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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 1988
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 126 minutes
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Val Kilmer, Warwick Davis, Joanne Whalley, Jean Marsh, Billy Bartey
Directed by: Ron Howard
Music by: James Horner
Written by: Bob Dolman
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: March 12, 2013
"A world where heroes come in all sizes and adventure is the greatest magic of all"

Film Synopsis:

When young Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) finds an abounded baby, he is suddenly thrust into an adventure filled with magic and danger. According to an ancient prophecy, the sacred child is destined to end the reign of the evil sorceress Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh). Now, with only a single swordsman (Val Kilmer) at his side, Willow must overcome the forces of darkness that threaten to destroy anyone who stands in the Queen's way!

My Take:

Based on a story concept by George Lucas Willow is a good versus evil fantasy tale that revolves around a different type of protagonist/hero who is played with sprightly charm by Warwick Davis. Willow is light, mildly entertaining and portrayed along the lines of The Princess Bride while missing the latter’s endearing characters, clever wit and appealing romance. I saw it in the theater based upon the strength of George Lucas’ involvement and Ron Howard’s presence in the directorial chair. My reaction to it then was the same as it is now and is best described as lukewarm. It’s an enjoyable yarn but there is little about it that makes it memorable. Fans with fond memories will be pleased with how well it translates to high definition on Blu-ray. Read on to see what I mean…

Parental Guide:

The rating is for thematic material and brief action violence.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 86

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics:

  • Low frequency extension:

  • Surround Sound presentation:

  • Clarity/Detail:

  • Dialogue Reproduction:

Video: 86

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:

  • Black level/Shadow detail:

  • Color reproduction:

  • Fleshtones:

  • Compression:

Willow comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 33 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4 Mbps.

This is a solid looking high definition Blu-ray catalog release from Fox. Boasting digitally restored image quality it features clean, well depicted colors that offer a good mix of secondary hues that mate well with the source material. The earth tones appear very natural as the green grass, sifted sod, and period clothing look great. Reds are deeply saturated and brighter colors such as the yellows are rich and visually enticing. Resolution is definable with varying degrees of refinement that can be scene dependent. Sharpness wavers, which results in some scenes offering lucid clarity while others are noticeably lacking well defined edges and finely rendered detail. Fidelity may be questionable here and there but I believe that in most instances these minor issues are innate and probably attributable to the use of lighting, hazy/smoke filled environs and the film stock used. Black and white levels are stable which gives a fair level of pop to colors and brighter exterior sequences while keeping darker or low lit segments looking noticeably punchy with crisp, quiet blacks with visibly gradational detail in shadowy backgrounds. Having seen this in the theater nearly 25 years ago I have no recollection of how this presentation compares. What I can say is that it makes for a gratifying high definition viewing experience.

The high resolution DTS-HD MA audio mix does a terrific job rendering the film’s soundtrack. Dialogue has discernible intonation, with refining clarity and excellent room penetration. This is a more or less front oriented presentation that makes good use of the entire system to deliver a seamlessly integrated audio experience that is highlighted by solid impact, definitive detail, and James Horner’s memorable music score. Dynamic range is quite good and doesn’t seem limited by the dated elements present in the recording. Sounds and effects have copious expression that extend well into the room. Surround activity isn’t constant but when applied can be engaging as discernible spatial ambience and discrete sounds fill the listening area. The LFE channel is similarly used to add weight that extends low bass frequencies. The soundtrack runs the gamut and contains a variety of sounds/effects. Each is presented with discerning audible presence via a well integrated surround mix that comes to life when the action kicks in.

Bonus Features:

  • Willow: Deleted scenes with Ron Howard – 12 minutes

  • The making of an adventure with Ron Howard – 23 minute documentary

  • From morf to morphing with Dennis Muren – 17 minute documentary

  • Willow: An unlikely hero – Personal video diary of Warwick Davis – 11 minutes

  • Matte paintings

  • Bonus DVD

Final Thoughts:

Willow is a mildly entertaining sword/sorcery fantasy about a reluctant farmer that finds himself unwittingly drawn into a critical role in protecting a special baby from a tyrannical queen. Having seen it in the theater 25 years ago it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me and this revisit didn’t bear new fruit in the regard. Fans of Willow will be pleased with its digitally restored high definition presentation on Blu-ray as it looks and sounds great. The bonus material isn’t extensive but I found it apropos and entertaining. If you enjoy Willow this Blu-ray offering makes for a great way to experience it in a new light.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS55 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector

(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6 Meter from Spectracal )

Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen

Onkyo PR-SC5508 THX Ultra 2 Audio/Video Processor

Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier

Oppo BDP-103 Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control

Canton "Ergo" Series speakers

Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers

SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)

APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector

Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling

Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package

2,144 Posts
In the words of the gorilla from the movie "Zookeeper"...."Shut....Up! Willow?! Really?! Wow, the memories this one conjures up from the 80's. I have young one's that I can use as my excuse to buy this one. Thanks for throwing this one in the mix Ralph, I didn't even know it was out on Blu.

(Still laughing but should have known this one would be coming post Disney deal)
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