Fantastic Friday: Infinity times X

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #368, the Infinity War crossover just keeps on infinity-ing.

In Infinity War, the villain Magus is creating evil doppelgangers of all the Marvel heroes. Reed and Iron Man were replaced by their doppelgangers. They arranged a summit of a bunch of the superheroes at Four Freedoms Plaza, only to set off a bomb. This issue begins with the predictable resolution of Sue using a force field to protect everyone from the blast. To add a little extra action, Thor summons some hurricane winds to blast the bomb’s nuclear radiation into space. In a scene almost identical from Infinity War #3, Magus and Thanos appear through a portal and take Evil Reed and Evil Iron Man away from the scene.


Sue offers all the other heroes the use of FF headquarters for the time being. That includes Daredevil, the Avengers, the X-Men, the New Warriors, and Alpha Flight. There’s a whole page of the Hulk and the Thing arguing, before Speedball, of all people, plays peacemaker between them.

Johnny takes off, flying over the streets of NYC. He considers leaving the team after they rescue Reed. He’s then attacked by a team of X-Men doppelgangers, as well as his own doppelganger. Most of the rest of the issue is Johnny fighting them all off. Johnny trashes a water tower to douse Evil Johnny’s flame, and he and storm chase each other around the skies for a while. When Evil Wolverine mentions something about not being alive, Johnny deduces that the doppelgangers are constructs, so he cuts loose with the powers, burning all the Evil X-Men to a crisp. Evil Johnny survives, and congratulates Johnny for being converted to “the dark side.” Evil Johnny escapes through a portal to join Magus and Thanos.

Back at HQ, there’s another scene identical to Infinity War #3, where the heroes decide that magic is the only way to find Magus and Thanos. Dr. Strange can’t be reached, so Scarlet Witch brings in magical help from Dr. Druid and Franklin’s former nanny Agatha Harkness. Sue takes Agatha aside and asks her to return, and help with Franklin again. Agatha initially refuses, but changes her mind once she sees Franklin again. Elsewhere in the building, it appears that Ben and the Hulk are about to fight again, but then we see they’re just playing foosball.

In the third scene lifted straight from Infinity War #3, Agatha, Scarlet Witch, Dr. Druid, and Shaman from Alpha Flight use magic to open a portal to Magus and Thanos’ location. A team of the most powerful and “most seasoned” heroes are hand-picked from the four teams to enter the portal. They do so, and the issue ends. The story is picked up in the rest of Infinity War #3. Thanos betrays Magus, teaming up with Adam Warlock to stop Magus. All the superheroes arrive. Thinking that Adam Warlock is Magus, the heroes attack both him and Thanos. With that, Infinity War is…

To be continued!

Fade out: Sue takes on a leadership role at the start of the issue, bossing all the other heroes around. By the end, though, Captain America is the one calling the shots. Maybe they’re co-leaders.

Clobberin’ time: Notice that while Speedball talks Ben and the Hulk out of fighting, Ben has his hand placed on Speedball’s shoulder, as if the two are old friends.

Flame on: Johnny’s newfound desire to leave the team will play out (sort of) in upcoming issues.

Fantastic fourth wheel: She-Hulk is present during with all the other heroes in this issue, but has no lines. The Marvel wiki states that Crystal is also here as one of the Avengers, but I don’t see her in this issue. Crystal can be spotted in Infinity War #3, though, confirming that she is there.

Four and a half: Agatha Harkness is described in a caption as having a look of concern on her face when she sees Franklin. Reading between the lines, it appears that she’s decided to return not out of sentiment, but because she can sense Franklin’s reemerging mutant powers.

Commercial break: Something something anatomy something.

Trivia time: Thor is shown to be out of his element, and now sure his own power. That’s because this is the new second Thor, Eric Masterson. Eric will later be known as Thunderstrike.

The reason Dr. Strange couldn’t be contacted is because at this time, he was off on his own crossover, the lesser-known Eternity Quest, where he, Silver Surfer, and former FF member Frankie Raye teamed up to fight the unlikely duo of Galactus and Juggernaut.

I believe this is the first time we’ve seen the entertainment room at Four Freedoms Plaza. In addition to foosball, there’s a pool table and a Xaxxon arcade game.

Fantastic or frightful? The Marvel Wiki lists 53 superheroes appearing in this issue, but by my count, only have 15 have speaking lines. The rest are just standing around in the background doing nothing. These big crossovers are supposed to be exciting because all the heroes are in one place at one time, but stunts like this dilute that excitement. It’s fun to see Johnny cut loose with his powers, but his big fight scene contributes very little to the plot.

Next: Malicious, again.


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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 11

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! Our hero enters a larger world, so let’s pull the camera way, way back to see just big of a world this is, 22:41-23:36 on the Blu-ray.

Not that I haven’t enjoyed all this time spent in the Nelwyn village, but I’m looking forward to getting into the real adventure part of this adventure movie. This section of the movie starts the obligatory travel montage, only this montage split into two parts, with other scenes in between. First we see Willow and his group climbing a grassy hill with a bunch of spikey rock formations in the background. Some fans have speculated that these rock formations form a sort of maze around the Nelwyn village keeping it from the outside world. Next, the company passes by some waterfalls. Remember that the High Aldwin told the group to follow the river. Is this meant to be that river? Those two shots are all we get of the montage. I suppose the upbeat travelling music in the score makes it feel like more time passing.

There’s a shot of the baby crying. Willow tells Meegosh to stop, and then the rest of the group. Vohnkar asks why, and Willow says the baby is sick. Nobody seems too concerned about this, so I think we can assume this is merely an upset stomach and not something life threatening. Burglekutt agrees, insisting the baby is just fine. He takes the baby from Willow and she spits up in his face for a cheap laugh. Willow says the baby will be fine after she gets some rest, while Vonhkar and one of the other village warriors wipe baby barf off of Burglekutt’s face.

Yeah, yeah, it’s wacky comedy. Because there’s nothing else to say about this scene, let’s instead take a deep, deep dive into the tie-in fiction and talk about the geography of this world. This planet is called Andowyne. The map of our heroes’ travels is laid out across four points. To the north is NockMaar (sometimes spelled Nockmar), the home of Bavmorda’s castle. To the west is Tir Asleen, which we’ll hear a lot about and even visit later in the movie. To the south is Galladoorn, which we’ll also learn a little about and we’ll meet some characters from there. To the west is the never-seen and hilariously-named Cashmere, described as both shadowy and also overflowing with great wealth. Willow’s village is located in the southeast, between Galladoorn and Tir Asleen. Near the center of the map is the fairy forest, home of Cherlindria and the setting for the movie’s big exposition scene.

The map contains a few locales not seen in movie. In the northeast, you’ll find the Poha Lands, home of savage, animalistic Daikini called the Poha. To the southeast, there are the Standing Stones. These are a group of monoliths described as predating known history, with a lot of fantasy novel gibberish about elves and druids possibly having created them, and what magical properties they may or may not have. The swamps and the Valley of Defeat are a formerly lush area made poisonous and lifeless after Bavmorda destroyed them seeking rare nightstone granite to build her caste. Beyond this continent, outside the map, there are a few fleeting references to the Sunset Ocean, a massive body of water to the east. Across that sea there is the Western Continent, about which we know pretty much nothing.

Pulling back even farther, we find ourselves in the Star Wars universe. No, really. A few years ago, revealed that Andowyne is a planet in Star Wars canon. Andowyne is located in the Kathol Rift, a nebula-like part of space known to cause hallucinations for those who enter it. The Kathol Rift is part of an even larger area of space that’s actually mentioned in the Star Wars movies, the Outer Rim — a wild, lawless, partially unexplored area of the galaxy. If all this isn’t upsetting enough for you, the site also stated that midichlorians are likely to exist on Willow’s planet.

But wait, there’s more. later went back and stated that all this Willow/Andowyne stuff was merely an April Fool’s joke. However, this hasn’t stopped fan sites like Wookieepedia from including from Willow among all the Star Wars lore.

But wait, there’s MORE. In my research, I’ve come across another connection between Star Wars and Willow that’s not from tie-in books or fan wikis, but from the movies themselves. During the festival scene in Willow, the High Aldwin says, “The Great Mystery is the bloodstream of the universe, and sorcery is the way to its energy.” Compare that to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, when Palpatine says, “If one is to understand the Great Mystery, one must study all its aspects, not just the dogmatic, narrow view of the Jedi.” That can’t be a coincidence!!!

Now wasn’t all that more interesting than baby barf?

Next: Super-villain team-up.


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Fantastic Friday: Encepha-what?

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The Infinity War crossover continues in issue #367. First Reed met his doppelganger, and now it’s Ben’s turn.

So, Infinity War. Magus, the evil doppelganger of Adam Warlock, is using a bunch of cosmic cubes to create evil doppelgangers of all the Marvel heroes. Also, Thanos is hanging around. Last issue, Reed’s doppelganger successfully defeated him and took his place. This issue begins with Evil Reed organizing a summit at FF headquarters, inviting the Avengers, the X-Men, the New Warriors, and Alpha Flight, to discuss the doppelganger situation. (Later in the issue, we’ll see he also invited Daredevil.) Suspecting something is up, Sue sneakily uses Reed’s encephalizer device to run a scan, discovering that Reed has been replaced by a doppelganger.

Out in NYC, Ben has been reunited with Sharon Ventura, his ex-girlfriend and former Ms. Marvel. He asks how she’s been working with Dr. Doom, and the reader at home says “Wait, what?” This is the first time we’re learning this. Sharon says she’s working with Doom because he cured her of being a Thing, and Ben of course says he doesn’t trust Doom. Their conversation is cut short when Ben spots the Puppet Master nearby. As Ben storms off to confront the Puppet Master, Sharon pulls out a communicator and says into it, “Inform the Master that I have made contact.”

Puppet Master says he’s only following Ben because he’s concerned about Alicia, and he accuses Ben of betraying Alicia. Ben says it’s complicated, what with the whole replaced-by-a-Skrull thing. Before they can converse further, a portal opens behind Ben, and out comes Ben’s doppelganger. It appears in Ben’s stronger-than-usual spikey form, and the two Things fight, damaging some nearby buildings. They make their way to a construction site, trashing it as the fight, and then onto a crowded subway platform. Puppet Master saves the day by carving a puppet of the doppelganger right there on the spot, and then throwing it onto the subway’s third rail, electrocuting both the puppet and the doppelganger.

At HQ, Sue frets about what to do about Evil Reed, when she discovers Wolverine inside the building, sneakily getting around all the building’s automatic defenses. Ben returns from the fight, and there’s a bunch of business with Sue using the encephalizer to make sure Ben is really Ben. Then Johnny arrives, and we repeat the whole scene to determine that Johnny is really Johnny.

Sue, Ben, and Johnny attend the superhero summit, with a whole roomful of Marvel heroes. This scene is repeated almost exactly in Infinity War #2, except this time we know that Sue, Ben, and Johnny already know about Evil Reed. As Evil Reed addresses the heroes, Wolverine and Daredevil use their heightened senses to reveal that Reed and Iron Man are really doppelgangers. (We saw Iron Man replaced by a doppelganger in Infinity War #1.)

Some of the heroes think that Wolvie and Daredevil are the doppelgangers, so we get the requisite scene of all the superheroes fighting each other. Evil Reed than reveals a gamma bomb hidden inside the room. The final panel is an explosion bursting out of the top floors of the building.

To be continued!

Fade out: Once again, Sue takes on a leadership role in Reed’s absence, this time also taking over the gadgets and gizmos in Reed’s lab.

Clobberin’ time: A line of dialogue states that Ben has several advanced degrees in engineering. He admits he got these degrees before joining the air force. So, does that mean he went back to college after the air force in order to meet Reed?

Flame on: Johnny promises to keep an eye on Evil Reed during the summit, but once the fight breaks out, he’s nowhere to be seen. We’re probably meant to think that he’s in the mix, fighting with everyone else.

Fantastic fifth wheel: I’m still baffled as to how Sharon’s new role as Dr. Doom’s assistant is not a big reveal, but written as something the reader is already expected to know. But, she’s back now, and get ready for her to go through some serious ups and downs in issues to come.

She-Hulk is present at the superhero summit, but doesn’t get any lines. Like Johnny, she’s not seen during the big fight.

Crystal had joined the Avengers by this time, and the Marvel Wiki insists that she also attended the summit, but I don’t her anywhere.

Four and a half: This issue reestablishes that Franklin’s world-ending mutant powers might be returning. Also, we see that Reed (or Evil Reed?) has placed a robot bodyguard in Franklin’s bedroom, one that has “the offensive punch of a small army.” What the heck?

Commercial break: Hercules muscles!

Trivia time: The superhero with the crutches is Silhouette, an associate of the New Warriors, who still recovering from a gunshot would she got in New Warriors #2.

Spider-Man is not present at the summit because he was injured while fighting his doppelganger. He’s in the hospital with Black Cat acting as his bodyguard.

Fantastic or frightful? The artwork is really great during the Thing vs. Thing fight, but other than that, there’s not a lot to recommend here. All the characters are written inconsistent and a huge chunk of this issue just repeats what was in another comic.

Next: All X-Men, all the time.


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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 10

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! It’s the usual heroes-embarking-on-their-journey scene, 19:31-22:41 on the Blu-ray.

We begin somewhere in the woods, where a bunch of Nelwyn are walking along, many of them carrying large packs, and others solemnly waving, as if to say goodbye. These little details might not be noticeable upon first viewing, but they inform the audience that this is the beginning of the big trip. The High Aldwin walks alongside Willow, asking Willow what’s troubling him. Here’s where we get the payoff for the “pick a finger” scene during the festival. After a little prodding Willow admits that his first instinct was to pick his own finger. The High Aldwin says that was the correct answer. He then says Willow lacks faith in himself, and more than anyone in the village, Willow has the potential to be a great sorcerer.

Some thoughts on this: Does Willow truly lack faith in himself? He’s a good father and husband who’s running a successful farm, and he had the confidence to get up on the High Aldwin’s stage at the festival. On the other hand, he lets Burglekutt boss him around and he was afraid the presence of the Daikini baby would give the superstitious villagers an excuse to run him out of town. I guess this one’s up to the interpretation of each viewer.


The High Aldwin has more advice. “When you’re out there, listen to your own heart.” We’ll see quite a few times when he does that, reminding his future traveling companions what’s important when things get really crazy. The High Aldwin then hands Willow some small objects, saying “These will protect you.” They are acorns, and Willow is unimpressed. The High Aldwin says they’re magic, explaining “Anything you throw them at turns to stone.” Willow doesn’t say anything, but pockets the acorns.

Because this is coming right after the “the bones tell me nothing” scene, these acorns become quite a ticking clock throughout the movie, as viewers aren’t sure if they’re genuinely supernatural, or total B.S. The movie makes you wait (or does it?) for the answer. The actors’ hands are at the bottom of the screen, so there’s no way to tell just how many acorns there are. The Willow graphic novel adaptation adds a few extra lines of dialogue, where Willow asks if he can throw an acorn at Burglekutt, and the High Aldwin answers, “Use sorcery for evil, and you will become an evil sorcerer.” That’s some Polonius-from-Hamlet logic right there.

In the movie, the High Aldwin says “You have much to learn, young Ufgood,” and then concludes the conversation with a series of hand motions. First he clasps his hands together as if in prayer, next he locks his fingers together tightly, then places one hand over his heart, and finally makes a flying away motion with that same hand. Willow pats the High Aldwin’s shoulder, as if to say he understands. I suspect the audience at home is not meant to know the specific meaning of this.

There’s a shot of the Nelwyn milling around some flat stone sculptures, somewhat reminiscent of the ancient stone circles that can be found in remote areas of the U.K. Then we cut back to Willow, talking with his kids, Ranon and Mims. Mims asks if he’s scared and he says no. The kids then rattle off a list of dangers of the outside world, making for some nice foreshadowing. First Ranon asks about fairies of the forest, putting travelers to sleep for 100 years. He also asks about Brownies, and Mims asks about dragons. Willow says these don’t bother him. Then Ranon asks about trolls, specifically, “Trolls that’ll skin you alive and take your face off?” Willow chides Ranon, saying “You know I hate trolls.” Does this mean trolls have attacked the village before, or at least live nearby? Are trolls why the village has a spear-carrying security force? The movie doesn’t say. What’s important here is that all the things the kids mention are more or less things that Willow is going to run into — fairies, Brownies, trolls, and, yes a dragon. (Multiple dragons, if you count the Shadow War tie-in novels.)

The kids offer to join Willow on his journey to give him some help. He doesn’t actually say no, but instead says what a lucky father he is. He gives the kids a hug and tells them to go play. Mims says “Goodbye Dada” here, but it’s hard to hear unless you’ve got the volume way up. Kaiya then helps Willow with the large backpack he uses to carry the baby. She says “We’ve never been apart.” I think we can assume she means for an extended period of time, because we already saw her stay home while he went to the festival. The tie-in books offer no background information about Kaiya. How did she meet Willow? What was her life like beforehand? We may never know.

Kaiya says “I miss you already.” He says he’ll be fine and he’ll be back before she knows it. Her next line is hard to understand. According to the Blu-ray’s subtitles, she’s saying “Remember to keep her warm.” She then hands Willow a braid of her hair, he compares it to a tuft of hair coming from under the headscarf thing she’s wearing, and realizes she’d just cut it off. “This will bring you luck,” she says. They hug, and kiss. The braid isn’t going to have as many appearances throughout the movie as the acorns, but when we do see it again, it serves as a reminder of how far Willow has traveled.

The background music shifts from romantic to heroic, as the High Aldwin addresses the crowd. “Good brave people,” he says. “The outer world is no place for a Nelwyn. Give the baby to the first Daikini you see, then hurry home.” This raises a lot of questions. First, just how much do the Nelwyn know about the outside world? They know the location of the Daikini crossroads, and they kinda/sorta know who the Daikini are. Second, just how good is this advice, of giving the baby to the first person they see? Does the High Aldwin have some sense of the future, knowing who Willow and co. will run into, or is he merely desperate to protect the village from another attack by killer dogs? Hard to say.

The High Aldwin reaches down, picks up a rock, says three magic words, and throws it into the air. In a nifty special effect, the rock transforms into a bird in midair. People react with smiles and wonder, and the High Aldwin says to go in the direction the bird is flying. Burglekutt then points out that the bird is going back to the village. The High Aldwin appears to be surprised by this, but covers for it, dismissively saying, “Ignore the bird, follow the river.”

For all the talk about magic so far in the movie, this is the first time we see it in action. But even after casting a spell successfully, the High Aldwin is still in “the bones tell me nothing” mode. This once again casts doubt over the acorns, and what will or won’t happen once Willow tries to use them. The camera pulls back to reveal the whole group. Vohnkar is all business, ordering a gruff “Move out!” With that, everyone is on their way.

Next: What are all these Jedi and Wookiees doing here?


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Fantastic Friday: To Infinity War and beyond

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #366 finds us in the middle of yet another big crossover. It was only a matter of time before Thanos and his freakin’ Infinity whatsits showed up.

Infinity War was the follow-up the successful and beloved Infinity Gauntlet. While the FF merely cameoed in Gauntlet, they’re major players in War. I’m going to try to summarize Infinity War and keep the emphasis what was happening in Fantastic Four. Infinity War deals with the conflict between space hero Adam Warlock and his evil doppelganger Magus. Using not one but five cosmic cubes, Magus hatched a plan to create his own team, made up of doppelgangers of various Marvel heroes. In Infinity War #1, we saw a fight between two Reeds, but it didn’t reveal which one was the evil, or which one won the fight. Fantastic Four #366 begins with a recap of this, where Thanos (who’s also hanging around) cautioning Magus not underestimate the Earth heroes.

At Four Freedoms Plaza, we see Reed working on his encephalizer device, in the hopes of monitoring and controlling Franklin’s rapidly-increasing psychic powers. Johnny is downright furious, saying that Reed’s obsessive work in the lab led to endangering everyone’s lives in the “Inniverse” of the previous three issues. Johnny attacks Reed (!) chasing him all over the lab, until Ben breaks them up. Reed and Sue then have a heart-to-heart talk about Franklin, how he deserves more protection that what they’ve given him. One panel shows Franklin asleep, but with eyes glowing with yellow light.

Then we meet up with Alicia and her father the Puppet Master, who are out for a walk in the park. He says he’s no longer wanted by police (a “white lie,” he thinks), while she thanks him, saying it was his actions that led to her being freed from the Skrulls. In space, Magus explains to an impatient Thanos that doppelganger fights are merely the foundation for a much larger plan.


Reed is alone in his lab, still worrying about Franklin’s powers, when a portal opens behind him and Evil Reed comes out. The doppelganger looks just like Reed, but with pointy ears, fangs, and glowing red eyes. Evil Reed argues that Reed spends more time in his lab than with his family out of own personal fears and weaknesses. Their fight has a lot of weird beats, including Reed using his head and neck as a battering ram, and Evil Reed trying to chock Reed by his whole arm down Reed’s throat.

We cut from the fight to Johnny, who is at Empire State University, reminding us that he’s now re-enrolled in college. He contemplates leaving the FF and striking out on his own, when a bunch of football toughs start a fight with him. A good-looking brunette girl breaks up the fight. Even though she clearly doesn’t’ like Johnny, he’s impressed with her. Ben, meanwhile, is at a gym somewhere in NYC where he’s impressing the other body builders by working out with a huge hydraulic press. He’s then surprised to see Sharon Ventura walk through. Sharon asks if he’s pleased to see her.

Back to the Reed vs. Evil Reed fight. Reed stretches himself around Evil Reed, cutting off the doppelganger’s oxygen. Evil Reed breaks free and uses a “microwave pulgator” (?) to attack Reed. It’s basically a flame thrower, and burns Reed, somehow also knocking him unconscious. Then it gets all hentai up in here when the doppelganger transforms into a bunch tentacles that wrap up Reed.

An alarm goes off and Sue runs into the lab. Reed is in there, and he assures her that it was merely a small malfunction. Of course, thanks to the old glowing-red-eyes-that-only-the-audience-can-see cliché, we know this is really the doppelganger.

We then cut to outer space, where we’re reunited with Devos the Devastator from issue #359. His ship is hijacked by a Skrull ship, where he comes face to face with Paibok the Power-Skrull from issue #358. The quickly compare notes and both agree that they want revenge against the Fantastic Four. Paibok says he has a secret weapon for this plot. He shows her Lyja, who is in suspended animation… still alive!

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: All this business about Reed spending more time in the lab than with his family has not only been done before, but resolved before. We’ve moved past this and yet here we are again.

Fade out: Sue’s only role in this issue is to be the doting wife and mother. Again, the writers are trying to do “classic” FF, but doing so by ignoring how much the characters have grown and changed over the years.

Clobberin’ time: We’re not told why Ben is working out in some random gym instead of using the high-tech weights in Reed’s lab, except that it gets him out of the action to set stuff up for future viewers.

Flame on: It’s uncharacteristic for Johnny to be so mad at Reed, to the point where he tries to more or less kill Reed. I guess he’s still working through the whole death-of-his-wife-who-wasn’t-really-his-wife thing.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Sharon is again back for one panel, but, again, we don’t know why she’s back and what she’s up to.

Four and a half: Franklin has a poster of Superman in his room. How does that work?

The Alicia problem: Lyja is back, though we only see her in one panel. It’s the always-problematic “unconscious woman trapped in a tube” cliché that’s so prevalent in comics.

Commercial break: What is this ad selling, exactly? Gumby and Pokey toys? Were there Gumby and Pokey comics? Will two guys dressed as Gumby and Pokey come to your house?

Trivia time: In this issue, there’s a brief glimpse of Spider-Man fighting his doppelganger, from Spider-Man #24, where Spidey fought the Hobgoblin and the Demogoblin as well. The Spider-doppelganger was popular enough to appear in the ‘90s Spider-Man cartoon, and he got his own action figure.

Fantastic or frightful? All this doppelganger stuff is as good an excuse as any for a big crossover, but out our heroes are written so out-of-character that it’s frustrating. The Devos/Paibok scene is the only really interesting part, in that it reveals their previous appearances were merely seeds planted for something bigger.

Next: Ad infinitum.


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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 9

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! Things are getting political up in here, 16:13-19:30 on the Blu-ray.

First things first: Where are we, exactly? The previous scene had Willow stating he needs to take the baby to the village council, so thanks to movie editing we can surmise that this is the village council. But it appears to take place inside a big barn, complete with a rope and pulley system to get to a balcony area. One Nelwyn demonstrates this as the camera passes across the room. The tie-in fiction states that the Nelwyn are not normally political, so the town council only meets on rare occasions, usually to settle disputes between farmers. Therefore, this barn (or barnlike structure) is being used a makeshift meeting place rather than an established town hall. Notice there are also several chickens in this scene, walking around in the background just being chickens.

There are about 50 people in the room, all shouting at once. I find it unlikely that all these people are members of the council, but rather have attended the council meeting out of concern. Burglekutt’s voice cuts through the din, saying, “Silence! One beast we can kill, but there may be more.” He says the death dogs won’t give up until they find what they are looking for.

Willow enters, with the baby and his family. Note that Kaiya is wearing one of the elaborate headdresses worn by several other Nelwyn women during the big festival. One voice cries out “We must find who is to blame,” and another demands that the culprit be thrown into “the pit.” It’s left up to the imagination what “the pit” is. The Nelwyn go into bloodthirsty mob mode, chanting “In the pit! In the pit!” Willow and Kaiya turn to leave, but the High Aldwin spots Willow, quiets the crowd, and asks him to come forward.

Willow explains that his children found the baby by the river, and the High Aldwin instantly recognizes the baby as a Daikini child. Burglekutt deduces that the baby is what the death dogs are after and suggests turning the baby over to them. Willow rightly points out that the dogs will kill the baby. Burglekutt goes into full-on jerk mode and argues “It’s not one of us.”

The High Aldwin quiets the crowd again, saying there is something special about the baby, and that it must be taken to Daikini crossroads far outside the village, across the great river. Burglekutt nominates Willow to be one to make the trip. Willow doesn’t seem down with that idea, and Kaiya reacts with a big dramatic “No!”

The High Aldwin holds up a small black bag tied around his neck with a black string. He shakes it and proclaims, “I will consult the bones!” He drops a small group of bones from the bag. Finger bones, most likely, but it’s hard to know. They’re on the ground right next to the baby, who can be seen in the corner of the screen. The High Aldwin calls Willow over for a whispered, private conversation. I wonder what all the other Nelwyn are doing why these two are whispering to each other. I suppose the High Aldwin has enough good will to get away with stuff like this. He says “The bones tell me nothing,” as Willow looks surprised by this. He then asks “Do you have any love for this child?” Willow looks at the baby and says “Yes, yes I do.” The High Aldwin stands and announces to the room, “The bones have spoken.”

The humor here is that the bones appear to be magical and wondrous, but are really B.S. The High Aldwin is playing on the beliefs of the locals to get his way, even if his way is for the better of the community. The tie-in fiction confirms this, saying flat-out that the bones have no supernatural properties. Further, in the novel Shadow Moon, Willow kept the bones with him in his old age, a gift from the High Aldwin, saying that the bones never did anything for him either, but they came in handy whenever he needed to look impressive.

The High Aldwin says the safety of the village depends on Willow, and Burglekutt, no doubt thinking this means getting rid of Willow, chants “Praise the bones!” The High Aldwin says Willow will need help, and asks who has the courage to protect Willow and the baby on the journey. Meegosh volunteers, and Burglekutt says, “Excellent choice.” So I guess he doesn’t like Meegosh either. Then Vohnkar volunteers. Burglekutt argues that Vohnkar is the best warrior in the village and must stay. Note that Vohnkar brought his spear to the meeting. Was he concerned a fight would break out? Also, a group of men standing behind Burglekutt are holding matching staffs with white tips. Are these the other members of the village council?

Reading the room, the High Aldwin then says the expedition needs a leader, and he alleges that bones are telling him that Burglekutt is to be that leader. Then there’s more comedy as a panicking Burglekutt turns and shouts for Vohnkar, even though Vohnkar’s right there in the room with him.

Next: First steps.



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Fantastic Friday: We are the crystal gems

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issues #363-365 offer some epic yet inconsequential sci-fi action.

Previously, Reed opened up a portal to another dimension, the “Inniverse,” They fought interdimensional tough guy Wildblood, and then he, Sue, and Franklin were abducted by Wildblood’s enemies. This issue begins with a battle, where Reed, Ben and Johnny enter the other dimension and fight their way through the local barbarians. Inside the giant walled city at the center of this alien landscape, Sue and Franklin are brought before the local leader, Occulus, who values wealth above all else and who rules through fear and oppression. Occulus can sense Franklin has great power while sentencing Sue to the dungeon. Wildblood realizes Sue is not his enemy, and he helps Sue escape the city. While he flees, Sue stays behind in hopes of rescuing Franklin.


Wildblood meets up with Reed and Johnny, where it’s established that his people are the barbarians they fought earlier. Inside the city, Occulus has Franklin hooked up to machine powered by mystic gems, in the hopes of transferring Franklin’s mutant powers into him. Sue tries to fight Occulus but is defeated. Occulus fires up the machine, and it appears to work. Outside the city, Reed’s scanners show that Franklin has ceased all brain activity, making Reed think Franklin is dead.


Issue #364 begins with Occulus declaring “I am ultimate power!” With his new godlike abilities, he fights and easily defeats the barbarians, with Reed, Ben, Johnny, and Wildblood escaping in some underground tunnels. Occulus fills everyone in on the backstory, how this was once an advanced civilization that destroyed itself in war, leaving behind mystic gems. Occulus is master of the gems’ powers, while his long-lost brother is the thief of the gems. Yes, Wildblood is that brother.

Reed, Ben and Wildblood sneak back into the city (Johnny is “needed elsewhere”), where they rescue Sue and an alive-but-still-unconscious Franklin. Occulus catches them, and there’s another fight. Reed tries to drain Occulus’ power with a device he whipped up while in the caves, but it doesn’t work, and Occulus gets even stronger, tapping into the power of creation itself.

Issue #365 begins with Johnny flying in alongside the rest of the barbarians to fight Occulus. Reed and Sue run off, with him explaining that Johnny’s attack is a distraction. There’s a big fight with Ben, Johnny, Wildblood and the barbarians getting knocked around by Occulus. Back on Earth, we get a short scene in which Sharon Ventura returns, introducing herself to Alicia as “Ben Grimm’s girlfriend.”

Back in the other dimension, Reed rejoins the fight, leading Occulus toward a “gem screen” that he had the barbarians construct. The screen hurls Occulus off the planet and into subspace, defeating him. Wildblood and Occulus’ bride Landa are named the new rulers. Back on Earth, Franklin gets a clean bill of health, although Reed fears this incident might mean a return of his potentially world-ending mutant power.

Unstable molecule: Yes, Reed has always been able to invent and build a gizmo out of nothing in minutes, but these issues really push it. His improvised last-minute gadgets are made with alien tech and can defeat a godlike being.

Fade out: Sue is again depowered, so the villains are able to capture her and negate her powers easily. She later chides Reed for not communicating with her and not working as a team.

Clobberin’ time: Ben makes a lot of jokes during all the fighting, except for one serious moment during the fight, when he tells Occulus that he’s used to a lot of pain.

Flame on: One scene has Johnny envious of Reed’s leadership abilities. Could this have been setting up a story with Johnny eventually becoming team leader?

Fantastic fifth wheel: Sharon is abruptly back in the comic just as abruptly as she left it. We won’t learn what she’s up to for a few more issues.

Four and a half: Now that Power Pack is over, we’re back to worrying about Franklin’s mutant powers being incredibly powerful, and what might happen if he reaches his full potential.

Commercial break: Something something the weasel something.

Trivia time: Wildblood, Occulus, and all the other characters introduced in this arc never returned, making these issues their only appearances.

Fantastic or frightful? These issues should be a lot of sci-fi fun, with the whole small-band-of-warriors-overthrowing-the-high-tech-empire thing. But it feels generic, and because it’s all in another dimension, it feels like there are no stakes.

Next: To infinity and beyond.


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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 8

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! Here’s the movie’s first action scene, albeit a brief one, 13:46-16:12 on the Blu-ray.


We’re still at the Nelwyn festival, where the peppy music starts playing, everyone is again doing that dance holding up green leafy branches. The sound of a wild animal is heard in the distance and everyone starts to panic. It almost sound like two animals, with a growl and howl overlaid on each other. One of the death dogs comes running right through the center of the festival.

We saw death dogs briefly in the opening scenes, but this is their starring moment. In the Willow tie-in books, they get an origin story. They were created from dark sorcery by the Veil Folk, magical fairy-like beings who live hidden away in the deep woods. Because the Veil Folk cannot touch steel without being harmed, they created the death dogs to protect them from sword-wielding Daikini (humans). Many years later, the death dogs were corrupted by Bavmorda and her people, who used them as hunters. The tie-in books state that dogs’ mouths are acidic, and cause lethal injections into anyone they bite.

The dog’s presence in the festival causes a lot of commotion, with everyone running around like crazy. Burglekutt and the High Adlwin both get reaction shots. Willow asks Meegosh where little Mims ran off to, and Meegosh says he doesn’t know. Ranon takes the other kid, Ranon, away for protection while Willow looks for Mims. The dog continues to run through the festival, and there’s a great Evil Dead-style shot of the dog’s POV, chasing everyone at high speed. Then there’s a shot of Mims, standing on a wooden platform of some sort, crying.

The dog stops by one of the small structures, which I guess is somebody’s house, again calling into question exactly where this festival is taking place. There aren’t enough buildings around for this to a proper  village center, yet there are still some buildings. The dog makes an impressive 90-degree turn and enters the building. As it does, we can see it has long rat-like tail.

Willow continues to search for Mims, some more people run around, and what appears to be a second dog runs past. Willow finds Mims, takes her hand, and leads her to safety. There are more shots of the dog running around, editing against a Nelwyn woman carrying a baby, foreshadowingly. A dog does a super-cool leap over a fence and starts tearing apart an empty wooden baby carriage on the other side. Willow and Mims are close enough to this so that they see it happen through openings in the wooden fence between them.

The when the character we’ll soon come to know as Vohnkar leads the village guard into action. These guys are great, with their matching leather armor, spears, and dive-headfirst-into-battle attitude. Vohnkar and the others climb over the fence, and it’s a spears vs. dog battle. It appears a few farmers have joined the guards, dressed in regular clothes and carrying pitchforks instead of spears. The dog snaps at the guards, and one of them stabs it.

The dog’s stab wound is a yellowy mustard color, further establishing these as otherworldly monsters. The dog rears up and, with a spear still stuck in its back, knocks Vohnkar onto his feet. Vonkhar isn’t down for long, though. Another Nelwyn tosses him a spear just as the dog attacks. The dog leaps right onto the spear as Vohnkar holds it up to defend himself. The rest of the guards leap in, brutally stabbing the dog to make sure it’s dead.

The danger seemingly passed, the Nelwyn gather around, and Willow is reunited with Ranon. Vohnkar holds up the destroyed carriage and says, “It was after somebody’s baby.” Cut to a woman with a baby, but not the one we saw seconds earlier, reacting with shock. Willow and his kids also react with horror, all remembering the mysterious baby that washed up on their land. There’s an overhead of shot of Willow running through the festival to get back home, nearly running right over a lit fire pit.

The next shot is Willow bursting through the front door of his house, suggesting that his land isn’t that far from the festival’s location. He calls for Kaiya, and for a few seconds there is no answer, suggesting the death dogs got her. But then she walks into frame holding the baby. Willow embraces his wife and tells her they can’t keep the baby, and must take her to the village council. Kaiya responds with a nod, understanding that this is important, and they embrace again.

Several questions are unanswered during these scene. First, is it just one dog that attacks the festival, or multiple dogs? The tie-in books always describe the dogs running in packs, and the quick editing makes it look like there’s more than one. But once Vohnkar and his crew kill just one, the danger is over. Also, where are the dogs’ keeper, to whom they must report? Perhaps this unseen threat, more than the dog itself, is what prompts Willow into action. Finally, we’ll see later in the movie that Bavmorda wants the baby alive to perform a ritual, but in this scene the dog clearly is out to kill the baby, the way it tears up the carriage. Was this dog (or dogs) separated from the rest of the pack and gone wild on its own, finding the right scent by accident?

On the plus side, all this animal carnage provides some character development for Willow. Even though he’s not the one doing the actual fighting, this scene establishes him as the hero, as he protects his kids, and then decides to take the baby the village council, even at risk of harming his status in the community.

Next: No bones about it.


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Fantastic Friday: Not quite Youngblood

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The Image Comics revolution was in full swing in 1992, and here is Marvel trying so very, very hard to catch up in issue #362.

We begin with a lot of weirdness in Reed’s lab. He has a device on his head, he’s crackling with energy, and he has phased his hand into a piece of wood. Reed explains to Sue that physical matter, on a particle level, has empty spaces within it, and he wants to access that empty space and explore whatever wonders he might find there.

We then cut to, according to the caption, “A universe far beyond the fragile fabric of conventional reality, in a dimensional plane which exists at the juncture of all physical matter.” In this space, we meet Wildblood, a mercenary thief, who has just snuck out of a futuristic city having stolen some valuable gems. He sees Reed’s hand stretching through into his dimension, and he believes Reed is a member of the Gem Guild, who is after Wildblood. Reed’s hand disappears before Wildblood can properly attack.


Back on Earth, the tabloids have reported that Johnny and Alicia have broken up (but not with the knowledge the Alicia had been replaced by a Skrull the whole time). Spider-Man is seen reading this (he reads the tabloids?) and thinks that he should drop by later to visit Johnny. He doesn’t need to, though, because his next stop is Empire State University, where Johnny is considering returning to college. He then signs autographs outside, only for his Fantasticar to be attacked by a bat-shaped creature. Turns out it was made of Spider-Man’s webs.

Spider-Man heckles Johnny, getting him angry. Spidey then leads Johnny on a chase through the skies over New York. This goes on for several pages, with Spider-Man using his webs to counter Johnny’s powers. Johnny manages to get a hit in, singeing Spider-Man. Johnny worries that this has gone too far, only for Spidey to turn the tables and wrap up Johnny in his webs.

Back at headquarters, Reed continues his experiment. In the other dimension, Wildblood is fighting men riding dragon-like Sky Serpents, who want back the gem he stole. Wildblood sees Reed’s hand again, grabs it, and follows it back to Earth. Wildblood thinks Reed is a member of the Gem Guild, and immediately starts fighting. Wildblood has superhuman strength and agility, and his main weapons are two staffs called kalis that can fire energy beams. Franklin wanders into the room during the fight, and Wildblood takes particular interest in him.

Back out in New York, Spider-Man tricks Johnny into flying straight into a water tower, which douses his flames. He and Spidey exchange a few one-liners, and they’re friends again. In the other dimension, the soldier types were chasing Wildblood figure out how Wildblood escaped them, tracing his trail to the spot where he fled to Earth.

Back at HQ, Sue has trapped Wildblood within a force field, while Reed ponders how to return him to his home dimension. Behind him, a portal opens in the piece of wood. Sometime later, Johnny returns to HQ with the alarms going off. He finds Reed and Ben recovering from unconsciousness. Reed says strangers came through the portal and abducted Sue and Franklin, and the team must go into the other world for a rescue mission.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed’s name for the other dimension is the “inniverse,” in that it’s the opposite of the universe. Let’s all be glad the name didn’t catch on.

Fade out: Sue has been demoted back to “bickering wife” status of the early ‘60s, wanting Reed to stop working in the lab because she just made his lunch. Yeesh.

Clobberin’ time: There’s a reference to Ben and Franklin playing “Super Genesis,” which I guess the Marvel Universe’s version of the Sega Genesis.

Flame on: What, exactly, was Spider-Man doing by starting a fight with Johnny? Was it all a ruse to cheer Johnny up, or was he really that upset about what he read in the tabloid? The comic doesn’t actually say.

Four and a half: Franklin is back to bugging his parents about visiting Disney World, even though they took him to Epcot at the end of the Acts of Vengeance crossover.

Commercial break: This was a collaboration between Marvel and Lucasfilm. Now that the two are back together, think there will be a revival?

Trivia time: Wildblood’s “kali” weapons appear to be named after Kali, the Hindu goddess associated with time, creation, power, and even death. (Yeah, let’s see you try to find trivia about this issue.)

Fantastic or frightful? This Wildblood guy is a way-too-obvious attempt to cash in the popularity of what Image Comics was doing at the time — armor with big shoulder pads, lots of pouches, covered with oversized weapons, and a bad attitude. But it lacks the “indie rock star” feel that made those early Image books so successful. Also, I’m always up for a good Spidey/Torch team-up, but this one’s here for seemingly no reason. A misfire.

Next: Eye pad.


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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 7

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! We’re talking about magic and sorcery as we meet the High Aldwin, 11:56-13:45 on the Blu-ray.

The band plays a fanfare, and out comes the High Alwin, on a chair being carried by four male Nelwyn. Just who are these four guys carrying him around? His servants? His students? Something uglier? We can only wonder. An unidentified man announces that the High Aldwin will now make his choice for apprentice. The tie-in books state that as part of this festival, each year the High Aldwin tells the story of the first Nelwyn settlers. Either that’s already happened, or he’s saving it for later.

The tie-in books describe the High Aldwin as the “informal leader” of the Nelwyn village, so that the village council looks to him for advice on especially difficult matters. The High Aldwin’s name is Junn, except that upon becoming High Aldwin, he gave up his birth name, replacing it with “High Aldwin,” as per tradition. Upon death, a High Aldwin’s name is then restored for use in the Nelwyn archives. Also, it was in this part of my research that I came across fleeting references to other Nelwyn villages, each having its own High Aldwin. Most of the tie-in fiction, however, ignores them in favor of focusing on this one Nelwyn village. The “High” part of the Aldwin’s title comes from how the apprentices are also known as “Low Aldwin.” The tie-in books also state that both men and women can be High Aldwins, with the women often being stronger in magic than the men.

Back to the movie. A man cries, “Attention! The High Aldwin will know make his choice for the new apprentice.” I haven’t found any info on who this character is. We did see him previously, in the front row of the group watching Willow’s disappearing pig act. He adds, “Bring forth the hopefuls.” This man and the High Aldwin are now seated on a stage in front of a crowd. (Crowds gather and disperse awfully quick during this festival.) The stage is decorated with a flowered arch and two statues, one of a pig and one of a dog. I wouldn’t make much of this other than to further establish this is a farming/agricultural society.

We see Meegosh with Willow, telling him “Good luck.” We’ve seen Meegosh in the crowd during the festival, but this is the first time we’ve established he and Willow are friends. The graphic novel adaptation does a better job of introducing Meegosh, as he and Willow recite a customary rhyme to each other. Meegosh: “Round the bend.” Willow: “Fat rear end.” Meegosh: “He’s a donkey.” Willow: “I’m your friend.”

As Willow walks up to the stage, of course Burglekutt heckles him, saying “Is this a joke?” and laughing. Willow gives him an angry stare and, it’s worth noting, the High Aldwin also gives Burglekutt an angry stare. Willow and two other unidentified males stand before the High Aldwin, who stands and says, “Magic is the blood stream of the universe. Forget all you know, or think you know. All that you require is your intuition. Now, the power to control the world is in which finger?” He holds up his hand.

The first man points at the High Aldwin’s middle finger, and the High Aldwin shakes his head no, dropping the finger. Willow watches carefully. The second man points at the index finger and he, too, is wrong. Then the High Aldwin comes to Willow. I’ve noticed that first-time viewers have a lot of fun with this scene, playing along. They usually shout-out to the screen, wanting Willow to choose either the thumb or the pinky finger. The movie very clearly shows us Willow looking at his own hand first, and then he select’s the High Aldwin’s ring finger. The High Aldwin makes a fist and says, “No apprentice this year!” The payoff for this choose-a-finger bit won’t come until later.

The crowd sounds disappointed, and I wonder what ceremony or celebration would have happened if the High Aldwin had selected someone. Further, the tie-in books fiction states the apprentice eventually becomes the new High Aldwin. Nothing Willow has said or done indicates a desire to lead the village (although I’m sure he’d be fine with getting Burglekutt out of office). Instead, Willow seems interested in learning sorcery just for the sake of learning sorcery. We see little Ranon look sad about this. Does this mean that being named apprentice would be beneficial to Willow’s wife and kids as well, or is Ranon just sad because his dad lost? The peppy festival music starts playing again, and the crowd moves on to whatever attraction is next.

Fantasy fans love fussing about magic systems, so we might as well talk about the one in Willow. The movie’s novelization has a wholly different version of the High Aldwin’s speech, but one that offers a glimpse into the story’s bigger picture. In the book he says, “The Great Mystery is the bloodstream of the universe, and sorcery is the way to its energy.” Notice that Great Mystery is capitalized. In the tie-in books, the Great Mystery is the name of a godlike being that oversees the laws of nature in this world. Sorcerers are individuals who have somehow channeled the power of the Great Mystery. Basically, the Great Mystery lends a small (or large?) part of its power to a sorcerer, allowing the sorcerer to perform feats that bend or even break the laws of nature. While the movie and the books tend to use the words “magic” and “sorcery” interchangeably, the High Adlwin’s view is that magic is slight-of-hand tricks, while sorcery is genuine supernatural power. That said, the book also contradicts the movie when the High Aldwin says sorcery is “not thought or knowledge,” while movie repeatedly states that concentration is important to perform sorcery.  (Get used to hearing the phrase, “Concentrate, Willow!”)

A few more details: The High Aldwin walks with a staff, which is clearly ornamental/symbolic rather than, say, Yoda’s cane, which Yoda often leaned on to walk. The staff is adorned with tufts of black fur, feathers, strips of green cloth, and rattling pieces of metal and/or bones. The specific symbology of this is lost on me, although here in the real world, many cultures feature shamanistic staffs, sticks, and poles in their beliefs, with a variety of symbols and meanings given to them. I’ll let you kids go ahead and Google those on your own. Finally, it’s worth noting that the High Aldwin has a long grey beard. Traditionally, wizards in fiction have these beards to represent a lifetime of experience and knowledge. In the Shadow War trilogy of novels, Willow eventually grew a long white beard of his own, braiding it in the same style as the High Aldwin’s.

Next: Who let the dogs out?


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