Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 40

Watching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! It’s nightmare fuel time with the infamous pig scene,  1:36:33 to 1:39:21 on the Blu-ray.

It’s nighttime now, with an exterior shot of NockMaar castle, lined with torches. The Galladoorn troops march in the foreground, also with torches. Bavmorda and one of her wise men step atop one of the walls overlooking the troops. Note the guy to the far left wearing the really cool skull mask.

The reverse shot shows the Galladoorn have made camp. Apparently time has passed, because everyone looks settled in and they are just casually strolling about. Bavmorda starts to laugh. Her voice takes on an echo-y quality, and Airk and the other Galladoorn take notice. Either this is her using magic, or the castle has great acoustics from this spot. There are also reaction shots from Willow and Brownies as she continues to laugh.

“This is not an army,” Bavmorda says. Fin Raziel, in goat form, weaves through the crowd saying “Willow.” She can guess where this is going. She comes up to him and says, “Hide.” They both duck into a tent. There’s a quick shot of Madmartigan and Sorsha, then back to Raziel inside the tent, who says, “Use the septor chant. Protect yourself.” He asks, “Why?” and she says, “Just do it.” He pulls out the wand and sits down.

We then cut back to Madmartigan and Sorsha, walking to the front of the Galladoorn troops. “We’ve come for Alora Danan,” Madmartigan says. From her perch on the castle, Bavmorda says, “You dare to challenge me? You’re not warriors.” She takes a minute to grin, as if the thought of what to do next just occurs to her, and she says, “You’re pigs.”

Madmartigan immediately flinches in pain. He falls forward, and we hear Bavmorda chanting magic words in the background. In the next closeup, Madmartigan has developed underbite fangs. Then there’s a shot of his hand turning into a hoof, and there can be no doubt in the audience’s mind at this point as to what’s happening. Airk and Sorsha look on in horror. Bavmorda smiles and says, “You’re all pigs!” She waves her arms in a crazy manner, apparently doing magic. Airk then falls forward in pain, as do some of the background extras. Bavmorda repeats “Pigs!” and the Brownies fall over, from their spot next to a campfire. Bavmorda waves her hands through the air again, making comical pig-oink noises.

Inside the tent, Willow holds out the wand and chants magic words, as the wand glows with blue light. Then there’s an absolutely terrifying shot of Madmartigan in half-human half-pig form, complete with pig snout. Squealing sounds are added to the soundtrack, just to make it more nightmarish. Bavmorda laughs some more, and there are shots of other half-pig soldiers. Sorsha shouts, “Mother, no!” Bavmorda considers her daughter for a moment — her facial expression here is hard to read — but then says another magic word with a flourish and Sorsha doubles over in pain.

There’s even more body horror stuff as all the soldiers are half-pigs, now with some 100 percent pigs walking around in the background. There’s also a man who is human from the waist up and pig from the waist down. Then it’s back to Willow in the tent, who’s now struggling to keep it together as he casts the protection spell.

Inside the castle, it’s our first look at the room where Bavmorda’s big ritual will take place. I’ll have more to say about this ritual in future entries. She walks in and says, “Begin the ritual.” A wise man lights a candle as she adds, “This baby will not destroy me.” Another wide man helps Bavmorda out of her robe and into a new one, revealing the mummy-like body suit she wears underneath.

 

She hears a storm brewing outside, and she walks to the altar at the center of the room and says, “Come, thunder!” We see an opening in the ceiling, protected with metal bars and spikes, with lighting and thunder outside. Then there’s a wide shot of the whole room, showing all the candles the altar, and the huge opening in the ceiling. Bavmorda says, “Touch this altar with your powers!” Classic 1980s fantasy blue lightning shoots down and strikes the altar. Then a wide man approaches, carrying a crying Alora Danan.

Let’s make the cliffhanger for next time.

Next: Ritual behavior.

****

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Fantastic Friday: FOUR hundred

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s issue number FOUR hundred!

Gimmie a gimmick: This the third of three covers using an iris-in effect, with a rainbow foil surface framed around the characters, getting larger with each issue. In this one, it covers almost the entire space. There was also a separately-sold regular cover.

We begin with a one-page text into from Stan Lee, saying pretty much the same things he’s said in every interview about the Fantastic Four, that he and Jack Kirby wanted them to be feel like real people living in the real world, while also having crazy superhero adventures, and how the FF kicked off the entire Marvel Universe.

In the comic itself, a whole lot of plot has happened between the last issue and this one, in which the FF and Kristoff confronted Aron the rogue Watcher on the moon, and Sue ended up teleported to the Negative Zone, where she was stranded. It’s at this point where the series crossed over with the spinoff Fantastic Force #7. The Fantastic Force team rescued Sue, courtesy of Huntara’s teleporting weapons. Both teams, with Kristoff, Lyja, and Nathaniel Richards in tow, traveled to the Watcher homeworld to get to the bottom of what’s going on. We open on the heroes standing on the chest of a giant Watcher with even more giant Celestials hovering over them. (Keep in mind that these are the giant armored Celestials who remain motionless in a distant planet, and the group made up characters like the Collector, the Grandmaster, etc. Although sometimes called “celestials,” that group is the Elders of the Universe.)

Franklin becomes overwhelmed with psychic energy, saying “he” is near, and Huntara opens a portal. Sue then spots Uatu, Earth’s Watcher, who explains The big Watcher is “the One,” the living repository of all observations of all Watchers. The Celestials decided that the One was declared to be a threat to the “cosmic balance of power.” Further, the Celestials have decided that all the Watchers must die. The FF ask Uatu how to defeat Aron. Uatu doesn’t answer, but gives them a strange device.

Ant-Man deduces that the device combines with the others the Watchers left behind in previous issues to create a weapon. Franklin tries to read Uatu’s mind, and he can see Aron’s plan. Aron is building a secret base in the asteroid field between Jupiter and Mars, where he plans to trap Earth’s solar system in his own pocket universe.

The heroes decide to split into two teams. Ben’s team will take on Aron, and Sue’s team will help save Uatu and the other Watchers. Ben, Franklin, Ant-Man, Huntara, Nathaniel, and Vibraxis travel to Aron’s asteroid, where Aron summons classic FF villains from other timelines to fight them. This includes Blastaar, Dragon Man, and the original Frightful Four. As the issue goes on, it keeps cutting back to this fight, as Aron introduces more classic villains in their classic forms, including Namor the Sub-Mariner, the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes, and finally the Mole Man and all the giant monsters from way back in the first issue. Even more past villains join in as the fight continues.

While that’s going on, things get cosmic back on the Watchers’ planet with Sue, Johnny, Lyja, Nathaniel, and Devlor. Lyja shares some Skrull knowledge about the Celestials, saying they actually exist in hyperspace, and the giant suits of armor conduits for them to interact with this plane of reality. So the plan is to get inside the armor somehow. Nathaniel conveniently explains that Sue draws the energy from invisible force fields from another dimension, and this somehow allows her to break through armor with a force field, after much concentration.

Inside the Celestial’s body, the heroes fight their way through alien antibodies, the team comes to a strange door. After busting through it, everyone is attacked by more antibodies, and only Sue gets away. Alone, she finds the Celestial’s brain and touches it. Her mind is filled with memories of the fateful spaceship crash that gave the FF their powers. She is then confronted by a perfect replica of herself, who explains a bunch of sci-fi gobbledygook about a big bang and the creation of the multiverse and about how the One is somehow slowing the expansion of the multiverse, so the Celestials are stepping in to prevent this. Or something It’s very confusing.

The Celestial succeeds in killing the One, but then Sue uses a force field to destroy the Celestial’s nerve center, declaring “the cosmic balance of power is restored!” Back on the planet’s surface, the Watcher says the One and the Celestial will regenerate in a thousand years, and start this conflict all over again. By that time, the Watcher says he hopes humankind will have evolved to the point where they can step in and save the day themselves. Sue chews the Watcher out for all the times he broke his oath to only watch and instead help out, and she asks him to do it again.

On the asteroid, the super-weapon is destroyed, and Ant-Man proves he doesn’t need it by growing to Giant-Man size and destroying Aron’s mechanism that way. Sue’s team arrives with the Watcher, who attacks Aron. The Watcher says that humans must be allowed to evolve on their own, rather than be trapped in the past. The Watcher transforms Aron into pure energy to be used in the One’s eventual regeneration.

It’s still not over. Another Watcher, known only as He-Who-Summons, shows up and says the Watcher has violated his oath too many times, and is condemned, and banished from the Watcher race. He still has cosmic powers, though, and teleports everyone back to their ship. Then there’s a weird bit of business about finding a fourth member of the Fantastic Four. They offer it to Franklin, who doesn’t really answer. Ant-Man says he doesn’t belong. Kristoff volunteers, but is rejected. The reason why none of this makes sense is that in issue #401, we’re going to have a Fantastic Five situation, with both Ant-Man and Kristoff on the team. It ends with Sue ruminating on the Watcher, saying that even though he’s been cut off from his people, he’ll continue trying to make the universe a better place.

Then there’s a three-page text piece, where writer Michael Marts argues that Fantastic Four earns the title “world’s greatest comic magazine.” Then there’s a backup story, “In Memoriam” where the FF holds a funeral for Reed, and Sue finally gives in and acknowledges that Reed is dead. A bunch of Marvel heroes show up for the funeral, where there’s another flashback retelling the FF’s origin story.

Fade out: This is a big issue for Sue, witnessing the creation of the multiverse, and then changing the course of her own universe. Her accepting Reed’s death is another big character moment.

Clobberin’ time: Ben makes a joke about the OJ Simpson trial, in case you were wondering what year this issue came out.

Flame on: There’s still more drama between Johnny and Lyja. Johnny can tell that Lyja still has feelings for him, and he tries to resist the thought that maybe they could get back together.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Welcome to the team, Kristoff! This issue firmly establishes that Kristoff has come to terms with him not being Dr. Doom, but Doom’s adopted son with all of Doom’s knowledge. And some fans think this character is ridiculous.

Ant-Man worries that he’s the weakest member of the FF, only to surprisingly save the day again, except that last-minute saves has pretty much been his shtick since he joined the team.

Among the Marvel heroes attending Reed’s funeral, we have former alternate team members Crystal and She-Hulk, as well as future alternate members Spider-Man and Black Panther.

Medusa appears in the asteroid fight alongside the original Frightful Four. The Marvel wiki says this version of her was taken from somewhere between Fantastic Four #36 and #38.

Four and a half: Franklin gets a lot of praise for his leadership of the Fantastic Force team, but if you’ve been following that series, you know the team is kind of a mess.

The Alicia problem: Lyja says the Celestials created the Skrulls. This is later confirmed during some Skrull/Celestial action in Silver Surfer #5 and Blackwulf #9.

Commercial break: I have no idea what this ad is selling.

Trivia time: The Watcher being cut off from his people is never really resolved. His next appearance after this is will be in Uncanny X-Men #355 where he acts like everything’s normal. Later, in She-Hulk #18, we see him working alongside other Watchers as if nothing happened.

While the Celestials are normally a bunch of unmoving giants on a distant planet, this issue is one of the rare times that they actually get and do stuff, even acting as individuals. The Celestial in Red is Arishem the Judge, who judges the One, and the blue and yellow one that Sue defeats is Exitar the Exterminator. The other Celestials appearing in this issue are Tefral the Survivor, Nezarr the Calculator, and Ziran the Tester.

You might be wondering how Tony Stark and Iron Man could attend the funeral at the same time. At the time, Tony was big into controlling his suits remotely (like in the movie Iron Man 3) so an unmanned Iron Man armor is there, acting as Tony’s “bodyguard.”

Fantastic or frightful? I daresay I really enjoyed this one, and I think it’s one of the best of writer Tom DeFalco’s oft-derided time on series. Putting Sue at the center of cosmic Marvel in place of Reed was a great choice, and it shows a lot of growth for her character. All the villain cameos made for some fun nostalgia along the way.

Next: …and keep her by the sea.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Mister Negative

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #399 finds us in the final act of Tom DeFalco’s long and controversial run as writer.

Gimmie a gimmick: This is the second of three covers to feature a “rainbow foil” cover, in a frame around the characters for an “iris in” effect. The frame gets larger and larger over these issues, as if the pressure is closing in on our heroes. There was also a  separately-sold regular cover.

The FF and Kristoff have traveled to the moon seeking answers from the Watcher about his manipulation of them over the last 20-some issues, only to learn that this is not Uatu, Earth’s watcher, but Aron the rogue Watcher. Aron says something about the Watchers fighting a battle for the fate of the universe, but our heroes aren’t interested in talking. They attack, with several pages of fighting. Kristoff manages to injure Aron with one of Dr. Doom’s weapons, and then Aron teleports Sue away from there.

Outside, on the surface of the moon, Ben is attacked by the a group of Inhumans known as the Crimson Cadre — Ator, Margoyle, Eelak, Glaboo, Pulssus, and Rootar. Inside the FF’s spaceship, which is parked nearby, Kristoff’s servant Boris watches the fight, insisting that Ben must not die.

Inside the Watcher’s house, Aron wanders off looking for a power source, and Johnny follows. Ant-Man wants to help, but Kristoff dismisses him, thinking Ant-Man’s shrinking powers are useless. We then catch up with Sue, who has been teleported to the Negative Zone, standing upon an asteroid floating over a planet made of anti-matter. (I think. This part’s confusing.) She finds Reed there, who is happy to see her, but she quickly deduces that this really isn’t Reed.

Cut to the moon, where Aron finds the cosmic power that Dr. Doom stole from him in issue #373. He fights Johnny some more while Kristoff suspiciously fiddles with the power source. Ant-Man stalls Aron by temporarily shrinking him, and then Kristoff reveals he rigged the power source to steal more power from Aron, rather than restore it.

On the surface, Ben continues to fight the Inhumans, until Boris commandeers the ship’s weapons, convincing the Inhumans to stand down. Inside, Aron refuses to accept defeat, saying that humanity is certain to perish in the “coming cataclysm.” He then teleports away.

In the Negative Zone, Sue reveals that this version of Reed is really the Dark Raider, an evil Reed from another timeline the team met recently. He’s been working with Aron, and he says he and Sue can restart the human race as a new Adam and Eve there in the Negative Zone. She won’t have it, and they fight. He eventually falls into the anti-matter, with Sue too exhausted from the fight to save him. The issue ends with the FF and Kristoff on the moon, finding Sue on a viewscreen but unable to reach her, as she remains trapped in the Negative Zone.

To be continued!

Fade out: Sue not only overpowers the Dark Raider, she is also smart enough to know to destroy his flying harness so he can’t escape her.

Clobberin’ time: Ben brags to the Crimson Cadre about how he knows the Inhumans’ royal family, saying he and Gorgon once shared some tequila while Karnak “danced the lambada.” For continuity’s sake, I will assume he’s exaggerating.

Flame on: When fighting Aron, Johnny tries that move where he makes a bunch of flame-based duplicates of himself. Aron sees right through it, appropriately.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Ant-Man’s plan includes shrinking not just Aron, but Kristoff as well. He doesn’t say why he also shrinks Kristoff, except to escape.

Commercial break: What, no Richard Dean Anderson?

Trivia time: Although not said in this issue, the Marvel Wiki insists that the Dark Raider is still possessed by the psychic entity Malice. Further, the wiki states that neither Malice nor the Dark Raider appeared again after this issue.

Similarly, the Crimson Cadre would appear briefly in the Atlantis Rising crossover shortly after this, and then they too never appeared again.

Fantastic or frightful? It’s another all-they-do-is-fight issue, basically a placeholder before the big #400. The stuff between Sue and the Dark Raider is quite interesting, but still comes off as filler.

Next: FOUR-hundred.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Toy time

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Except I’m still recovering from the holidays, so here’s some random pics of Fantastic Four toys:

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 39

Watching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! Just as one battle has ended, we start preparing for the next battle. It’s a metaphor for life, 1:35:15 to 1:36:33 on the Blu-ray.

General Kael rides through a brownish-grey rocky terrain at full gallop, carrying the baby. In the next shot, we can see he’s riding toward Castle NockMaar, a really cool view of the castle at sunset. He rides across a small drawbridge shouting “I have the child!” and the drawbridge starts to close after him. We’re then in the interior castle courtyard, looking not too dissimilar from Tir Asleen, but with more people about. A handler rushes out to take the reins of Kael’s horse. Kael’s horse appears to have two horns on its head, but this looks to me like part of its battle armor, and not that it’s an otherworldly fantasy magic horse.  

Cut again to outside, for another impressive shot of the castle exterior, as two more horses with riders approach. It’s Madmartigan, Willow, and Sorsha. Madmartigan shouts an angry “Ha!” at the castle. Are we meant to think that they’ve been in hot pursuit at full gallop, chasing Kael all the way there from Tir Asleen? Then there’s a great Kurosawa-ish shot of all the Galladoorn troops riding up behind them. Airk, wearing a cool gold helmet, orders, “We need towers and a battering ram! Break out the tents! Make camp!”

 

We see the Galladoorn troops get to work unpacking supplies from under a tarp on a cart. There’s a goat walking around in this shot, whom I think is meant to be Fin Raziel, though she doesn’t say anything. There are two close-ups of Sorsha during all this, first with her looking angrily at the castle, and then with looking around the troops with a slight smile, as if looking forward to the battle to come. There’s comedy shtick with the Brownies, still in that one horse saddle pouch. Rool raises a fish in triumph, only to clonk Franjean in the head. Airk says to Madmartigan, “We’ll assault at first light.” Willow looks up at the castle, followed by a pan up the structure, which I believe is meant to be his point of view.

 Cut to baby Elora Danan, looking concerned, followed by a closeup of Queen Bavmorda smiling at the baby all motherly-like. This is the first time we’ve seen her be anything other than enraged. She looks up and says, “Where’s Sorsha?” General Kael is there, without his helmet. He answers, “She has turned against us, your highness. There’s a quick reaction shot of Bavmorda, and then reaction shots of two of Bavmorda’s wise men, also in the room. Bavmorda goes right back into angry mode, saying, “Turned against me?” She walks off, revealing for the first time that this takes place in the throne room from earlier. She shouts, “Prepare for the ritual!” Where is she going, though? The tie-in books state the door to the side of the room leads to her private chambers, but in this scene she’s heading outside, back to the main part of the castle. This makes sense, though, based on where we see her in the next scene.

Next week: Swine flu.

****

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Fantastic Friday: I am not Groot

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #398 starts tying together plot threads from previous issues so things start making more sense now… or do they?

Gimmie a gimmick: This is the first of three covers to feature a “rainbow foil” cover, in a frame around the characters for an “iris in” effect. The frame will larger and larger over the next two issues, so it feels like the pressure is closing in on our heroes. There was a separately-sold regular cover for those who didn’t want to spend extra money on shiny foil.

The FF, Kristoff, and Nathaniel Richards are aboard the FF’s ship, the Stealth Hawk, flying to the moon to confront the Watcher. We begin with Kristoff, Nathaniel and Sue examining the alien device that the Watcher left behind for them to find in the previous issue. Using intellect equivalent to Dr. Doom’s Kristoff believes the device is one component of a larger weapon, which would possibly destroy an entire solar system. Sue is wary of Kristoff and warier (is that a word?) of Nathaniel, warning Nathaniel to keep his mitts off of the device.

In the pilot’s seat, Ben announces trouble. On the moon, in the Inhuman’s domed city of Attilan, General Ator is currently in charge after the Royal Family split for Earth he believes that the FF are his enemies, and he orders his troops to open fire. The Stealh Hawk lives up to its name and goes into stealth mode, sneaking past the Inhumans and landing outside the Watcher’s home.

Everybody goes out to investigate, leaving Kristoff’s servant Boris behind with the ship, hinting that something suspicious is up with Boris. They enter the Watcher’s home, take a moment to stare in awe of how weird it is in there, and then they confront an image of the Watcher, who tells them they will not find what they seek. Sue demands answers, saying the alternate timeline of the “Nobody Gets Out Alive” story doesn’t add up, and Ben adds that they don’t know if this is Uatu, Earth’s Watcher, or the other one who attacked the FF in the previous issue.

In Attlian, Ator locates the Stealth Hawk and sends his Inhuman Assault Team after the FF. The Assault Team’s members are:

  • Margoyle, a female gargoyle.
  • Rootar the Irresistible, an alien tree man who is not Groot.
  • Eelak the Agile, a slippery jumping lizard man.
  • Pulssus, a glowing electrical guy.
  • Glaboo, a big slime/mud monster.

Inside the Watcher’s home, Nathaniel sneaks off by himself to check out the Watcher’s otherworldly wonders, in pursuit of his “true mission.” In the main room, a hole opens in the fabric of reality, and out walks another Watcher, named He-Who-Summons. This guy says Earth is no longer of consequence, and only “the one” matters now. Both Watchers disappear, but not before leaving behind another alien device, which Sue calls a trail of breadcrumbs. The spacetime rift that the Watcher left through is still open, and Sue wants to follow, but Nathaniel returns and says they mustn’t. Then the mysterious apparition of Sue from another timeline appears, saying they must trust Nathaniel. Kristoff doesn’t buy it, saying the apparition could have come from anywhere — or anyone.

Then the Watcher reappears, saying the universe has reached a pivotal point. Ben somehow deduces that this is not Uatu, but the Watcher imposter that attacked the FF last issue. Then it’s time for the big reveal, this is not Uatu but… Aron the rouge Watcher, who has been menacing the FF off and on for the last hundred issues or so. Ben attacks, and Aron blasts him out of the building. Aron announces that all of reality is about to end, and it’s too bad that the FF won’t be alive to see it.

Outside, on the moon’s surface, but still within the Blue Area with its breathable air, Ben finds himself surrounded by the Inhuman Attack Squad, ready for a fight. Nathaniel Richards, meanwhile, conveniently teleports back to Earth, to the lab in Castle Doom. There, it is revealed that the apparition of Sue is a fake, and that Nathaniel is the one who’s been making it appear before our heroes, telling them to trust him. He shuts off the apparition, saying that he’s going to need someone “courageous, powerful, and naïve” to defeat a rogue Watcher, and he says he knows just the person.

To be continued!

Fade out: Sue frets about teaming up with Kristoff saying the FF knows almost nothing about him (not quite true) and she wonders if the kid could be a true ally.

Clobberin’ time: Ben is once again an expert pilot, outmaneuvering the Inhumans’ missile attacks, saying he’s having fun doing so.

Flame on: Johnny doesn’t speak during the flight to the moon, his mind elsewhere. The other suspect that he’s dwelling on Lyja, but we never learn what’s really on his mind.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Ant-Man is in awe of being on the moon, but he’s been to space a couple of times now, in Contest of Champions, Death of Captain Marvel, and maybe others. (I still haven’t read most of his many Iron Man appearances.)

Commercial break: Was Reboot really as great as its fans say it was, or was it merely an OK show with occasionally great moments?

Trivia time: OK, let’s attempt to sort out continuity. The Watcher who’s been showing up since “No One Gets Out Alive” (NOGOA) has been Aron the whole time. This tracks, as Aron’s whole deal has always been to trap the FF in a world of his own creating, usually based on the 1960s version of the characters, hence the 60s-style timeline of NOGOA. The apparition of Sue seen in NOGOA was indeed from the alternate timeline, but the apparition seen in issues #387 to the present was created by Nathaniel to mess with our heroes. There, everything makes sense now.

The Inhuman Royal Family were exiled to Earth in Fantastic Four Unlimited #2 by the Inhuman Genetic Council, who are currently running Attlian. Ator makes reference to this in this issue when he attacks the FF.

Fantastic or frightful? Aside from the big reveal about Aron and the first appearance of some fun new Inhumans, there’s not much that happens here. It feels like the creators are just checking off boxes to set things up for issue #400 and the big finale in #416. So, another shrug.

Next: Mister negative.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 38

Watching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! The battle of Tir Asleen concludes with an exploding dragon head and some romance, 1:32:44 to 1:35:15 on the Blu-ray.

In some impressive combining of a live person and a stop motion effect, Madmartigan lands on the back of the Eborsisk, riding it bucking bronco-style. Willow watches from the bridge. In subsequent shots, the actor/stuntman is replaced with a stop-motion Madmartigan. That door that Willow has been trying to get into this whole time finally opens from the other side, with NockMaar soldiers behind it. One of the them spots the baby and says, “the baby!” Willow runs at them with the sword Madmartigan gave him, forcing both men into the door, and then down some stairs, in what could only be the lower floor of this building. General Kael rides his horse right in through the door, and we see Willow on the floor with the two men, apparently having fallen down the stairs as well. Even though he’s encountered Kael a few times by now, Willow’s eyes widen upon seeing him.

Back outside there are several quick shots of the NockMaar firing arrows at the Eborsisk, with Madmartigan still flailing about on the back of one of its two heads. Then another shot of Sorsha looking at Madmartigan with wonder instead of fierceness. We see Madmartigan stab his sword in the back of the Eborsisk’s head, only for the blade to go through the head and out through under its chin. It seems as though the monster’s head is too big for this, but maybe baby Elora Danan is helping things along with magic. Madmartigan jumps off the Eborsisk and hits the ground with a roll. He looks up at it. Sorsha walks up to him, holding her cool serrated sword. They stare at each other for a second. Then she grabs the leather strap on the front of his armor, pulls him up to his feet (she’s strong!) and they kiss. The music swells, and they look into each other’s eyes following the kiss. Then they’re distracted by the Eborsisk thrashing about.

What happens next happens awfully quick. The bulge under Eborsisk’s chin swells, and as soon we register this, it’s head explodes. Fire and gore fill the entire screen. The camera pulls back to reveal one head is now a gooey stump, while the other head roars in pain. Both heads fall, landing right in front of a Nockmaar on horseback. Clearly what has happened is that the sword blocked the fire building up inside the NockMaar, so the pressure built up until it burst. What’s interesting here is that the action doesn’t stop to explain all this. The filmmakers trust that the audience will figure it out on our own. There’s another wide shot of the entire courtyard, showing the Eborsisk is now defeated. Because this is an over-the-top battle scene, they go ahead and add a man on fire running through the scene.

Then there’s a short scene in which a NockMaar on foot says to two on horseback, “Airk’s army! Get Kael!” No clue who these characters are, but clearly they represent some form of leadership, perhaps right under Kael and Sorsha. Then there’s a shot to outside the castle of the Galladoorn army charging ahead on horseback. This shot is7 framed on either side by parts of the structure, as if we’re looking through a window. In the next shot, there is Airk, leading the charge in gold and brown army, with his crew riding behind him in matching brown leather uniforms and red flags. The movie doesn’t really say what led to Airk’s change of heart, or how he was able to rally the troops like this, but I believe we’re meant to think that Airk’s previous encounter with Madmartigan changed his mind about riding to Tir Asleen. Then we see the Brownies, Franjean and Rool, inside a pouch on one of the horse’s saddles. Franjean says “We are here!” and Rool adds, “You are rescued!” Then they yell “Charge!” in unison.

Kael rides back into the courtyard holding a bundle of blankets meant to be Elora Danan. This pulls a lot of first-time viewers out of movie, because there’s no way that bundle of blankets has a baby in it. Kael makes a growling noise, and then sees Sorsha and Madmarigan fighting side by side against some NockMaar. There’s a close-up shot of the baby crying, so we know that is supposed to be here in his hands, and then Kael rides off. He and the surviving NockMaar have apparently regrouped in the last few seconds, because they now lead a charge of their own, riding straight at the Galladoorn. “No mercy!” Kael says. Kael easy slices and dices his way through the Galladoorn, revealing that the Galladoorn troops aren’t that many guys after all. Kael cuts through their line and continues to ride forward with another battle cry.

Back inside the castle walls, Willow emerges with action-hero blood on his forehead, calling “Elora!” Madmartign and Sorsha run over to him as he collapses. Willow breaks down in tears saying, “Elora is gone. They’ve taken here. There were too many of them.” Warwick Davis’ acting here is heartbreaking, but the score starts getting light and heroic right away. Madmartigan’s not having these tears. He says, “Willow, can you ride?” Willow looks up at him, and Madmartigan says “Let’s ride.”

Next: Why not try a holiday in NockMaar this year?

****

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Fantastic Friday: Who watches the watchmen who watch the other watchmen?

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #397 has Dr. Doom (but not really) the Watcher (but not really) and the return of Reed (but not really).

We begin with some comedy antics of Johnny flying through an airport hoping to make it to his flight on time. All while recapping how he saw the mysterious apparition of Sue warning the FF danger. Lyja the Skrull is following him, having shape-changed into a piece of luggage.

Johnny arrives at FF headquarters, where Ben and Ant-Man are fixing up the FF’s Stealth Hawk ship, making it look even more like the Enterprise. They’ve apparently already compared notes, getting down to business about trying to locate Sue. Then the Watcher appears before them. He says a Skrull warship is approaching the Earth and he insists the heroes leave Earth immediately to stop it. Ben doesn’t believe him, though, saying that the Watcher went into self-imposed exile back in issue #392. When he asks why the Watcher changed his mind, the Watcher shows a rare moment of weakness and says, “I have apparently underestimated you.”

The Watcher then attacks, unleashing his comic powers on the FF. Ben and Johnny fight back, all while knowing that the Watcher has godlike power and is nearly invulnerable. Rather than fight, Ant-Man hops aboard the Stealth Hawk, forming a plan.

Cut to a secret lab in the mountains of Tibet, the home of the “Monastery of Doom,” where Nathaniel Richards has captured Sue and trapped her in a high-tech dome. There are two bodies in suspended animation in the lab, which Sue believes contains Reed and Dr. Doom, back from the dead. Sue escapes from the cage and threatens Nathaniel, but he doesn’t fight back, saying his goal is already accomplished.

Back at Four Freedoms Plaza, Ant-Man uses the Stealth Hawk engines to distract the Watcher. This allows Johnny to fly to the lab and recover a “Dekion pulse” specifically designed for use against a rogue Watcher. It starts to work, but the Watcher fights back, destroying the pulse.

Just when it seems all is lost, a second Watcher appears. The first Watcher calls the second one “brother,” and says the two of them can leave and go off to create their own universe. The second Watcher isn’t having it, saying that if “the one” dies, so do they all. The first Watcher departs, saying he will spare the FF’s lives in exchange for the second Watcher not interfering in his affairs. Johnny asks if the second Watcher is Uatu a.k.a. the Watcher of Earth, but he disappears without giving an answer. He does, however, leave an alien device behind.

In Tibet, the Nathaniel opens the tubes, awakening the two held in suspended animation. It is not Dr. Doom but Kristoff, the pretender to Doom’s throne. The second is Boris, Doom/Kristoff’s loyal retainer. We get a short recap of Kristoff’s origin, that he was an orphaned Latverian child taken under Doom’s wing, only to go insane and believe he was Doom, to the point where he lives 24/7 in an adult-sized Doom-shaped armor. To bring home the ridiculousness of this concept, there’s even a big panel of unmasked Kristoff, showing his little kid face in full Dr. Doom regalia. Sue asks about Kristoff’s father, but Kristoff says he never knew his father.

There’s a short scene of Lyja arriving in New York, just in time for the Stealth Hawk to fly off without her. This is followed by another short scene in the Watcher’s lair, where a mysterious stranger chides the Watcher for his “performance” in front of the FF. The stranger emerges from the shadows and it’s… Reed! (I’ll spoil it: This is the Dark Raider, the alternate-universe Reed from a few issues back.)

In Tibet, Ben, Johnny and Ant-Man are already reunited with Sue, Nathaniel, Kristoff and Boris. Sue takes Nathaniel aside and says she assumed Dr. Doom is Nathaniel’s son, but Kristoff is really Nathaniel’s son. Nathaniel doesn’t give a definitive answer, saying “it is less than prudent to make any assumptions.” Kristoff looks over the device the Watcher left behind, saying it is a weapon powerful enough to extinguish a sun. He says they must all do something about the Watcher, because the Watcher’s “treachery” threatens them all.

To be continued.

Fade out: Sue has to struggle to escape from her cage/dome thing she’s in, fearing that she suffered a concussion when Nathaniel knocked her out last issue. She seems to recover from it pretty quick.

Clobberin’ time: Ben enacts the plan to stop the watcher by saying “Execute plan 4-W!” Possibly this is a holdover from his time as team leader during the Steve Englehart years.

Flame on: Johnny uses concentrated nova-level bursts of fire against the Watcher. Again, it’s inconsistent as to when he has this ability and when he doesn’t.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Ben, Johnny and Ant-Man wear matching blue and white “4” jackets in this issue. That makes this a good one to show people who argue that Ant-Man isn’t really an alternate member of the team. He’ s wearing the “4”!

The Alicia problem: Lyja’s motivation in this issue is not to trick or seduce Johnny to win him back by helping him save the day.

Commercial break: Hey, I remember Ren and Stimpy. Wait… this isn’t Ren and Stimpy!

Trivia time: The last time we saw Kristoff was back in issue #352, when Dr. Doom seemingly killed him. Why the monks at the Monastery of Doom saw fit to secretly revive Kristoff is anyone’s guess.

An NYC bystander, upon seeing Lyja and the Stealth Hawk, says “You don’t see sights like this in Gotham City!” Gotham City is arguably canonical Marvel, having appeared in JLA/Avengers, Batman/Punisher, Spider-Man/Batman, and Batman/Daredevil. The Marvel wiki insists that these crossovers are alternate timelines, however, making this bystander really some sort of interdimensional being. What do you mean, “It’s just a joke”?

Fantastic or frightful? I imagine a lot of people are confused by this issue, what with the two Watchers, the Kristoff/Nathaniel stuff, and so on. It’s all a set up for next issue, which finally explains what’s been going on. So this one’s not really its own story, but part of a bigger whole.

Next: I am… not Groot?

****

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Fantastic Friday: Saturday Morning Car-Doom

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #396 really gets the ball rolling, building up to issue #400 and, more importantly, writer Tom DeFalco’s eventual end game in issue #416. Also, cartoons!

The issue begins with “Dr. Doom” making a public appearance in the streets of Latveria. Of course it’s really a Doombot, used by Nathaniel Richards to convince the world that he’s Doom.  Sue is still hanging around Castle Doom, still demanding answers. Nathaniel says he must pretend to be Dr. Doom because he has a personal stake in safeguarding Latveria’s interests. When she insists on even more answers, there is a short fight between her and more Doombots, he doesn’t answer any of her questions about Reed or this other son Nathaniel mentioned. He says that if he and Sue are to discover Reed’s true fate, then she has to stick around and play along.

At Four Freedoms Plaza, Ben thinks the building is under attack, but it’s just Ant-Man watching the new Fantastic Four TV cartoon. (It’s not named, but this is supposed to be The Marvel Action Hour, featuring both the FF and Iron Man, which debuted around this time.) They see the mysterious apparition of Sue, once again attempting to give them a dire warning. Both Ben and Ant-Man agree that they thought this apparition business was done with during their recent time travel adventure (The “No One Gets Out Alive” story arc) and Ben says they should find Sue immediately. Elsewhere, we find the Watcher, who is of course watching all this. A mysterious man tells the Watcher that the FF will soon become suspicious of his actions, and the Watcher says if the FF come after him, they will be destroyed.

In Latveria, Nathaniel equips Sue’s FF time sled with a device that will take them to Nathaniel’s unnamed son. At FF HQ, Ant-Man uses Dr. Doom’s old time machine, which the FF still have, to follow Sue and Nathaniel. Sue and Nathaniel arrive on a snowy mountaintop in Tibet, where they are attacked by monks with laser weapons, calling themselves “the Monastery of Doom.” Sue somehow recognizes them as the ones who originally trained young Dr. Doom in the “dark arts.” While Sue fights the monks, Nathaniel sneaks into a cave, in search of his real objective.

In “the Great Western Desert,” Johnny is still at the ESU archeological dig, where he flirts big time with hot blonde Laura Green. Laura is secretly Lyja the Skrull in disguise, still following Johnny. She can’t believe he’s actually flirting with her. Then they see the apparition of Sue. Johnny flies off the rejoin his old teammates, and Laura/Lyja catches a ride to the airport for the same reason.

In Tibet, Sue follows Nathaniel into the cave, where she fights a Hulk-sized blind monk, whose hearing is so sharp that he knows where she is even when invisible. It’s a short fight, though, as his heightened hearing can’t stop her force fields. (This character is never named, and he never returns after this, which is too bad. Just imagine him fighting Daredevil.)

Sue makes her way through the monastery, apparently located inside the cave, where she finds a high-tech lab and two bodies in suspended animation pods. She thinks she has found Reed and Dr. Doom, but before she can open the pods and know for sure, Nathaniel steps out of the shadows and shoots her in the back. With her unconscious, Nathaniel makes a big speech about he will now gladly and eagerly unleash total evil onto the world.

To be continued!

Fade out: Inside the monastery, Sue walks past locales seen in past retellings of Dr. Doom’s origin, most notably issue #5, issue #278, and the miniseries Books of Doom. She comments about the contradictions in the different versions of Doom’s origins, and she speculates that these stories originated from Dr. Doom himself, always rewriting his own history.

Clobberin’ time: Apparently, Ben signed away the FF’s TV rights to help them get through their recent financial downturn, after all the troubles caused by Johnny destroying part of ESU a ways back.

Flame on: Johnny remarks that he has put the dark times behind him, and he’s feeling a lot more like the carefree, youthful “hothead” Johnny of classic Fantastic Four comics.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Although Ant-Man makes jokes about how awful the FF cartoon is (great cross-promotion work, Marvel) he later says he’s just kidding, and that his daughter Cassie has a Thing lunchbox (!).

The Alicia problem: In previous issues, Lyja said her “Laura Green” plot was to win back Johnny, but in this issue she seems repulsed at how he is flirting with her. I guess it’s because he’s flirting with “Laura” and not Lyja.

Commercial break: This issue has not one or two but three pages of ads for Nintendo’s Tin Star. It’s the WACKY wild west!

Trivia time: The Marvel Action Hour cartoon is canon, existing in Earth-534834, for those of you keeping spreadsheets. This is the third Fantastic Four comic in which the characters watch a TV cartoon based on their own exploits. The first was in issue #10, and the second was in issue #209.

Fantastic or frightful? A lot of this issue is Sue asking perfectly reasonable questions and Nathaniel refusing to answer to he can look all mysterious. It’s mostly setting up things to come. The references to Dr. Doom’s past are nice for fans, and the cartoon tie-in makes this an interesting trivia footnote, but that’s about it.

Next: Who watches the watchmen who watches those watchmen who watch those other watchmen?

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 37

Watching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! You want a two-headed fire-breathing monster? You got it, 1:29:04 to 1:32:44 on the Blu-ray.

The NockMaar army bursts through the front gate, and so much happens in so few seconds, I’m having trouble recapping it all. Madmartigan lets out a battle cry and fires one of the crossbows, hitting a NockMaar in the chest. A shot of the water bubbling, reminding us where the slimy troll fell into. Three arrows hit the barrel Madmartigan is hiding behind. He pops his head up with the crossbow and fires again, hitting a second NockMaar, again in the chest. Then a closeup of him trying to reload the crossbow. It won’t work for some reason, so he throws it over his shoulder. He stands, yells again, and does his signature move of flipping his sword around, all while more flaming arrows hit the barrel.

Madmartigan’s battle yell reaches its height just as a large object rises up from below just behind him. The NockMaar halt, with several of them saying a contemporary-sounding “Whoa!” They begin to retreat. Madmartigan smiles, thinking they’re all afraid of him. He turns around, does a comedic jaw-drop, and also runs.

The camera pans up and we see what everyone is so afraid of. This is the Eborsisk. Yep, the big two-headed beastie. But what is it, exactly? I always assumed that Willow merely mutated the troll into some unholy never-meant-to-exist creation. Instead, the official tie-in lore insists that the Eborsisk is simply a dragon. Dragons were mentioned fleetingly earlier in the movie, but they’re all over the tie-in books, especially the Shadow War novel trilogy, where a dragon even narrates part of one book. Dragons come in both one- and two-headed types and can fly. They’re also intelligent and capable of speech, though we don’t see that from the Eborsisk.

We all know that the name “Eborsisk” is poking fun at film critics Siskel and Ebert, but where did the name come from? It’s not spoken anywhere in the movie, or seen in the credits. Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer have said in interviews that they’re the ones who came up with the name during promotional interviews for the movie, but I find that unlikely. This is because it’s also used in the novelization and the graphic novel, which long lead times and are often based earlier versions of a movie. Most likely, somebody came up with a funny name during pre-production and it stuck.

Each of the Eborsisk’s two heads have large bulges on the snout and chin. These are apparently to assist with fire-breathing, which one does right off the bat. It appears that the streams of fire come out of both its mouth and its snout simultaneously. Again not waiting around, one of the NockMaar gets burned up in the fire. Most dragon movies make you wait a little while for fire-breathing action, but not Willow.

Then it’s time for more comedy shtick, as Madmartigan is now outside the castle, standing alongside all the NockMaar as they all stare in awe at the monster together. They then look around confusedly among each other, with Sorsha giving him a “What are you doing?” look. General Kael, however, isn’t having it, saying “Get him!” Madmartigan runs back into the castle, toward the monster, with everyone following him with their swords drawn.

Cut to Willow on the upper level where we last saw him, backing up from the monster, whose heads are about level with him. He has a stone gargoyle on one side of him and the actual monster on the other, for a nice juxtaposition. The Eborsisk appears to take notice of Willow.

Madmartigan runs over to one of the catapults, which we see is only a little taller than he is. He cuts it loose and it tosses a small object (what is that?), hitting a NockMaar soldier on horseback, knocking him off the horse. Willow picks up the baby and attempts to run across the bridge connecting parts of the castle, but the Eborsisk moves in and breathes fire again, burning up the bridge in front of him.

There’s a shot of Sorsha shouting “the other side!” Of what, though? We don’t know where she is. Then we see the Eborsisk again, now several arrows stuck in it as the NockMaar attempt to fight back. One reaches down, snatches a man off the back of his horse, and rears up with the man’s legs dangling from its mouth. It then gobbles them man up. A NockMaar aims an arrow and fires, hitting the Eborsisk in the neck. More arrows follow. Instead of each head doing its own thing, in this shot they are unified, moving as one as they stare down at the soldiers and roar at them.

General Kael orders “Destroy the beast! Find the baby!” He’s not letting a little thing like a two-headed dragon slow him down. Next, Fin Raziel, in goat form, runs into frame, saying “Take that!” She knocks a soldier off a ledge, though I’m not clear on what part of the castle this is. As if all this wasn’t busy enough, we also catch up to one of the trolls, who can be seen jumping around some rubble, and then springing up behind Willow as Willow tends to the baby. Willow picks up one a flaming piece of wood, as half the place is fire by now, and uses it a makeshift weapon, swinging it at the troll.

Cut to another soldier, stepping in one Madmartigan’s bear traps. Two more kick open a door, setting off two crossbows inside that Madmartigan had rigged to fire. Then there’s a bit where a bunch of NockMaar are standing next to a bunch of boxes, only for them to fall over, revealing Madmargian on the other side holding two crossbows. With a “Ha!” he fires, killing two more NockMaar. He then scrambles into a small round hole carved into the wall for his escape. I’m guessing this is some primitive sewer system?

Then it’s back to the bridge, still on fire, with Eborsisk’s heads looking around angrily. Willow continues to use his fire stick to keep the troll at bay. He stops and digs through his pouch for one of the magic acorns the High Aldwin gave him earlier in the movie. In this shot you can also see the braid of Kiaya’s hair still affixed to Willow’s belt. Willow withdraws an acorn, only to drop it. There’s some debate as to what happens next, and whether the acorn turns part of the bridge under Willow into stone. Watching carefully, you can definitely see a special effect where part of the bridge becomes stone. I don’t like this, as it removes the “ticking clock” quality of the magic acorns, answering too soon the question of what will happen when Willow finally uses them.

There’s a quick shot of the baby crying, suggesting that she understands what’s happening. Then the troll turns around and appears to start to climb over the side of the bridge. Willow runs at it with his fire stick. He stabs the troll right in the butt, and it does a comedic reaction shot. That doesn’t finish him off, though. Part of the bridge breaks, and Willow and the troll fall through. The troll is hanging on the bridge, and Willow is hanging onto the troll. The Eborsisk is still right there, and notices them both, one of its heads goes in for a chomp, its open mouth coming right at the camera. It bites down on the troll, pulls it off the bridge, and, in one of the movie’s more violent moments, the Eborsisk’s second head also bites down on the troll, and they pull its body apart. Then we cut to Willow hanging onto a different part of the bridge, having apparently jumped to safety.

Back to Madmartigan, he has now removed that goofy helmet as he slashes another enemy soldier across the gut. Sorsha is sitting on her horse, watching him intently. Madmartigan kicks a guy in the face and runs up some stairs. Sorsha keeps watching him, as the score goes from action-y to all romantic for a few seconds.

Finally we get a wide shot of the castle’s courtyard. It’s not that huge of an area for everyone to be fighting in. Also, the Eborsisk appears to be half-buried in the ground. It breathes fire again, even as we can see a bunch of fires around it that it already started. Madmartigan reaches the top of the stairs, putting him on the same upper level as Willow. He calls Willow’s name. In another wide show, we see the Eborisk eyeing them menacingly while another troll climbs around the castle walls. The Eborisk breathes fire fight at the camera, only for Madmartigan to duck behind a wall and out of the fire’s path.

 

Willow now has an unlit metal torch in his hands, which he’s using to try to force open the door at the end of the bridge. He hears the troll and looks up as it falls on him. The score goes back from romantic to heroic as Madmartigan stands on a much larger catapult while kicking and swordfighting three soldiers. He’s fighting with a sword in each hand now, slicing and dicing these guys real good. Sorsha is on foot now, mesmerized as she watches him. Willow calls for Madmartigan’s help.


Madmartigan cuts the rope on the catapult, sending himself flying through the air. He soars over the Eborsisk heads, smacks into the castle wall, and then falls onto the troll. Many people have pointed out that the arc of the catapult arm does not match the arc of Madmartigan’s flight. I like to think this Alora Danan and/or Willow helping out with magic. Willow says “Get him, Madmartigan!” (Anybody else reminded of “Get her, Ray” from Ghostbusters?) The troll roars at Madmartigan, only for Madmartigan to roar right back at him, for another comedic beat. He then goes ahead and kicks the troll. The troll falls of the bridge. We don’t see it land, but we do an Eborsisk head lower down to eat it. Madmartigan says “Here,” and gives Willow a sword. The actors play this sword exchange as if it’s a big dramatic moment, but it gets lost in the midst of all this action and carnage.

An Eborsisk head then rears up right next to Madmartigan for a real Jurassic Park moment. Two more arrows hit it and it looks away for a second. Madmartigan sighs in an I-have-to-everything-around-here kind of way, and then he leaps on to the back of the dragon’s head.

And… we’ll get to the rest of the battle next time.

Next: The rest of the battle.

****

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