dark ritual that will obliterate the child's essence. Meanwhile, Willow has left his village to give the child back to the world of the Daikini (a race of normal-sized people), and it is on this quest that he meets Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) - the greatest swordsman who ever lived. Shortly thereafter, Willow finds out that he has been chosen by the child to be her protector, and he sets off on an adventure filled with talking animals, fairies, brownies, magic and swordsmanship, in his efforts to save the child and bring down the Evil Queen.
While Willow is certainly a fun movie, it has its share of problems. While it does not place its world in the context of an "alternate" universe, or feature a person being pulled from the present day to this medieval world to try and justify its existence, it still seems to be trying too hard. It is as if George Lucas had been waiting so long to make a fantasy movie that he threw in everything that he ever wanted to use for the genre into the one film. This has the effect of continually adding new and strange ways to interact with the world, and generally creates a feeling as if you are on a course studying the world of Willow and not enjoying a rollicking adventure. Additionally, the level of the movie seems to be at odds with its content. While it seems pitched at children even more so than George Lucas' own Star Wars, the level of violence and gore contained within is certainly not suitable to that younger audience. It is not that there is nothing in this movie for an older audience, it is just that the majesty and magic of the world seem somehow diminished when one views from a mature perspective.
In the end, Willow is a good fun film, but is really "running on empty" in terms of its reputation. While it does not look out-dated, it has been out-grown by current storytelling trends. Harry Potter this is not, and the only thing it has in common with Lord Of The Rings is that it was filmed in New Zealand. It will always remain an important film for a number of reasons (it was the first film on which digital film-making techniques were used), but it will never attain the legendary status it is so desperately seeking. Maybe it was an omen that it was the project on which Joanne Whalley met husband-to-be Val Kilmer (now divorced, of course).
Presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the transfer is 16x9 enhanced.
The sharpness of this transfer is very good - certainly sharper transfers exist, but this one is right up there with the leaders. Detail is evident across the entire screen, and there are never any occasions where greater sharpness may have been desired. Shadow detail is not quite as impressive, and the drop-off from well detailed to blobs of murk is surprisingly quick. Despite this, the shadow detail is still good enough to never really detract from the action, only affecting the periphery of the image in darker scenes. There is no low level noise present.
Colours are excellent. The lush greens of the New Zealand forest are perfectly represented, as are the dour greys of Queen Bavmorda's castle. Colour highlights also stand out impressively, always being bright and easy to see. The only real downside is that the New Zealand locations are more often than not covered by cloud - it is only when the clouds pull back and the sun comes out that the scenery becomes truly impressive.
There are almost no compression artefacts, being restricted to a few instances of pixelization on some of the tougher scenes (such as the snow-filled image from 2:36 to 2:41). Aliasing is almost totally non-existent, with only a very few obvious instances, such as on the catapult basket at 83:56, or the rock pattern on the ground at 100:52. Most impressively, there are no film artefacts at all - whether the print used for the transfer was immaculately clean, or there was some digital cleaning applied is a matter for conjecture, but the results are impressive.
The subtitles are word-for-word accurate, and are well paced, large and easy to read, while still being rendered in a fairly attractive font - a very good job indeed.
This is an RSDL formatted disc, with the layer change occurring at 60:49 between Chapters 18 and 19. The change is quite obvious, and is easily marked by the break in ambient audio. It does not, however, break any dialogue.
There are three audio tracks present on this disc, being the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround (at 192 Kbps), and Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps), and an English audio commentary track in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround (at 192 Kbps).
Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times. The aggressive sound effects never interfere with the spoken lines in the movie. There is one drawback to the dialogue however, and that is that it seems to have been boosted in level somewhat, with the side effect that it sounds slightly "harsh". The effect resulted in the need to turn the volume down to make the dialogue bearable.
Audio sync is generally good, however there are a few occasions, such as at 103:42, or more obviously on the slap at 35:14, where sync is ever so slightly out. In general this will only be spotted by those who notice sync problems, or are specifically looking for it, and regardless they are infrequent enough that they cause no real problem.
The score for Willow was provided by James Horner, and in his typical style is a little heavy-handed for the material, not coming anywhere close to subtle. Despite this, it still works well enough, it is just that there are times as the orchestra is blazing away that would have been far better suited to some more restraint.
The surround channels are very heavily used throughout the transfer for both carrying the score, and for ambient noise. There are only a few directional sound effects, but these are quite well designed, and certainly add to the atmosphere of the film without detracting from the immersion. This is an impressively well integrated use of surround sound, and really helps the movie come alive.
The subwoofer gets a decent amount of work during this transfer, coming to life to support not only the score, but many of the bigger action set pieces. While it is nothing compared to a modern action movie, what the subwoofer does is more than enough.
|Surround Channel Use|
The trailers section contains the following:
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The video is superb, really showing of the fantasy world of Willow to full measure.
The audio quality is just as good as the video, providing a very active soundtrack that is very subtle in its use of surround channels.
The extras are good, although for a movie held in as high regard as Willow it would have been nice to see some more new features, rather than the selection of old TV spots, trailers, and features.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-535, using Component output|
|Display||Loewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-DS787, THX Select|
|Speakers||All matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)|