Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 26

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! We’re officially halfway through the movie! 1:02:44 to 1:05:17 on the Blu-ray.

There’s a George Lucas wipe from the previous scene, and we’re back to an establishing shot of the fishing village. Then we see Willow holding baby Elora Danan with Fin Raziel, in possum form, on Willow’s shoulder. Raziel says, “It is Elora Danan. Isn’t she beautiful?” In the Willow novelization and graphic novel, Raziel adds “At last, earth and sky rejoin.” This baffling line was wisely cut from the movie, because it doesn’t coincide with what we know of the prophecy about Elora Danan. Maybe it’s just a common expression in this world. Instead, the movie just has Raziel say “Isn’t she beautiful?” a second time.

Then it’s time for comic relief with the Brownies. Rool says, “That’s Raziel?” Franjean says, “I don’t know. I expected something more grand. Less…” And Rool concludes, “Fuzzy?” The question here is, why didn’t Cherlindrea inform the Brownies that Raziel had been transformed into a possum? Did Cherlindrea not know, because she cannot leave her forest? Or did Cherlindrea assume that was not pertinent information?

Raziel says to Willow, “You must use the wand. Turn me back into my human form.” Willow asks, “What do I do?” There’s a pause, and Raziel says, “You mean you’re not a sorcerer?” There’s another pause, and Willow says “Yes. Sort of. I’m a farmer.” The Brownies roll their eyes and throw their spears to the ground in an I-give-up gesture. Have those two really been thinking Willow is a powerful sorcerer this whole time?

Willow continues, “But I do know a few tricks.” Raziel’s next line is nearly impossible to understand. According to the Blu-ray’s subtitles, she’s saying, “Tricks? Cherlindrea sent you? You must learn real magic.” The tie-in books skip over how Raziel and Cherlindrea know each other. In the books, Raziel’s teacher was a sorcerer named Vulsant. Although Vulsant was somehow bewitched by Bavmorda when she overthrew Tir Asleen, he died of natural causes. As for Raziel, we can probably assume that young Raziel traveled the world while learning magic when she was younger, meeting Cherlindrea along the way.

A horse is heard in the distance, and the Brownies both cry out, “Horses!” Does their size mean they can sense the horses’ hoofbeats approaching before the others can? Willow picks up the baby and is about to make a run for it, with Raziel saying “Quick! Take her! Hurry! Hurry!” They’re not quick enough, though, because a bunch of NockMaar soldiers ride up. They have a still-shirtless Madmartigan riding alongside them. Franjean points at Madmartigan and says, “I knew he was a traitor.” He yells the word “traitor” for emphasis.

Madmartigan coldly and flatly says, “Sorry about this, Peck.” The NockMaar soldier next to him says, “Keep your mouth shut,” and then punches Madmartigan so hard that Madmartigan falls off his horse. This NockMaar is a red beard, which has occasionally confused some first-time viewers into thinking this is Airk from earlier, but no, Airk won’t pop up again until later. The NockMaar says “I told you we’d find them without your help,” revealing that Madmartigan didn’t betray Willow.

Willow tries to run, but the NockMaar, now very quickly off his horse, runs up to him and says “Give me baby.” Willow cries “No!” and tries to get away. There’s a shot of Madmartigan looking concerned, and then the NockMaar succeeds in forcing the baby out of Willow’s arms. A second NockMaar chases after Raziel, grabbing her by the tail. She cries, “Leave me alone! Don’t touch me!” You’d think that if she hadn’t spoken, maybe the soldiers would have let her go, mistaking her for an ordinary possum. Or perhaps Bavmorda filled them in, telling them to capture both the baby and the possum.

Then Sorsha rides up. While the baby cries, she and another soldier check the baby’s arm. “This is the one we’re looking for,” she says. “We must take it back to NockMaar.” Then we see the solider who caught Raziel stuff her into a sack. This is followed by another shot of Madmartigan, still on the ground, looking really angry. Sorsha has a nicely menacing moment when she leans over and says to Madmartigan, “Lose your skirt?” Madmartigan slowly stands and walks over to her, eventually coming back with “I still got what counts.” Sorsha has an even better comeback, “Not for long.” Then we get the famous bit where she kicks him right in the face. Notice that she has to take a few seconds to shift her weight somewhat in order to pull off the kick while on horseback, but it’s still a sweet kick.

Madmartigan is knocked back, but stays on his feet. He and Sorsha glare at each other for a moment, and then she says to the other soldiers, “Bring him.” A soldier grabs hold of Madmartigan and pushes him along. Another soldier grabs hold of Willow and forces him along as well, saying “Over here!” Why are the soldiers taking Madmartigan and Willow captive instead of just killing them? The text doesn’t say. Perhaps Bavmorda wishes to question them about what they learned about Elora Danan.

There’s a shot of the soldiers riding off, only for the camera to pan downward to reveal the Brownies running up, having been left behind. Out of breath, Rool says, “We’ll never keep up with those horses.” Franjean, still acting like the leader, says, “Then we will have to track them.” Rool says “That would take forever. Besides, even if we find them, they’ll catch us, stick us in cages, torture us, and finally devour us.” Franjean says, “Are you suggesting we go home?” Rool is quick to answer, “Nah. This is more fun.” With a big smile, Franjean says, “All right, fine then. Come on.” They walk off in the direction of the horses. Not only is this a nutty joke to end the scene, but it’s consistent with what we know about the Brownies from the tie-in books. Because they live for hundreds of years, they get into mischief, often dangerously, simply to prevent boredom. What’s more of an unknown, however, is Rool’s belief that they will be devoured. We know the Daikini consider the Brownies to be like vermin, but are they really eating the Brownies? Or is Rool merely exaggerating? Let’s not find out.

Next: “It wasn’t always like this. I had a life once. A job.”

****

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


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Fantastic Friday: Dead again once more

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The previous issue promised “Someone will die!” And yes, a main character bites it in issue #381, so why isn’t this mentioned among historically important storylines? Let’s find out.

Ben, mistakenly thinking that Sharon Ventura is dead and blaming Dr. Doom for it, attacked Doom’s castle while Doom was fighting with a cosmic being known only as the Hunger. There was an explosion inside the castle, and our heroes fear that Ben is dead. We begin with several pages of the FF — Reed, Sue, Johnny, Franklin, and Lyja — fight Doom’s robots outside the castle wreckage. During the fight, we also catch up on subplots. Franklin is now in his late teens after some time traveling, and Sue remains skeptical that he’s not the real Franklin. Johnny continues to have mixed feelings about Lyja still being around.

Ben and Dr. Doom emerge from the rubble, still alive. Reed offers a hand to help Doom, but Doom refuses. Doom returns to the non-exploded half of the castle, just leaving the FF there, while Ben explains that the Hunger is still out there. Cut to the forest outside the castle, where we see the Hunger take on a new form, of a golden-skinned gargoyle/bat type of monster, complete with purple underpants. In his lab, Doom returns to his plan to steal the Hunger’s cosmic power.

Cut to a nearby village, for a weird scene in which a father scolds his child for frowning in public, saying that it is the law in Latveria for everyone to appear happy and content in public or else face swift and violent punishment. They come across Reed in the village square, telling everyone to evacuate. The Latverians don’t believe him, thinking that this is a plot by Dr. Doom to test their loyalty. Everyone then scatters as the Hunger attacks, and the FF fight the Hunger for several pages.

The fight is interrupted by a Latverian pilot aboard a “hover-fighter,” who chases the Hunger off with “particle bursts.” The pilot offers to take the FF back to the castle, and Reed accepts. In Doom’s lab, Doom shows off a matter transference pad, which he says will teleport the Hunger away from Earth. Reed believes this, and he gets to work helping Doom with the machine. In his thoughts, however, Doom lets the reader know that the real purpose of the machine is to steal the Hunger’s power.

Back to the fight, Reed attacks the Hunger with a cable attached to Doom’s device. This causes an explosion that knocks out Reed and Sue, while also killing a bunch of Doom’s henchmen. Doom uses a battery pack containing the last of the cosmic power he stole from Aron the Watcher a few issues back, Doom fights Hunger some more. Doom beats the Hunger down, and it looks like he’s one, but the Hunger fights back some more, frying Doom inside his armor. It’s only then that Doom use the matter  transference device to beam the hunger into deep space.

Reed approaches Doom, who is now battered and beaten, to offer help. Doom says he cannot die knowing that Reed still lives. As Reed offers a helping hand, Doom takes it, only for them both to explode in a burst of light, leaving behind nothing but ashes.

Unstable molecule: You’re no doubt predicting that Reed and Dr. Doom aren’t really dead. You’re right of course, but in interviews and press materials at the time, the folks at Marvel were once again playing the “this time it’s permanent” game. Oh, Marvel.

Fade out: Sue’s Malice persona makes a brief reappearance, showing admiration for Dr. Doom’s ambition to rule the entire world.

Clobberin’ time: During the fight, Ben admits that he’s been feeling a lot of fear because of the scars on his face making him vulnerable, but then he buckles up promises not to be afraid anymore.

Flame on: Johnny continues to have mixed feelings about Lyja still hanging around. He calls her “sweetheart” at one point. When she asks if that’s genuine or sarcastic, he doesn’t answer.

Four and a half: Franklin once again dons his “Psilord” armor (still not spelled with a hyphen) during the fight.

The Alicia problem: Lyja uses her “laser-fist” powers during the fight, as well as transforming into a bird-like creature to help Johnny at one point.

Commercial break: They actually put this on prime time:

Trivia time: Confused about the geography of this issue, between the castle, the capitol city, the forest, and the small village. The Marvel wiki isn’t much help, but does list some notable Latverian tourist spots, including Doom Falls and the Cynthia Von Doom Memorial Park.

Fantastic or frightful? Here they’re killing off two of comicdom’s biggest characters, but it comes off as more of the same-old, same old. Also, as a cosmic being, the Hunger should be a Galactus-level threat, but instead is just a random monster for the heroes to punch for several pages. So, this issue isn’t bad, it just gets a shrug.

Next: Devos-tating.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – part 25

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! Time to hit pause on the Blu-ray for a sec to discuss one of the movie’s most elaborate deleted scenes.

In the previous scene, I mentioned the deleted scene featuring a mysterious figure known only as the “Fish Boy,” who warned Willow against traveling to Fin Raziel’s island. Now, as Willow returns from the island with Raziel, a hand emerges from the water, and we see the Fish Boy again, this time climbing on board the boat. In the deleted scene, the Fish Boy is bald with fangs, and a big fin briefly seen on his back. In the graphic novel, he has gold skin and long greyish-brown hair. Willow whops the Fish Boy on the head with an oar. The Fish Boy goes under the water and reemerges a huge sharklike monster. The Fish Boy grabs a fishing net on board the boat and pulls it off. Willow gets tangled up in the net and fall under the water.

Underwater, Willow uses a knife which I don’t recall seeming his use before this, to cut himself free from the net. He also stabs at the Fish Boy a few times He swims back to the boat, and takes out one of the High Aldwin’s magic acorns. Before he can use it, the Fish Boy reemerges and smashes the side of the boat, causing Willow to drop the acorn next to Raziel. He scrambles, picks it up, and tosses it at the Fish Boy. Here we see that the acorns work. First, when Willow initially drops it, it turns part of the boat to stone. Then when he throws that same acorn at the Fish Boy, the Fish Boy turns to stone and promptly sinks.

The Willow graphic novel features some additional dialogue during this. Before leaving the island, Raziel tells Willow to hide the magic wand, saying “Bavmorda knows you’re here.” She then tells him to get back to the boat and get them out of there. Once the fight begins, Raziel tells Willow, “Kill it!” He says no and she repeats “Kill it!” We all assume Willow is not a killer because he’s a nice guy and not a hardened soldier, but this is the only mention we get of him having a Batman-like “no killing” rule. And then this is undone mere seconds later by having him go ahead and kill the Fish Boy.

So why isn’t this in the actual movie? In an interview on the Blu-ray, director Ron Howard says that despite everyone’s best efforts, the effects just weren’t as good as the rest of the movie. The animatronic used for the monster does look pretty clunky. Later in the movie, we’ll meet a giant monster (or two) who shows a lot more personality than this thing. The tie-in books and the wiki, however, all insist that the Fish Boy is canon, so here he is.

Next: Laugh it up, fuzzball.

****

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

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Fantastic Friday: Face the nation

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s the Thing versus Dr. Doom in issue #380, except it’s a battle of wits rather than fists.

Recap: After Sharon Ventura betrayed Dr. Doom and returned to the Fantastic Four, Doom had Sharon transformed back into a Thing. Mistakenly believing Sharon killed herself, Ben flew to Latveria in a rage, to take vengeance on Doom. The Latverian defenses shot down Ben’s plane as he approached, though.  This issue begins with two pages of Doom’s agents recovering unconscious Ben from the wreckage. Doom, meanwhile, is in lab, more occupied with drawing a cosmic being to Earth so he can steal its power.

In New York, Reed has put Sharon in suspended animation while working on a cure for her. Johnny announces that Ben has left for Latveria and can’t be reached on his radio. Reed wants to help, but he and Sue are still weak from the big battle in issue #378. In another part of the building, Franklin, who is now in his late teens due to a time travel adventure, finds Lyja doubled over in pain. She insists she’s fine, but asks him not to tell Johnny. Now a telepath, Franklin can sense this has something to do with Lyja’s pregnancy.

In Latveria, Dr. Doom’s scientists report that the cosmic being has somehow slipped below their “space radar” in an attempt to avoid them. They get to work at finding it before alerting Doom. Ben wakes up in Doom’s banquet hall, where Doom does the pompous villain thing, preparing him a lavish meal. Ben tries to attack, but Doom has affixed manacles onto Ben’s wrists, giving him a neuroelectric shock if he gets too close to Doom. Doom gives a big speech about how he’s not evil, and that under his leadership, Latveria is free from crime, poverty, debt and disease. Ben argues that all those positives come from loyalty to Dr. Doom, which he says is too steep a price.

Out in the Latverian countryside, we finally get a look at this cosmic being, which appears some sort of glowing cloud of light. It attacks some Latverian guards, sucking the life out of them. The caption tells us this creature is simply the “Hunger.”

Back in the castle, Doom has Ben hooked up a big science machine. Doom removes Ben’s metal helmet, and we see that Ben’s scars now cover more than half of his face. Doom says he sympathizes, as his face, too, must remain prisoner of a metal mask. Doom offers not just to heal Ben, but to restore his humanity.

The Hunger attacks Doom’s castle, fighting its way through all the guards and Doombots. Doom jumps into the fight, hoping to absorb the hunger’s cosmic power. Doom attacks, using the same device he used to steal Aron the Watcher’s powers a few issues back. Ben uses his awesome strength to break free of the neuroelectric shocks and escape Doom’s lab. He comes across Doom fighting the Hunger. He uses two live wires from the lab and jumps into the fight, hoping to electrocute both Doom and the Hunger.

Outside, the FF — specifically Reed, Sue, Johnny, Franklin, and Lyja — arrive flying a borrowed Avengers Quinjet. Half of the castle explodes, and the heroes fear there won’t be any survivors. If that’s not enough of a to be continued, the letters page promotes the next issue as “Someone dies,” “End of an era,” and “The start of a new FF.”

Unstable molecule: It was Reed’s idea to borrow a Quinjet from the Avengers. This issue takes place in between two big Avengers storylines, The Terminatrix Objective, which was a confusing time travel story, and Bloodties, a long-running crossover with (of course) the X-Men.

Fade out: The previous issue stated that Sue was too weak from the battle in issue #378 to create force fields. In this issue, she has that power back, but it causes her a lot strain to use it.

Clobberin’ time: Doom promises to cure Ben’s scarred face, but in a thought bubble, Doom reveals that he’s not able to do so, and is just placating Ben. Ben’s face scarred because Wolverine sliced him, and there’s still no real explanation as to why that can’t heal.

Flame on: Johnny is shown behind the controls of the Quinjet, so I guess he got pilot training at some point.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Reed says he’s halted Sharon’s metamorphosis as long as she’s in suspended animation, and that’s all we see of Sharon this issue.

Four and a half: Franklin says his mother still believes he’s an imposter, and refuses to trust him.

The Alicia problem: It’s not said why Lyja joins the team on their trip to Latveria. It’s likely she wants to keep an eye on Johnny.

Commercial break: “Kidnap the Sandy Claws, lock him in a box, bury him for ninety years, and then see if he talks.”

Trivia time: Is this Hunger creature the same one that menaced the X-Men in the famous Heroes for Hope charity fundraiser comic? No, it isn’t. For one, that creature went by the name “Hungry,” and the Marvel Wiki identifies it as such. (The actual comic mostly just calls “the entity,” however.) Further, Hungry is not from space like the Hunger is, but instead was born on Earth, at the dawn of mankind.

Fantastic or Frightful? This issue is huge improvement over the previous ones, and one of the best of Tom DeFalco’s run as writer.  The conflict between Dr. Doom and Ben is well done, with Doom’s world-conquering audaciousness contrasting nicely with Ben’s down-to-earth street smarts.

Next: For real this time.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 24

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! Fin Raziel joins the party, but not in the way our hero expects, 1:01:08-1:02:44 on the Blu-ray.

First things first. Some might be wondering why Bavmorda did not station any guards around the Fin Raziel’s lake, so ensure that no one came to rescue Raziel as Willow is now doing. This is explained in a scene that appears in the novelization and graphic novel, but not in the movie. As Willow prepares his rowboat, a young boy with golden yellow skin emerges from the water and says, “The island is cursed. Don’t go out there.” This character is known among fans as the Fish Boy. Instead of asking “Who are you?” Willow instead asks “Cursed?” In the Willow graphic novel, the Fish Boy responds, “Beware. Queen Bavmorda’s powers control the elements here.” In the Willow novelization, he’s a little chattier, saying “All this lake is cursed. Queen Bavmorda’s powers controls the elements here. Venture on it at your peril!” The Fish Boy then dives down back under the water. If you’ve ever seen an episode of Scooby-Doo, then you can guess the Fish Boy is really up to no good. He’s the defense that keep outsiders from rescuing Fin Raziel.

We begin with Willow in the rowboat, heading for the island. He appears to be struggling with the oars, but let’s assume that’s the grey windy weather fighting him. We know Willow’s farm back home abuts a river, so he’s no doubt been boating before. Then the movie smash-cuts to two shots of human skulls, immediately establishing the island as a dangerous place. I think we can also speculate that this is the remains of someone who messed with Fish Boy. Either that, or Raziel is eating people, and something I’d rather not speculate on.

Willow gets off the boat and ties it off to a nearby tree. Then there’s a shot of him exploring, calling out, “Raziel! Fin Raziel! I have to talk to you, please.” This is followed by a wide shot of the entire island, making it look small and isolated compared to the big snow-capped mountains in the background. Willow walks around some more before declaring, “She’s not here.” Then a squeaky voice says, “Get back! Who are you?” (The Blu-ray’s subtitles insist on capitalizing Squeaky Voice. Could this be a spell Raziel is using to talk?)

Willow looks up and sees a talking possum on a tree branch. The possum asks again, “Who are you?” Nonplussed by this revelation, Willow matter-of-factly introduces himself and says he’s come to find “The great sorceress Fin Raziel.” The possum says, “That’s me. I’m Fin Raziel.” Willow says that can’t be right, and Raziel says “One of Bavmorda’s spells transformed me.” Raziel then shows a little humor by adding, “Believe me, it could have been worse.”

Willow, again taking all this in stride, tries to hand Raziel the wand, saying it is from Cherlindrea. Raziel says, “Then the prophecy is true. The princes has been born. Take me to her.” Okay, so just who is Fin Raziel? She was once the greatest sorceress in all of Tir Asleen, but there’s nothing about her in the lore about who she was before she gained that title. Raziel was in love with Tir Asleen’s Prince Mikal, until Bavmorda used evil magic to seduce Mikal and make him her own. It would appear at this point that Bavmorda exiled Raziel to the island, before Bavmorda raised her army and started the current war. She has a lot of catching up to do.

Then there’s another George Lucas wipe back to the fishing village, skipping over some pretty important stuff we’ll get to… next time.

Next: Goldfish.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Riding the rail

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Most of issue #379 is picking up the pieces after the previous month’s battle and shocking plot twist.

Last issue, Dr. Doom’s henchmen attacked Sharon Ventura and transformed her back into a Thing-like monster, in response to her betraying Doom and siding with the FF a few issues earlier. This one begins with Sharon and the FF in Reed’s lab with Reed working furiously to find a cure. Sharon says Reed couldn’t cure her when she was “She-Thing” before, but Ben encourages her to have faith. Reed doubles over with pain as a result of being stabbed by Huntara in last issue’s battle. We’re told (but not shown) that Sue is currently unable to use her force fields because she’s “too afraid” as a result of that same battle.

Cut to Latveria, where Dr. Doom and his scientists are collecting results of a space probe launched in search of beings with cosmic power. One such lifeform has been located, and the scientists say they will attempt to lure the creature to Earth. At FF HQ, we’re reminded that Franklin is now in his late teens, having grown up while time traveling to prevent a dystopian future and now returned to the present. Franklin uses his telepathic powers to “rip” an image of Huntara from Johnny’s mind. Franklin not only knows who Huntara is, but he fears Huntara has traveled to this timeline to prevent Franklin from doing something. Before we learn what that is, Ben interrupts and announces that Sharon has run off.

In space, villains Klaw, Huntara, Paibok the Power-Skrull, and Devos the Devastator regroup, and Paibok announces he has yet another new plan to destroy the FF. In NYC, Johnny meets up with feisty coed Brigit O’Neil, who thanks him for saving his life. She asks about the public’s negative reaction to him. He says he’s used to being in the public eye, and that it might be worse to be ignored. He flies off, and we see that “Brigit” is really Lyja the Skrull in disguise. She believes this conversation reveals that Johnny is a “two-timing snake.”

Ben finds Sharon hiding out in an alley in the city. He wants her to come back and give Reed another chance. She believes a cure is impossible, and she attacks Ben out of rage. Ben tries to fight back while hoping to prevent Sharon from causing property damage, injuring herself, or injuring Ben’s vulnerable scarred face beneath his metal helmet. Johnny finds them fighting, and launches a “4” signal flare in the sky. Reed sees the flare and insists on jumping into action, despite his injury.

Ben pursues Sharon into a subway station. Fearing she’s also losing her mind, Sharon decides to attempt suicide by jumping onto the electrified third rail. Ben pleads with her to reconsider, saying suicide is not the answer no matter how bad things are. She throws him into an oncoming train, and then she jumps onto the rail. Reed, Sue, and Johnny arrive, finding that the electric rail knocked Sharon out but didn’t kill her. He says there’s still time to save her.

Ben, meanwhile, ends up in another part of the city, believing Sharon is dead. He blames Dr. Doom for her death. He returns to Four Freedoms Plaza and boards the FF’s Pogo Plane to fly straight to Latveria. Dr. Doom says an attack by the FF is anticipated, and he cannot be distracted from summoning the cosmic being, so he orders the Pogo Plane shot down. The issue ends with the plan exploding in a huge fireball over Latverian airspace.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: The exact nature of Reed’s injury is unclear. The previous issue stated that Huntara’s blade not only hurt him physically, but psychically as well. Does that relate to his working himself to death in his lab?

Fade out: Sue has a moment where she admires Reed’s inner strength, and how she loves him even during those times when he exasperates her.

Clobberin’ time: This issue features a half-page pinup of Ben and the Hulk. Hulk should get that growth on his shoulder looked at.

Flame on: There’s one sentence referring to how attorney Matt Murdock worked out a deal to clear Johnny of all charges. Just like that, this concludes the Johnny-as-a-fugitive storyline that we’ve been following since issue #371.

Fantastic fifth wheel: It’s not known just how strong Sharon is in her new form, but she throws 500-pound Ben around like he weighs nothing.

Four and a half: Johnny appears to have come around in believing that this is the real Franklin. The specific details of his time travel years continue to be glossed over.

The Alicia problem: At the start of the issue, Lyja is working alongside the FF to help Sharon. Later, though, she’s tricking Johnny and is still vengeful toward him.

Commercial break: A superhero for the 90s!

Trivia time: It took some Googling, but I can confirm that Ben flew to Latveria in the Pogo Plane and not the FF rocket. The Pogo Plane was located in the hanger of Four Freedoms Plaza, where we see it in this issue, while the FF’s rocket was stored in a silo that ran the length of the entire skyscraper. The rocket could fire straight upward into space, or straight downward, to enter the Negative Zone.

Fantastic or frightful? Poor Sharon Ventura. We already went through this, where she was initially suicidal after transforming into a monster. When Steve Englehart was writing the comic, though, her becoming a monster eventually gave her self confidence and helped her overcome her earlier PTSD. All that is either forgotten or ignored in this issue, and it feels like we’re putting this character through hell just for the sake of it. How disappointing.

Next: Men in the iron masks.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 23

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! Madmartigan says goodbye (for now), 59:09-1:01:07 on the Blu-ray.

We start with a shot of a foggy lake as the Brownies step into the frame. Rool points to a land mass to the left and announces, “There it is, the island!” Willow is all smiles, saying, “We made it.” Followed by an ambiguous shot of Madmartigan taking a look around. Then there’s another glimpse of the lake, where there are two land masses, a large mountainous one to the left of the screen, and a smaller one at the center. I’m guessing the smaller one is the island in question. Franjean catches the audience up to speed, saying “We have led you the island of the sorceress Fin Raziel.”

Franjean says they’ll get a boat in “that village” although we haven’t seen a village yet. Rool adds, “A big boat” for a laugh. Our heroes walk down a hill, and in the next shot we see this so-called village. It’s just a bunch of dilapidated teepee-like structures on a muddy beach, with some structures that might be small piers at the water’s edge. It’s at this point that I dove into the tie-in books to see what they say about this village, only to discover very little about it other than it’s an abandoned fishing village. As for why it’s abandoned, and why Bavmorda hasn’t stationed NockMaar troops to keep anyone from rescuing Fin Raziel. This will get explained in an upcoming deleted scene.

Madmartigan, still chewing the blackroot from earlier, picks up a broken sword and fiddles around with the hilt. He says, “Well, looks like I got you here.”  The Brownies scoff at him, saying all he did was eat their eggs. This recalls a line from even earlier in the film. Willow says he found a boat, and Madmartigan says, “Good. Take these two lizards out and drown them.” Franjean asks, “Who are calling a lizard?” as he and Rool raise their spears at him menacingly. Rool adds, “Your mother was a lizard” as Madmartigan ignores them.

Madmartigan turns his attention to the baby. “Goodbye, Sticks,” he says. He glances over at Willow, who is tossing a large branch into the boat, in case he needs to start a campfire on the island, apparently. Madmartigan continues, “If you really are a princess, take care of him.” He smiles and then starts to walk off. Willow sees him leaving and calls out his name. Madmartigan puts on his tough guy act and says “What?” Willow simply says, “Thanks.” Madmartigan responds with an odd upturned hand gesture, as if miming throwing a ball straight into the air. This could have any meaning, but in this context it’s clearly his way of saying “You’re welcome.” Madmartigan turns and walks away, but not before looking back at Willow a second time. Then, for a laugh, he kicks some dirt on the Brownies, and Rool says, “Keep walking, hero” and “Don’t even turn around.”

There’s a quick cut to later, where Willow has set up the baby inside one the small structures. She’s crying, and there’s a rumble of thunder in the distance. “It’s all right, Elora,” he says, which immediately calms her down. “Nobody will find you here,” he says, followed by “I’ll be back with Fin Raziel very soon.” Franjean stands proud and says, “We will guard her with our meager lives.” Willow gives them an action hero nod.

What to make of Willow’s decision to leave the baby behind? On one hand, he doesn’t know what he’ll find on the island. On the other hand, Willow knows they’re still being hunted by the NockMaar. Maybe enough time has passed that he believes they’re no longer on his trail, even though an upcoming scene will reveal that the NockMaar are still in pursuit, so I don’t know. Also interesting here is Franjean’s phrase “meager lives.” Throughout the movie, Franjean has been acting as if he’s the hero and this his heroic quest. This “meager lives” bit, however, reveals how he’s fully aware of his status as being surrounded by giants. Underneath all the jokes and bluster, Franjean knows this is serious business.

Next: Playing possum.

****

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Fantastic Friday: The brawl to not end it all

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Sometimes you just want to see superheroes battling villains, and that’s just what you’re going to get in issue #378.

While Johnny is on trial for accidentally burning down part of Empire State University, the courthouse is attacked on one side by Paibok the Power-Skrull and Devos the Devastator, and on the other by Klaw and barbarian swordswoman Huntara. A two-page spread reminds us of who all the players are. Representing the FF are Reed, Sue, Ben, and Lyja. Johnny has been instructed not to use his powers to avoid further legal trouble. On the sidelines are attorney Matt Murdock, photographer Peter Parker, Peter’s Boss J. Jonah Jameson, college coed Brigit O’Neil, and the Wildpack, featuring both Silver Sable and Sandman.

Matt Murdock slips away and dons his Daredevil uniform. Similarly, Peter Parker vanishes only for Spider-Man to show up and join the fight. Silver Sable doesn’t want to fight because no one is paying her to, but Sandman convinces her that helping the FF is the right thing to do.

Everybody fights, with the action leaving the courtroom and out into the street. Ben takes a beating, with his scarred face causing him great pain, even with the protection of his metal helmet. Huntara does a little explaining of what her deal is, saying she is the “princess of Elsewhen,” adding that the Fantastic Four are an “anathema” to the “chosen realities” and therefore must be destroyed. The fight appears to be going in the heroes’ favor until Huntara stabs Reed right through his chest, despite his stretchy powers. (Dang.) Then Devos unleashes an attack on Sue that knocks her unconscious.  Johnny decides he can’t take any more, so he flames on and joins the action.

Cut to Four Freedoms Plaza, where Sharon Ventura is keeping an eye on Franklin, who was recently abducted into the future and time-traveled back to the present in his late teens. They’re working out in the FF’s version of a Danger Room, with Franklin showing off his new telekinetic powers. Sharon presses him for information about the future, specifically whether Ben and her will ever be a couple again. He refuses to answer, saying the future isn’t locked into a single course. Sharon leaves (so much for keeping an eye on him) where she is abducted by Dr. Doom’s henchmen.

We then cut to Avengers Mansion, where those heroes learn of a battle going on in the city streets, so they too jump into action. This Avengers team is Black Knight, Vision, Sersei, Thunderstrike, and the FF’s own Crystal. The tide starts turning against the heroes, with Johnny getting shot in the back and Ben getting pummeled into the ground. Then the Avengers arrive and the villains decide to retreat. Huntara opens a portal for their escape. Daredevil tries following them, only to get trapped in a psychedelic otherworld between dimensions. Spider-Man pulls Daredevil out of the portal with a web line.

The comic then abruptly cuts to later, so we don’t see any of the fallout from the battle. Ben is wandering the street of NYC alone, ruminating about how the FF nearly lost the fight and how they don’t feel like much of a team these days. He hears Sharon calling to him from a nearby alley. He steps closer to find she has once again been transformed into… a Thing!

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Huntara is able to stab Reed because her weapon is a psionic blade, injuring him both physically and in his psyche. Look closely and you can see paramedics tending to Reed once the Avengers arrive.

Fade out: This issue also features this nifty pin up of Sue and the Super-Skrull, drawn by Karl Altstaetter and Joe Chiodo.

Clobberin’ time: Ben’s musings on the FF falling apart is foreshadowing for an upcoming storyline in which just that happens.

Flame on: Although not using his powers, Johnny puts himself between the battle and Matt Murdock, to protect Murdock from danger. Johnny of course not knowing that Murdock is really Daredevil.

Fantastic fifth wheel: A lot of Sharon’s past character development, such as her fighting to overcome PTSD and her growing science genius, gets swept under rug, as all she cares about now is whether Ben is attracted to her.

As an Avenger, Crystal is reintroduced to readers as “Crystal the Elemental.” She scolds her teammates for making jokes when lives could be at risk. Once the Avengers join the fight, her job is to hang back and care for the wounded.

Four and a half: Sharon also does not believe that Franklin is really Franklin, even as she pesters him with questions about his time travel into the future.

The Alicia problem: Although technically still their enemy, Lyja fights alongside the FF throughout. The mystery of her pregnancy continues in one panel where Paibok says she and the baby will not survive without “Lacaroo.”

Commercial break: “Neon” is a flavor now?

Trivia time: It was around this time that Marvel published Fantastic Four Unlimited #5, which takes place immediately following this issue. Reed takes Sharon back to his lab where he works with Ant-Man to find a cure, only for Klaw and the Wizard to abduct her in hopes of starting a new Frightful Four. The Wizard, Klaw, and a bunch of other villains are defeated, and it ends right back where it began in Reed’s lab. Marvel promoted a sixth issue, featuring the Sub-Mariner, but it was never published.

Fantastic or frightful? I’m always up for a big superhero brawl, but it’s disappointing to see the FF beaten down and have to be rescued by the guest stars. Things like Johnny’s trial and Franklin’s time travel being introduced and then not dealt with in any meaningful way are also frustrating.

Next: Riding the rails.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 22

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! This scene will put hair on your chest, 58:18-59:09 on the Blu-ray.

We start with a shot of our heroes walking through a rocky terrain with spikey snow-capped peaks in the background, possibly foreshadowing the snowy scenes up coming up later. The Brownies pop up in foreground, with Rool saying “This way, this way.” This is consistent with him being the one who knows the directions. Then there’s a scenic shot of a waterfall. The camera slowly pans down to reveal Madmartigan holding baby Elora Danan as Willow approaches.

Willow asks Madmartigan what he’s doing. He says, “I found some blackroot. She loves it.” Willow gets angry, saying, “I am the father of two children, and you never, ever give a baby blackroot.” Madmartigan counters with, “Well my mother raised us on blackroot. It’s good for you. It puts hair on your chest.” The Willow tie-in books state that Madmartigan comes from a family of nobles before he became a fallen knight, but I suppose it’s still possible his mother gave him this blackroot as a child. What’s unknown is the “us” in his statement, as the books don’t appear to mention any siblings.

Okay, so what is blackroot? The wiki has almost no information, just repeating what’s said in this scene. Here in the real world, blackroot is a common herb that grows throughout North America in a variety of kinds. According to the botanical websites I looked at (I can’t believe I looked at botanical websites for this), blackroot can be converted into a tonic for help with an upset stomach, so it looks like Madmartigan is right. Most of these same websites, however, state that blackroot should be avoided by expectant mothers, so Willow knows what he’s talking about. None of the websites mentioned blackroot growing hairs on one’s chest. (Behind the scenes, real blackroot wasn’t used. Val Kilmer is chewing on a vanilla stick.)

Real-life blackroot.

Madmartigan concludes his hair-on-chest argument by turning to the baby and saying “Doesn’t it, Sticks?” Willow gets even more impatient, saying “Her name is not Sticks. She’s Elora Danan the future empress of Tir Asleen, and the last thing she’s going to want is a hairy chest!” Willow takes the blackroot from Madmartigan, including the one he’s got between his teeth, and throws it into the water at the bottom of the waterfall. This doesn’t faze Madmartigan, who says to the baby, “Did you see what he did? He stole our blackroot. I’ll get you some more don’t worry about it.”

A few thoughts on this. Willow’s “future empress” line of note, since all Cherlyndrea told Willow was to take the baby to Tie Asleen where “a good king and queen will look after her,” only adding that it is Elora Danan’s destiny to defeat Bavmorda. Willow seems to be extrapolating all this “princess” and “empress” talk. Secondly, the wiki page lists aliases for each character, but as of this writing, “Sticks” is somehow not an alias for Elora Danan. Here’s hoping some fan corrects that in the future. Finally, there’s not a lot of new information in this scene, more or less repeating the conversation about the baby from the previous scene, but it serves to develop the friendship between Willow and Madmartigan just a little further.

Next: Meager lives.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Hot and pungent

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Like any good ’90s comic, issue #377 features multiple plotlines happening at once with tons of guest stars.

To recap, Johnny is in jail after accidentally burning down part of Empire State University. Franklin was taken into the future by his time-traveling grandfather and came back at least ten years older. Lyja and Sharon Ventura are still hanging around. The issue begins with a flashback (flashforward?) showing Franklin and Nathaniel Richards in as renegades in a dystopian future, where Franklin’s fought giant robots with a psionic sword and a plasma rifle. Sue still refuses to believe he’s the real Franklin and attacks him. Reed stops the fight, more worried about Sue’s furious anger than about Franklin. Sue and Franklin wander off to different parts of the building to calm down. Sharon and Lyja want to interfere, but Ben stops them, saying this is a family matter, and that there’s nothing they can do.

Cut to the streets of New York, where supervillain Klaw is roaming the streets in a Raphael-style hat and coat disguise. He’s just learning that Johnny is jail awaiting trial. A portal opens near him, and out leaps Huntara, a barbarian swordswoman. She says she is seeking “the four who must be destroyed.” Some trigger-happy cops open fire on her. Klaw helps her out by scaring the cops away. He promises to lead her to “the four.”

Back at HQ, Sue takes her anger out on supernatural nanny Agatha Harkness, blaming her for letting Nathaniel take Franklin away. Agatha says it had to be done because Franklin’s powers would have gotten too far out of control otherwise. Agatha adds that she’s seen the Malice persona as part of Sue’s mind.

In space, we catch up with villains Paibok the Power-Skrull and Devos the Devastator, not giving up on taking revenge against the FF despite their recent defeat. There are then several pages devoted to telling us Devos’ origin story. He was a child when an army of raiders destroyed his planet. The raiders abducted him, taught him to fight, and a scientist named Symka turned him into the killing machine he is now. Through all this, he developed his philosophy of creating peace by destroying any species capable of war. That includes Paibok, whom Devos is eyeing closely.

Back to HQ, where Lyja is suffering intense pain. She insists that it’s only stress, but Franklin can sense there’s more going on. Sue, meanwhile, calms down and admits to Reed that she’s been acting “like a total witch.” (Her words, not mine.) She says the world around them changed and grown darker, and she admits she’s struggling to keep up.

Reed, Sue, Ben, and Lyja head to the trial, with Sharon staying behind to keep an eye on Franklin. They’re being watched by agents of Dr. Doom, who we learn is sending out a probe in search another cosmic being whose powers he can steal. Outside the trial, we see photographer Peter Parker is there, alongside his boss J. Jonah Jameson. Silver Sable and the Wildpack are there as well, with the Sandman now among their membership.

Inside the courthouse, the FF meet with Johnny and attorney Matt Murdock, who says that because the university agreed to settle, the trial is a mere formality. Also there in this private meeting is Bridget O’Neil, the feisty co-ed whose live Johnny saved during the fight that destroyed the school. Lyja appears jealous seeing Johnny and Bridget get a little flirtatious.

The trial begins, with Murdock’s opening statement emphasizing that the fire at ESU was an accident. He is interrupted when Paibok and Devos come crashing through a wall, with Paibok boasting that he’s going to destroy the FF with the whole world watching. Then a wall on the other side of the comes crashing down thanks to Klaw and Huntara. Paibok can tell these two have similar goals, so the villains immediately team up, surrounding the FF.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Despite Reed’s insistence that his tests prove that this Franklin is the real Franklin, there’s one panel where he thinks to himself, “Who is this teenager who claims to be Franklin?”

Fade out: Sue’s speech about how the world has gotten darker is a curious meta moment, addressing (or not?) the sweeping changes in the comics industry in the early ‘90s.

Clobberin’ time: There’s a humorous bit where the FF need a cab to go to the courthouse Ben stops one by standing in front of it and then lifting it over his head. Why they’re not taking the Fantasticar I’ll never know.

Flame on: While in jail, a thug tries to pick a fight with Johnny and he uses his powers to scare the guy off. A guard chews Johnny out, saying that he’s not in one of the “special cells” because Murdock promised that Johnny wouldn’t use his powers while locked up.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Sharon still wants to reconcile with Ben, but he doesn’t trust her because she recently worked with Dr. Doom. When she stays behind with Franklin, whom he also doesn’t trust, that just makes things worse.

Four and a half: Again, there’s only a partial explanation as to where Franklin went during his time traveling. Aside from a fleeting mention of his “responsibility” that brought him back to the present, it’s still a mystery.

The Alicia problem: This issue seems to forget that Lyja is here to kill Johnny. Instead, she’s experiencing mysterious pains she wants to keep secret from everyone, and she feels jealousy when seeing Johnny interact with Bridget O’Neil. Bafflingly, one panel describes Lyja’s emotions as “hot and pungent.”

Commercial break: That’s one cool dinosaur.

Trivia time: We see Silver Sable hand Jonah Jameson a bill for when he hired her to capture Johnny a few issues back, and a second bill for the time he hired her to capture Venom in Amazing Spider-Man #375. The FF story wasn’t mentioned in the Spider-Man issue, so this “fixes” that continuity hiccup.

Klaw had a lot of appearances prior to this, but almost always whenever a big group of villains gather for whatever reason. It’s like he’s just wandering around the Marvel universe looking for a group to join, and that makes sense how he partners with Huntara so quickly.

Fantastic or frightful? This is an in-between issue, catching up on ongoing storylines, while moving the pieces in place to set up the next issue. You could argue it’s a few storylines too many, but that’s really all there is to this one.

Next: Superhero soup.

****

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