Fantastic Friday: Seeing green

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. We’re on issue #411 and now that Reed is back from the dead, he’s learning that being alive again is harder than he thought.

We begin with what appears to be young Black Bolt, in either a flashback or a dream, being pursued through a forest by green-skinned monsters. He fights them off his forehead-antenna. We turn the page to discover this is modern-day Black Bolt. He is delusional, and has been fighting Medusa, Karnak, and Ahura.

The newly-reunited Fantastic Four arrive in Colorado aboard their Stealth Hawk ship, and we’re reminded that Gorgon of the Inhumans (who once single-handedly defeated the FF in battle, let’s never forget) explains why he collapsed on the FF’s doorstep last issue. Black Bolt’s antenna was severely damaged during the Atlantis Rising event, and now he’s losing control. Reed says the antenna harnesses free-floating electrons, which he uses for powerful blasts, but also collects energy for Black Bolt’s super-destructive speech.

The FF land in the woods and follow Black Bolt’s trail to a nearby cave. The FF — along with teenage Franklin and Namor, who’s still hanging around — decide to split up. Johnny flies overhead and finds Medusa, Karnak, and Ahura unconscious. Reed encounters Black Bolt in the woods, but Black Bolt is still delusional, believing himself to be a kid, and believing Reed to be another monster. Reed and Gorgon fight Black Bolt, while trying to reason with him.

Back at Four Freedoms Plaza, Nathaniel Richards is planting “transmat receptors” all over the building. He says now that Dr. Doom has retaken control of Latveria, nothing is stopping him from teleporting into the FF’s HQ whenever he wants. Lyja is after answers, asking why Nathaniel once suggested that Kristoff might be his long-lost son, and what secrets Nathaniel knows but won’t reveal about godlike supervillain Hyperstorm. He of course won’t answer, and then ponders another secret, that he secretly has a container of the Inhumans’ terrigen mist. Kristoff and Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie discuss their classmate Donald, who was found covered with bruises. Kristoff wants to force answers out of Donald’s parents, but Cassie says no to threats, saying that Kirstoff might be a genius, but he doesn’t know about his fellow kids.

Back in the fight, Black Bolt holds his own against the FF, as well as his fellow Inhumans. When Namor attacks, Black Bolt punches him through the Hoover Dam (!). It then comes down to Ben versus Black Bolt, with Ben finally managing to knock Black Bolt out. But it’s still not over, as Black Bolt cuts loose with his voice, throwing everyone back.

Sue manages to stop Black Bolt’s voice by cutting off his oxygen with a force field, knocking him out for real this time. The dam, however, is even more damages, already causing flooding. Everyone retreats while Sue stays behind to hold the dam together with her force fields. Once the heroes make it back to the ship, and it’s decided that Namor should go back for Sue, despite Reed’s misgivings.

Namor arrives to rescue Sue just as she passes out from the strain of holding the dam together. The dam collapses, flooding the whole area. At first it looks like they didn’t make it, but Namor and Sue emerge from the water. (Who’d have thought the undersea guy could handle water?) Back aboard the ship, both Black Bolt and Sue are put in stable condition, and Reed is not cool with Namor’s now-obvious obsession with Sue.

Unstable molecule: This issue is all about Reed playing catch-up on everything he missed while he was “dead.” He’s fascinated by all the FF’s new tech, and he’s struggling to get used to Sue leading the team in his place.

Fade out: We see that Sue can use her force fields to block Black Bolt’s destructive voice, but at great strain to herself. This is why she struggles to hold the dam together right afterward.

Clobberin’ time: Ben says Black Bolt was always his favorite sparring partner, suggesting more of a friendship between them than we’ve seen.

Flame on: There’s a page devoted to Johnny pondering his romantic future, with flashbacks of his past girlfriends.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Ant-Man doesn’t appear, but we learn he’s the one who invented the FF’s new communication headsets.

The scene with Kristoff doesn’t seem like much, but it shows the progression of his character, as he’s trying be both another Dr. Doom and an ordinary pre-teen.

Medusa is back, but doesn’t do much this time except to worry about her husband.

Crystal shows up in Johnny’s parade-of-ex-girlfriends flashback.

Four and a half: Teenage Franklin is barely in this issue, shown running alongside the FF here and there, and is shown using his telepathy to help those who get knocked out during the fight.

The Alicia problem: Lyja acts as Nathaniel’s assistant as a pretense to get info from him, calling back to her Skrull spy training.

Commercial break: The Spider-Man cereal! They tried convincing kids that the rice chex were “webs.”

Trivia time: Colorado has appeared more often than you’d think in the Marvel Universe. Famously, a suburb of Denver was transported to space during the first Secret War, and from that we got Titania, Volcana, and the second Spider-Woman. Molecule Man and Volcana later lived in Colorado for a while. Colorado has also been home to supervillain prison the Vault, Thunderbolts Mountain and War Machine headquarters. It’s the home state of the New Mutants’ Danielle Moonstar.

Fantastic or frightful? In the pre-Wikipedia days, I don’t know how many readers at the time were really invested in the Inhumans’ ongoing story, as it was told not in a comic series of their own, but as they guest-starred in various other characters’ comics. It’s not a bad issue, though, and I’m starting to think writer Tom DeFalco is better at these smaller, more character-based stories than he is at the big sweeping epic stuff.

Next: Super smash dads.

****

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 48

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! Here it is. We’ve reached the final battle. Or, should that be the… swine-al battle? 1:52:35 to 1:56:19 on the Blu-ray.

We’re back inside the ritual chamber, where Bavmorda and Raziel are both still gripping the wand, each trying to pull it away from the other. There’s some terrific old lady fighting here, as Raziel punches Bavmorda three times right in the face, and then the both tumble over a piece of debris. Willow finally reaches the baby, who stops crying when she sees him.

Back to the fight, Bavmorda is now on top of Raziel, strangling her. Raziel collapses, and first-time viewers will wonder whether she’s dead or merely unconscious. Bavmorda turns to the altar to find it empty. Angered, she looks around the room. She sees Willow with the baby making a run for it. She uses magic to slam the door shut in front of Willow. Willow reacts with surprise, suggesting he hasn’t come up with his big plan yet.

Bavmorda says, “Bring back the child, peck.” (We’re still using the p-word this late in the movie?) Willow turns to face her, and she says, “Who are you?” He answers “I’m Willow Ufgood.” He stars down at the pouch at his belt, which we know contain the magic acorns. He then goes into action hero mode and says, “I’m a great sorcerer.” Bavmorda laughs, but Willow doesn’t back down, saying, “Greater than Raziel.” He reaches for an acorn. “Greater than you, even.” She continues laughing. He says, “I’m the greatest sorcerer!”

He throws an acorn at her, and she easily catches it. It almost looks like if she hadn’t caught it, it would have flown right over her right shoulder, missing her. There’s a nifty special effect as Bavmorda’s hand turns to stone. She grasps her wrist and concentrates, and it looks for a second like this causes her some trouble. Willow watches incredulously, thinking it’s working. Then Bavmorda’s hand returns to normal. The acorns have been a ticking clock throughout the movie, with the audience wondering when Willow will use them, and this is the big payoff. That’s why I wish we hadn’t seen the working before. If we hadn’t there still would have been a lingering question as to whether they would work at all, making this moment even more effective.

Bavmorda shakes some dust off her hand (remains of the acorn, I’m assuming) and goes back into taunting mode, saying “Is that the extent of your powers, little one?” Willow ducks down behind one of the broken stone columns that surround the room. Bavmorda gets serious again, saying “Now you will watch me draw upon the power of the universe to send that child into the netherworld. Now place it on the altar.” The word “universe” is of note, as it doesn’t appear that this society has advanced telescopes. It’s possible that in her studies of dark magic, Bavmorda gained an understanding of stars, planets, galaxies, et cetera. Similarly, let’s not forget that someone once upon a time added a bunch of Willow stuff to Wookieepedia, the Star Wars wiki, making an argument that all this is happening in planet located in the Star Wars canon, meaning Bavmorda’s “power of the universe,” might just be the Dark Side of the Force or, worse, midichlorians.

 

Bavmorda’s behavior throughout this goes back and forth from her taunting Willow to her being deadly serious. But then, this has been her personality for the whole movie. When things aren’t going her way she gets enraged and merciless, but laughs and plays around with her enemies when she’s winning.

Willow steps out from behind the stone, in a nice shot that shows a lot of the background in this room, with creepy looking stuff all over the walls. He takes a few steps forward as the lightning flashes overhead, and says “No.” Raziel pauses for a second and repeats, “No?” He says, “You stupid hag!” Nice country bumpkin insult there. “With my magic, I’ll send her into a… into the…” She bursts out laughing before he can finish. “You’re no sorcerer!” she says. He finishes his thought, saying, “Into a realm where evil cannot touch her!”

 

“Impossible!” Bavmorda says, “There’s no such place!” Note that she doesn’t identify herself as evil. No doubt some part of her truly believes she’s doing right thing for her kingdom. Willow starts chanting magic words, and if you listen carefully, these magic words are just slightly different from the ones he’s been using when he does magic throughout the rest of the movie. “Bavmorda says, “You fool. I will destroy you and the child with you.” Willow keeps reciting the words, holding out the baby in front of him. He pauses just long enough to say, “Goodbye Elora.”

 

Bavmorda does a little magic to make Cherlindrea’s wand fly into her hand. (You’d think she would have done this sooner, given how she fought for it.) Willow stops chanting and pulls away the baby’s blanket, to reveal the baby is no longer there, as if vanished into thin air. Bavmorda gasps with shock. Willow grabs his wrist and falls down in pain. Is Bavmorda doing this to him, or is this part of his plan?

In another corner of the room, Raziel comes to and sits up. Bavmorda has an epic villain freakout, screaming “Impossible!” She stumbles forward in confusion, spilling two bowls of red liquid (blood?) off of the altar. The liquid splashes at her feet. The wand in her hand glows blue, and she rears back, no doubt about to attack Willow. Then lightning comes down from the opening in the ceiling.

The lightning doesn’t strike Bavmorda directly, but instead strikes the wand in her hand. As it does, red mist from around her feet swirls up around her. We hear her screaming in pain, but it looks as if she’s frozen in place as both the blue lighting and the red mist surround her. There are even quick flashes of Bavmorda’s skeleton in the lightning, reminiscent of the finale of Return of the Jedi.

Willow watches, and there’s a quick shot of Sorsha waking up from unconsciousness just in time to see this. In the next shot, Bavmorda has all but vanished, leaving only the lightning, the red mist, and her screams in her place. In a very cool animated effect the mist slowly moves up to the opening in the ceiling, and then picks up speed as it leaves into the sky, almost snake-like. This is the Ritual of Oblivion reaching its climax, whereupon the object of the ritual has their very essence destroyed, which banishes them into the netherworld. The tie-in fiction states that the magic turned against Bavmorda because she “corrupted” the altar by the spilling the fluid. (If Gandalf were here, he’d say it was probably meant to be from the beginning.)

Raziel and Willow sit there for a moment, taking in what they’ve seen. Then the doors fly open and Madmartigan rushes in with some Galladoorn soldiers behind him. He helps Sorsha to her feet and they kiss. Raziel asks, “Willow, where’s the baby, and we see how badly her face is scarred from the fight. Madmartigan and Sorsha look around in fear.

Then Willow steps out from behind the stone column from earlier, holding the baby. He says one of the movie’s signature lines, “It was just my old disappearing pig trick.” Madmartigan and Sorsha smile, Willow holds up the baby so we see her face, confirming it’s really her. Raziel laughs and says, “Well done.”

Next: Nowhere to go but home.

****

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Fantastic Friday: H.E.R.B.I.E. day

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Except I have the flu this week, so here’s H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot instead.

Freakin’ H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot.

 

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 46

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! This whimsical family film gets real bloody all of a sudden, 1:49:58 to 1:52:34 on the Blu-ray.

We jump from the previous scene to back outside, where the NockMaar and Galladoorn armies fight in the rain. General Kael and Airk are in mid-fight, with Kael lifting up Airk and shoving him against a wall. This seems to knock the wind out of both of them. Kael recovers first, and punches Airk, knocking him to the ground. Airk reaches for a knife in his boot, but Kael’s hand clamps down on Airk’s hand before Airk can use it. Airk then reacts with a howl of pain, a look of realization, and then he angrily spits in Kael’s face. Kael drives the knife in further. Airk screams and Kael kicks him down. Airk rolls down a small hill, as Madmartigan runs up and sees this.

Madmartigan calls “Airk!” Kael sees Madmartigan, raises his sword, and lets out a battle cry. Instead of running at Madmartigan, Kael turns and just walks off. Madmartigan hurries over to Airk. In close-up, we see Airk’s forehead and lip are all bloody. “Win this war for me,” Airk says. He then tilts his head back and dies in quite an impressive death rattle. This of course a callback to Madmartigan’s line from the Daikini crossroads scene. What’s more, the Willow graphic novel has an alternate version of this dialogue. Airk says, “If you ever stand on my grave, Madmartigan, I’ll kill you.” Madmartigan answers, “Give me your sword, old friend, and I’ll win this war for you.” I like the movie’s version better.

There’s a very quick shot of Kael pulling his sword out of some guy. Unlike the other Galladoorn, this guy doesn’t have the bright gold helmet, but there is some gold trim on his belt. Madmartigan stands, and looks at Kael. He holds up his sword and seems to fidgets with it. Kael throws another guy to the ground and stabs him. Madmartigan chooses then to act, and he runs up to Kael. Two NockMaar run at him. He slashes one with his sword, but the second one he only elbows in the back. Kael takes notice of Madmartigan. A third NockMaar attacks, and Madmartigan knocks him back by sword-striking the guy’s shield.

Kael and Madmartigan meet in battle. Their swords clash once, and then it seems all over as Madmartigan’s sword gets caught in a piece of wood in the structure behind them. We see the sword get broken with two, followed by Madmartigan falling back, one side of his face covered with blood. Kael rushes at him, crying “Die!” Madmartigan dodges his attack, jumps through a small window inside an overhanging arch (what is this architecture?!?) and gets a new sword sticking out of a conveniently-placed corpse nearby. Note that he doesn’t drop the broken sword, but instead fights with the broken sword in one hand and the second sword in the other.

Kael looks very Darth Vader-ish as he approaches, holding his sword two-handed like Vader’s lightsaber (and like a Kurosawa Samurai before him). Madmartigan runs up with a battle cry. Their swords clash once, only for Madmartigan to jump and swing around in midair, slashing Kael in the face. Part of Kael’s mask breaks away. Kael stumbles back against a wall, and we see blood on his face.

Madmartigan hears a scream and looks up. We see the castle from his point of view, looking as tall as a skyscraper. Madmartigan runs up the nearest stairs, but the camera stays with Kael as his eyes open and he watches Madmartigan go. Madmartigan quickly fights another NockMaar on the steps, with a really cool shot of the guy falling over the stairs’ side as Madmartigan kills him. There’s not much suspense in wondering when Kael will come back, because he jumps up the steps at Madmartigan. Madmartigan stumbles, but rolls out of the way, avoiding Kael’s swor. Madmartigan climbs up higher on these stairs, reaching a ledge (still no railing).

We then briefly revisit Bavmorda’s ritual chamber, where Willow faces off with enchanted metal-container-filled-with-bones (I still don’t know what this thing is). Willow is holding a metal rod, and he’s taken to fighting the thing rather than let it chase him around. In the background, Bavmorda and Raziel continue to fight over the wand, and we can surmise that scream came from one of them as the wand’s magic cuts loose. Willow more or less sweeps the leg, knocking the thing onto its back. With a battle cry of his own, Willow stabs at the thing, pushing along the floor and out the window.

Then we’re back on the ledge. Kael has grabbed hold of the back of Madmartigan’s head and smacks him face-first into the wall. He throws Madmartigan onto a wood platform, which we’ll seen see is a bridge connecting two parts of the building. Kael laughs a villain laugh as Madmartigan gets back to his feet, looking really angry. He swings his sword at Kael, only for Kael to block it with his hand (!). Then Madmartigan spins and stabs Kael with a second sword.

Kael rears back, and we think the fight is over. But he’s not done. Instead, he swings and punches Madmartigan in the face. This gives Madmartigan a bloody nose, for even more gore. Madmartigan stabs Kael in the gut with his second sword. Kael punches Madmartigan so hard he withdraws the sword out of Kael and drops it, so that it goes flying behind him. Kael wraps both hands around Madmartigan’s neck, choking him. Madmartigan drives the first sword in deeper, which causes Kael to loosen his grip and fall back.

Next, Madmartigan steps on another sword’s hilt so that the blade sticks up at an angle. But wait, this sword has fancy rounded hilt, like a Princess Bride sword, but Madmartigan’s second sword has a basic T-shaped hilt, like a Lord of the Rings sword. Compare with earlier shots, and it’s easily confirmed that this is Kael’s sword, which he dropped when Madmartigan stabbed him the first time.

Madmartigan falls back, with Kael falling with him. This move impales Kael (heh) on Kael’s own sword. Both men stand, and we see Kael now has two swords sticking out of him. Madmartigan throws Kael over the bridge. Kael falls with a scream while lightning flashes in the background. In the reverse shot, we see his body, lying there in the mud. A bunch of Galladoorn soldiers run past Kael’s body as if it isn’t there. The important detail to remember during this Madmartigan/Kael fight is that, according to the tie-in fiction, Kael believes himself to be an unkillable god when wearing his mask, and a vulnerable human without the mask. Therefore, smashing the mask is what weakened Kael enough to be defeated — in Kael’s mind, at least.

Madmartigan looks down at Kael with disdain and throws something at him. I can’t tell what, though. Another broken sword-piece, perhaps?

Next: The swine-al battle.

****

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Fantastic Friday: The soapiest of operas

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s issue #410, and we’re pretty much at the end now, with a complete reboot on the horizon. This issue starts wrapping up some odds and ends… or does it?

We begin with Reed back in his lab, concerned that mega-villain Hyperstorm is still out there, and could strike at any time. But we’re also picking up where the final issue of Fantastic Force left off, where teenage Franklin has just learned his dad is still alive. There’s some old-school bickering among Ben, Johnny, and Franklin, as they want to celebrate while Reed urges seriousness.

Elsewhere in the same lab, Ant-Man, Kristoff, and Nathaniel Richards are trying to get the FF’s time machine/teleporter working, only to discover that Hyperstorm has barred the team from time travel. Reed starts a fight with Nathaniel, demanding more information about Hyperstorm, only for Franklin to break them up. In yet another corner of the lab, Ben uses the alien device from a few issues back, that allows him to turn back human for a short time.

Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie shows up, announcing that a boy from school is coming over a visit. Kristoff is upset about this, as he had started developing a crush on Cassie. Alone in his private corners, Kristoff admits to the absurdity of his walking around in adult-sized Dr. Doom armor, and he angers at how he is merely one of Doom’s failed experiments.

Human Ben, meanwhile, flirts with Lyja, only to be overcome by a pounding headache. Cassie meets with her school friend, Donald, who reveals he’s there to ask the FF’s help. Kristoff steps out without his armor and offers to help. We then cut to the FF’s version of the X-Men’s Danger Room, where Namor is back to putting the moves on Sue, arguing that Reed is a different man than he once was. Reed watches them in secret, wondering if Namor is right.

 

Out in New York City, Lyja has left Ben to shape-change into her human-appearing Laura Green persona. She’s there for a date with Johnny, still in hopes of convincing him that “Laura” and Lyja are two different people. At HQ, Kristoff gives Cassie and Donald a tour of the lab, pointed out a mysterious door. Kristoff says he doesn’t know what’s inside the door, and that the other FF team members have kept that secret from him possibly because of his association with Dr. Doom. Donald runs off, saying he doesn’t want to break any rules.

There’s a short scene of a mysterious man wandering through New York, and then we rejoin Kristoff, Cassie and Donald playing soccer at a nearby park. Kristoff reflects on his origin, with the added detail that his father was an unknown wanderer whose identity he never learned. Donald trips and falls, only for Cassie to see that Donald’s back is covered with scars and bruises. Donald runs off again.

At HQ again, Reed and Sue begin to reconcile, with her saying she doesn’t want to lose him again. Then that mysterious man shows up in the building. It’s Gorgon of the Inhumans (who, let’s never forget, once single-handedly defeated the Fantastic Four in battle). Gordon says Black Bolt has gone mad and threatens to destroy them all.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed uses an “encephalo-helmet” to determine that Hyperstorm isn’t secretly manipulating him telepathically. This helmet appears to be a combination of a couple of old-school FF inventions, including the thought projector helmet from issue #27, the encephalo-gun from annual #2, and the encephalo-feedback scrambler from Strange Tales #126.

Fade out: Even though Namor causes a rift between Sue and Reed this issue, it’s worth noting that she flat-out refuses Namor’s advances by throwing him across the room with a force field.

Clobberin’ time: This issue has the first hints that Ben’s alien device has some serious side effects, which is going to a short-lived subplot over the next few issues.

Flame on: Ben attempts to use a high-tech chemical foam to douse Johnny’s flame, but Reed stops him, so we’ll never know if it would have worked.

Fantastic fifth wheel: This issue wants to establish a mystery about who Kristoff’s father is, even though Nathaniel claimed he was the father back in issue #395. The Marvel Wiki doesn’t provide an answer, instead stating “These claims have not been substantiated.”

Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie is revealed to be 11 years old, even though she’s drawn and written younger. Also, she’s apparently living with the FF now, instead of just visiting, because she’s in school in NYC instead of the west coast.

Marvel ran a Fantastic Four house ad this month, which includes She-Hulk and future team member Black Panther.

Four and a half: Teenage Franklin is now back with the FF, with zero mention of what became of his Fantastic Force teammates now that that series has ended. He uses his telepathy to help scan Reed’s brain.

The Alicia problem: The date between Johnny and “Laura” is detailed in yet another spin0ff title, Fantastic Four Unplugged. The date was interrupted by an attack the Mole Man, leaving Lyja to further fret over whether to tell Johnny the truth.

Commercial break: Bone crunching action!

Trivia time: Once again, it’s established that Four Freedoms Plaza has a maze-like interior. The lab is a series of interconnected rooms including mysterious doors that can’t be opened. The “danger room” also has a strange platform where Reed can watch Sue and Namor without them realizing it. We also get a good look at the building’s lobby with a cameo from robot receptionist Roberta.

Fantastic or frightful? After so many issues of cosmic weirdness and ever-increasing stakes, it’s a breath of fresh air to get spend some time on all the interpersonal conflicts that been building. The bad news is that this issue is all about setting up future plotlines, not knowing that we’re only six issues away from the big reboot.

Next: Little green men.

****

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Fantastic Friday: The not so final battle

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Here’s issue #409, and we’re still Hyperstorm-ing it up with Hyperstorm.

When Reed and Dr. Doom died, they didn’t really die. Godlike supervillain Hyperstorm transported them to a robot-filled alternate reality where he held them captive. The FF — along with guest stars Lyja, Namor and Nathaniel Richards — have arrived in this world for a rescue. This issue begins in the middle of that fighting, with Hyperstorm not even fazed by the heroes’ attacks. Sue pleads with Reed to get into Hyperstorm’s lab inside his nearby tower, in the hopes that Reed can speed-invent a weapon to stop Hyperstorm.

Inside the aforementioned tower, Dr. Doom and Kristoff are building a new version of the device Doom once used to steal the Silver Surfer’s power. Although Kristoff has seemingly betrayed the FF to return to Doom, he asks Doom the spare the FF because they aided in the rescue. Doom says he will allow the FF to live, after he has become the master of all the known universe. Kristoff asks again for Doom to reconsider the FF, after the FF included him as one of their own. Doom smacks Kristoff in the face, saying Kristoff in not Doom’s heir, but merely a failsafe.

There are several pages of the FF trying and failing to attack Hyperstorm, with him easily swatting him back. Reed wants to take leadership of the team back from Sue, but Nathaniel pleads with him to get to the tower and work on the weapon. Back in the tower, Zarrko the Tomorrow Man wakes up, after having been mind-controlled by Dr. Doom last issue. He encounters Kristoff in a hallway, and he falls to his knees begging for forgiveness.

Back to the fight, Sue uses her force fields in a way that they vibrate, which finally has an effect on Hyperstorm, pushing him back. Hyperstorm, then, puts Sue on edge by hinting that she and him share a mysterious bond. Hyperstorm is then zapped by an energy bolt rom the tower, which knocks him to the ground. He realizes that Dr. Doom is trying to steal his power, so he flies to the tower.

Reed and Nathaniel make it to the lab, to find Doom stealing Hyperstorm’s power. Reed decides that the Doom is the lesser of two evils and moves to help Doom. Doom thinks Reed is trying to trick him, and refuses. Hyperstorm shows up and blasts Doom, taking back his power. Hyperstorm raises his hands to punish Reed and Doom, when Kristoff and Zarrko, in another room, fire up Zarrko’s time actuator. Doom disappears in mid-speech.

Hyperstorm, in his omniscience, already knows that Kristoff and Zarrko teleported Doom back to Latveria in the present. Hyperstorm let him go, confident that Doom is defeated. Zarrko time-travels himself out of there, and the rest of the FF join Reed and Nathaniel in the lab. Ben wants to fight some more, but instead Hyperstorm heals the scars on Ben’s face, saying that every time Ben sees his reflection from now on, he’ll be reminded of Hyperstorm.

 

Then, somewhat abruptly, Hyperstorm teleports all the heroes back to Four Freedoms Plaza in the present. He tells them to always remember that he can seek them out and destroy them whenever he wishes. Johnny demands answers from Nathaniel about who Hyperstorm really is. But cuts off Nathaniel before he can answer, saying he’s lost the FF’s trust. Then Ben decides it’s time for a celebration, now that the original Fantastic Four are reunited. But it’s not that happy of a reunion, as the heroes reflect on everything they’ve been through recently, and whether it can ever be the same again.

Unstable molecule: Reed’s running theme in this issue is feeling inadequate next to Sue’s newfound leadership qualities. The issue ends with him questioning his own self confidence.

Fade out: Nathaniel tells Sue that her force fields originate from vibrations in hyperspace, and this is what helps her in the fight against Hyperstorm, whose powers also come from hyperspace. This was briefly mentioned back in issue #400, although most sources continue to state that the cosmic rays are the sole source of her powers. The Marvel Wiki does give the hyperspace thing a mention, only to add “this revelation was quickly dropped.”

Clobberin’ time: Just like that, the scars on Ben’s face are healed. Shall we take bets on how rarely they’ll be referenced after this?

Flame on: Johnny fires “molten blasts” at “nova level” at Hyperstorm, suggesting that he’s developing his powers in new ways.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie sees Kristoff in his Dr. Doom armor for the first time, and she decided she no longer has a crush on him — much to Ant-Man’s relief.

Although Kristoff appears to side with Dr. Doom in this issue, even teleporting back home to Latveria, he is still with the Fantastic Four when they’re reunited at HQ at the end.

The Alicia problem: This issue spends a whole page setting up a Lyja/Johnny/Ben love triangle, as Ben is developing feelings for Lyja, but can tell she still wants to be with Johnny.

Commercial break: I still haven’t seen this:

Trivia time: Hyperstorm will return in just a few issues, when we’ll learn just who is and what his deal is. I’ve done a little reading ahead, and a lot of these subplots are going to keep subplotting for the next eight issues. That’s when writer Tom DeFalco will take off and the series will go in a whole new direction.

Dr. Doom’s eyes are green in this issue, whereas they are usually brown. The Marvel Wiki also states they are brown. I guess we can surmise that the influence of Hyperstorm temporarily changed Doom’s eye color for some reason.

Fantastic or frightful? Hyperstorm is supposed to be the greatest of all threats, and he’s so powerful that no one can even touch him. Is there a villain equivalent of a “Mary Sue”? (Scary Sue, maybe?) The fight ends with the villain just teleporting everyone back home where everything is back to normal, which comes off as a writer totally phoning one in.

Next: The soapiest of operas.

 

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 45

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! Time for a lot of magic fighting, 1:47:25 to 1:49:47 on the Blu-ray.

We cut from the ritual room back to outside, where Madmartigan is fighting two guys. He flips one over his shoulder as a second one runs up with a spear. He does a cool spin move with his sword to block the attack. Then there’s a quick bit with the Brownies, showing they are involved with the battle after all. They use their knives to cut a rope on a sort of medieval arrow machine (I believe this is called a hwacha, but I could be wrong). The arrows fly into a group of NockMaar, and one of them dies with the second Wilhelm scream of the movie. The Brownies cheer in triumph.

There’s a closeup of General Kael, as he says, “Now you die.” In the reverse shot, we see he’s talking to Airk. Airk charges forward only for his sword to deflect off of Kael’s shield. From this angle, we can see that Kael’s helmet leaves his ears exposed. You’d think some clever Galladoorn archer would take aim at those ears, but it never happens.

Then we’re back inside the ritual room for crazy magic fighting! Bavmorda reaches her hand into a burning lamp of some kind, which somehow didn’t get blown out with all the candles in the previous scene. She has a fireball in her hand, which she throws at Raziel. Raziel gets surrounded by flames. Bavmorda smiles, thinking she’s won, but Raziel’s non-burned hand bursts out of the flames holding the wand. The wand then shoots ice and snow at Bavmorda, all while Raziel is still hidden behind the magic fire. There’s a shot of Willow watching all this from outside the room, keeping our hero present in the scene.

Bavmorda ends up frozen in place, looking like an ice sculpture, as the fire fades from Raziel. Raziel leans forward, weary from the fight, only for all the ice to explode outward, knocking Raziel back. Raziel falls back against some candles, then collapses onto the floor, and then a big stone pillar falls on top of her. The music gets all spooky as Bavmorda approaches, while Raziel tries to telekinesis the fallen wand back into her hand. It works, as the wand glows blue, flies into her hand. Raziel reaches up and shouts magic words at Bavmorda, and Bavmorda is thrown straight up into the air. This is some painful-looking slapstick as Raziel controls Bavmorda’s path in midair. Bavmorda smacks into a wall and then spins around several times for hitting the floor. Raziel is practically manic as the does this, breaking out with laughter as she torments Bavmorda. Note that in the graphic novel adaptation, this fight includes Bavmorda bringing to life a gargoyle on the wall, only for Raziel to zap it. The GN also has a bit during this part where Sorsha fights and kills a wolf during this part.

Raziel stands up, with no info about how she got out from under the pillar. There are quick shots of an unconscious Bavmorda, Willow, and the baby. Raziel has a big ol’ grin on her face as walks over to Bavmorda’s body, wand at the ready. Bavmorda’s face is covered by part of her robe. Raziel uses the wand to uncover Bavmorda’s face. It looks like Bavmorda is dead for a moment, only for her to go all Large Marge by coming back to life and screeching at Raziel for a jump scare. It works, because Raziel gets so startled she drops the wand again.

Both women scramble on the floor, grabbing at the wand, basically playing tug-of-war with it. Several more shots of Willow watching them fight. Bavmorda and Raziel get onto their feet, each holding a part of the wand. As they both try to wrest it from the other, blue lightning shoots of out, zapping all over the room. The blue lightning is so powerful enough to destroy one of the stone pillars. Willow ducks for cover, and then his attention turns to the baby, still laying there on the altar.

Action-hero music plays as Willow runs into the room, ducking out of the path of the lighting, which causes sparks and smoke all around him. He makes it about halfway through the room when the lightning strikes a… hey, just what is this thing? It appears to be a container filled with bones, with four legs like a table. It comes to life and is a bona fide monster for this next bit. The fan wiki doesn’t say what this thing is, but it confirms that the spell that brought it to life is transmutation, temporarily animating an inanimate object. The wiki states that this spell was another one of Bavmorda’s specialties. The container chases Willow around some more pillars in the room, making hissing and growling noises. Listen carefully, and you can hear Willow say “Yikes!” as it pursues him. The skeleton hands inside the container open the lid up and down like it has a mouth.

And we’ll just leave things on that nightmarish note.

Next: Blood n’ guts.

 

****

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Fantastic Friday: The power of destruction

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #408, our heroes confront the mega-villain Hyperstorm, and Hyperstorm shows us just how dull he is.

We begin with Kristoff having transported the FF away from Hyperstorm, revealing that they are currently in the distant future, where Hyperstorm rules the Earth, and this is the location of the village of robots that look human from a few issues back. Reed is freaking out, saying the FF don’t have the strength to confront the all-powerful Hyperstorm. Reed asks to go to Four Freedoms Plaza, but Kristoff insists on staying, saying that they must free Dr. Doom from Hyperstorm’s tower, now revealed to be looming over the village. Inside the tower, Hyperstorm orders all his henchmen to evacuate, saying he will send a full squad of Destructoids after the FF.

Elsewhere in the tower, Nathaniel Richards and Zarrko the Tomorrow Man fight their way through the henchmen, hoping to escape. What Nathaniel doesn’t know is that Dr. Doom has taken over Zarrko’s mind. Back on Earth, Johnny insists that Ant-Man fire up the teleporter/time machine so that he may join his teammates, even though he formally left the time by this time to lead the spinoff Fantastic Force team.

In the village, the team hears something approaching, so Sue takes charge, ordering Namor and Lyja to the skies and having Ben and Kristoff spread out, ready to fight. Reed tells Sue she’s doing a fine job as team leader, but is obviously sad. Ben reflects on how much Reed has missed since he’d been away. The heroes are attacked by the Destructoids, who are big silvery robots. Reed says he’s heard rumors of these guys, and that they are supposedly unstoppable. There’s a fight, and the Destructoids seem able to take on anything the FF can handle. During the battle, Kristoff runs off, thinking to himself that his responsibility to Dr. Doom supersedes his loyalty to the FF.

Nathaniel and Dr.-Doom-in-Zarrko’s-body watch the fight from inside the tower. Doom asks why Nathaniel never tried to rescue Reed, if he knew all along that Reed was Hyperstorm’s prisoner. Nathaniel says he never had enough power to defy Hyperstorm, but now he has no choice. Nathaniel marches off to help Reed, while Doom stays behind.

Johnny and Nathaniel both join the fight, and Nathaniel encourages Sue to defeat the Destructoids with the same method she used to fight the Celestial in issue #400. It works, and Reed is in awe of how much she has grown. Hyperstorm then shows up in person, hitting Sue with a bolt of energy. Reed loses it and attacks Hyperstorm. Hyperstorm says he could obliterate them all with a thought, but he doesn’t because he has his reasons.

In the tower, Kristoff finds Zarkko unconscious and Dr. Doom freed, his mind now back in his own body. He swears revenge on Hyperstorm. Back in the village, Hyperstorm explains that his powers come from hyperspace, which he describes as a combination of electromagnetism, nuclear power, and gravitational force. He calls this the Power Supreme, and says the FF’s survival or death is on his whim. Dr. Doom and Kristoff, meanwhile, help themselves to Hyperstorm’s science lab, building a new version of the device he once used to steal the Silver Surfer’s powers. He plans to use this on Hyperstorm.

To be continued.

Unstable molecule: Reed goes through quite an arc in this issue. He’s first defeated, saying nothing can stop Hyperstorm. After Hyperstorm attacks Sue, however, Reed fights him, and then wants to get back to the lab to whip up a weapon to take him out once and for all.

Fade out: Sue actually smiles when showing off her stronger powers and pro leadership skills in front of Reed. He encourages her, but is still a little bummed about it.

Clobberin’ time: Ben jokes about wanting to get home in time to see Melrose Place. So much for his only watching John Wayne movies.

Flame on: Ant-Man tells Johnny the FF tried to contact him before they took off, but he away on his mission. This mission would appear to the Fantastic Force’s battle against the Vibravore in Wakanda in Fantastic Force #15.

Fantastic fifth wheel: While Ant-Man holds down the fort on Earth, his daughter Cassie is star-struck by meeting Johnny.

After several issues of the characters wondering if Kristoff would betray them, he appears to do so in this issue. His part in this story still isn’t done, though.

The Alicia problem: Fighting alongside Namor, Lyja ponders how she wishes she had his discipline, and that she is still hung up on Johnny.

Commercial break: Trace. Research. Analyze. Exterminate.

Trivia time: I’m guessing the Destructoids never appeared again, seeing as how the Marvel Wiki has no entry for them. Not only that, but the fan-made sites Marvel Wikia and Marvunapp.com have no entries on them, either. There was a robot called the Destructoid that was used for combat training by the Nova villain Diamondhead. There were also some Kree robots called Destructoids that were seen destroying a planet in an issue of Silver Surfer, and they later cameo’d in one part of the Reign of Kings crossover.

Fantastic or frightful? It’s all about Hyperstorm, and Hyperstorm has the most generic personality. Dr. Doom in this issue speaks in his classic pompous Doom-speak, which is a cut above Hyperstorm’s tired “look how powerful I am” talk.

Next: The final (not final) battle.

****

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Fantastic Friday: It had to happen sometime

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #407, Reed Richards comes back from the dead. It had to happen sometime.

Previously, our heroes encountered the godlike villain Hyperstorm, who has Dr. Doom held captive in his otherworldly tower and seemingly killed the FF in the same way that Reed was killed way back in issue #381. Surprise! The Fantastic Four aren’t dead. When Hyperstorm zapped them, he didn’t kill them, but teleported them somewhere. The FF — in this case Sue, Ben and Kristoff, with guest stars Lyja and Namor the Sub-Mariner — are in a rocky, desert-like landscape, where they are immediately attacked by “hill pirates.” Namor knows these guys from somewhere, apparently. Our heroes easily defeat the pirates, while Sue speculates that Hyperstorm has sent them to a world where Reed is still alive. Namor spots an alien city in the distance, and they head for it.

Back in Hypsertorm’s tower, which is in another universe, Hyperstorm gloats to Nathaniel Richards, whom he’s taken captive. Hyperstorm says his goal is nothing short of the conquest of all time and space. When Hyperstorm leaves the room, Nathaniel asks Zarrko the Tomorrow Man about him. Zarrko says Hyperstorm saved him from being trapped in the timestream. (This happened after his conflict with aliens called Time-Twisters in Thor #245.) Zarrko also believes that he is not Hyperstorm’s sidekick, but his “business partner.”

The FF arrive at the alien city, which is straight out of Conan the Barbarian, with sword-swingin’ savages and scantily-clad dancing girls. Using the treasure Kristoff swiped from the hill pirates, the FF don disguises and question some locals at a tavern about any strangers in town. One guy, Taylos the Trader, says there’s a mad hermit who lives outside the city. The pirates show up again, and pick another fight.

In Hyperstorm’s tower, Zarrko checks in on the prisoner Dr. Doom, not knowing Doom had his intellect restored last issue. Doom does his telepathic mind-switch thing he’s done a few times in the past, and possesses Zarrko’s body, swearing his revenge. In the other world, the city guard show up at the tavern, so the FF make a run for it. They buy a horse-drawn wagon using their stolen pirate gold and out of the city. Then it’s back to New York, where Johnny has decided to pay a visit, taking a break from leading the Fantastic Force spinoff team. Ant-Man fills him in on where the team has gone, and Johnny flies off, hoping to join them.

The FF arrive at the hermit’s cave, only to find a crazy-looking device outside, which Namor identifies as a hydroelectric generator, far beyond the technical level of anyone on this world. Before we all congratulate Namor for being smart, he then steps over a wire, tripping a homemade alarm. Turn the page, and there’s good old Reed, looking all bearded and disheveled.

A fight breaks out, as the FF fears this might not be the real Reed, and Reed doesn’t believe for a second that this is the real FF. Sue approaches Reed, admitting that they’ve both changed since they’ve been apart. They talk for some time, with the reader not privy to the conversation. The finally conclude that it’s really them, and they fall into an embrace.

The next step is to discuss how to get home. Reed says Hyperstorm stranded him in this technologically backwards world because it would years to develop circuitry needed for a time machine/teleporter. Kristoff offers the circuitry inside his armor, which has just the parts Reed needs. Then, in Hyperstorm’s tower, Dr. Doom is still possessing Zarrko, freeing Nathaniel Richards from stasis. Nathaniel wants to get out of there, but Doom says they must work together to defeat Hyperstorm. They say all this with Hyperstorm secretly watching them on a monitor.

Unstable molecule: Reed believes Hyperstorm has created duplicates of the FF to torment him. Could this be foreshadowing to Hyperstorm’s origin?

Fade out: Sue refers to Namor as handsome early on, but then forgets him once Reed is back in the picture. We get one panel of Namor staring coldly at the two of them, which resolves (for now) his pursuit of Sue.

Clobberin’ time: Ben points out that, counting Sue’s force fields, each member of this issue’s team has super-strength. He tells everyone to remember that he’s supposed to be muscle of the group.

Flame on: Johnny cites Vibraxus’ court case and Huntara’s departure as the reasons why he’s taking a break from Fantastic Force. Funny how he doesn’t mention Devlor giving birth to himself.

Fantastic fifth wheel: If Hyperstorm is so all-powerful, why didn’t he know that Kristoff’s armor could get Reed home? Also, we see Kristoff walking around in his Dr. Doom armor but without the helmet, for a little-kid’s-head-on-a-grownup-body look, and it’s just as silly as you’d think.

Ant-Man only appears in one panel, cooking dinner for his daughter Cassie. I can’t tell what video game Cassie is playing, but it looks a lot like the ships from classic Battlestar Galactica.

The Alicia problem: This issue wants to hint at a possible romance between Lyja and Ben, despite all of the previous issues of her saying she still wants to be with Johnny. Ben comments about she and him are both “free agents” and Lyja tells him she knows how she feels after they see Reed and Sue reunited.

Commercial break: This ad really demands a lot from the reader:

Trivia time: This issue crosses over with the sporadically-published Fantastic Four Unlimited miniseries. Issue #12 of that series follows The FF and Reed as the hermit squaring off against a sorcerer named Artabazus who wants to steal Reed’s tech. Artabazus ends being teleported to Salem during the witch trials, and you can guess where it goes from there. Also, I’m not covering Fantastic Four Unlimited on this blog on account of it’s not very good.

Fantastic or frightful? After being absent for almost two years of real-world time, there was probably no way to bring Reed back that wouldn’t be underwhelming, so having him exiled to another dimension seems as good a resurrection as any.

Next: The power of destruction.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 44

Watching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! The battle of NockMaar begins, and things get a little Evil Dead-ish, 1:44:20 to 1:47:24 on the Blu-ray.

Madmartigan leads the soldiers into the courtyard through some sort of arched hallway, with gear stacked along one side. This is followed by a shot of the NockMaar inside scrambling and picking up weapons as the Galladoorn enter. A lot of action happens really quick. A NockMaar grabs a Galladoorn soldier and pulls him off his horse, followed by a Galladoorn stabbing a NockMaar right in the chest. Three NockMaar fire arrows, hitting at least one invading Galladoorn. Kael puts his skull-face mask on. Remember than when he’s wearing the mask, Kael believes himself to be an unkillable god. This will come into play before the movie is over.

A couple of interesting points here. For one, this whole battle is staged and shot so there’s never any question as to who’s the good guys and who’s the bad guys. The armor is different, yes, but it’s also a progression of shots and progression of events so that we get a sense of the back-and-forth action. Also, in movie time, we just had a big battle a few minutes ago, so how to make this one different? It’s in cloudy weather, soon to be rain, and it’s set against the all-black castle walls, giving it a different color scheme. This courtyard also appears more confined the courtyard in Tir Asleen, more like a series of long hallways rather than a big open space in the center.

Then it’s back inside, to Bavmorda and her wise men, still preparing for the ritual. Yes, according to the tie-in lore, they really have been up all night just preparing for this, while everything else has been going on for hours. One wise man hits that big gong again, and three more walk around holding candles. Bavmorda stands in the center of the room, with rain starting to pour down from above. She chants some magic words and says, “Exile this child to the thirteenth night.” What does this mean? Not sure, but we know this ritual involves twelve hours, twelve candles that must be lit, and a gong being rung twelve times. Number thirteen, then, is presumably the moment when the baby is banished into oblivion. Then there’s another shot of the baby crying, to tug on the ol’ heartstrings.

Back outside, we catch up with some of our heroes. Inside the castle courtyard, Sorsha hops off her horse. Then a NockMaar (Is it Airk? Hard to tell with his helmet on.) has Willow with him on his horse. He helps Willow off the horse. Then Fin Raziel is there, presumably having also hitched a ride on horseback. Sorsha says, “This way!” and Raziel and Willow follow her. This is some nice internal logic at work, because of course she knows the layout of the castle. Then there’s another shot of the Brownies running across the foreground with fighting in the background. It doesn’t appear that they’re contributing in any meaningful way, just acting all crazy. Also, it’s clearly starting to rain now, for some nice continuity with the rain seen in Bavmorda’s chamber.

Next we’re with Madmartigan, slicing a NockMaar through the gut. This is followed by General Kael, who has a much less flashy fighting style, punching helmeting Galladoorn in the face and even chuckling slightly as he does it. A Galladoorn comes at him with a shield, but Kael is tough he knocks the guy and his shield out of frame with one sword strike. Still not done, Kael walks up to a Galladoorn on horseback and punches the guy in the face, showing off just giant of a man actor Pat Roach was.

Sorsha leads Raziel and Willow up some steps, with her being very careful to keep her back to the wall at all times. Then we see some NockMaar firing arrows from behind shield men, causing a Galladoorn horse and rider to fall into the mud. Airk shows up at this point, atop the castle wall. There’s a big vat of boiling oil or acid being guarded by a NockMaar, only for Airk to sneak up behind him and slash his throat. Airk then sees that same group of shield men. With an action-hero grunt, he pulls a rope, turning over the boiling acid. The steaming blood-red liquid (What is this stuff?) lands perfectly onto the archers protected by the shield men, causing the whole group of enemy soldiers to scatter.

Cut to Sorsha inside the castle, slowly creeping up a spiral staircase with, with Willow and Raziel close behind. Willow has now adopted Sorsha’s style of keeping close to the wall. There’s a really cool shot of Sorsha’s sword silhouetted in front of the opening to Bavmorda’s chamber, with blue light glowing from within. Willow and Raziel round the corner and look on with shock. They’re just looking at the door, however, which is closed. Maybe they’re responding the sound of the baby crying, or the spooky skull on the wall, to one side of the door. Willow and Sorsha both put hands on Willow’s shoulder, and Raziel, “It’s all right, Willow. You don’t have to go.” This bit in the stairs is less than a minute of the movie, but every shot is moody, atmospheric, and just really cool.

From inside, Bavmorda says, “Light the thirteenth candle!” Sorsha sheathes her sword (Why?) and she and Raziel slowly approach the door. Cut to the same door, now seen on the inside of the chamber. Raziel throws both doors open with a dramatic flourish. The chamber fills with wind, and we see the candles blow out. The camera zooms on Bavmorda, who coldly hisses, “Raziel.”

Then it’s Sorsha’s turn to be dramatic, as she steps in front of Raziel and shouts, “Mother!” She then hesitates, steps back, and only says, “I…” Raziel says, “Traitor child, I must despise you now. She motions to two of the wise men, who attack with scimitar-like curved swords. Sorsha’s first move is to knock over one of the containers of blood-red liquid. She slashes at the first wise men with a flurry of sword swipes. It looks like she cuts him on the arm, but this is nonetheless enough for him to hit the floor. Sorsha takes out a second wise man with a high kick (sweet!), and a third wise man attacks. He raises his sword to bring it down on her, only to get it stuck in the wall. Sorsha stabs him and he falls. Then, in a bird’s eye shot taking in the hole chamber, we see Sorsha kick the sword out of his hand and stab him again, making it final.

Sorsha walks into the center of the room. Bavmorda watches with a strange smile on her face. Sorsha steps up to Bavmorda and says, “I won’t let you kill that child.” Bavmorda says, “Away with you!” Sorsha walks up the baby, only for Bavmorda to raise a hand. Sorsha is magically lifted into the air, dropping her sword. It’s an Evil Dead style shot as the camera follows along with Sorsha asshe flies across the room and toward a gated wall covered with spikes. Raziel raises her wand, and Sorsha stops in mid-air, right in front of the spikes. Bavmorda and Raziel eye each other across the room. Bavmorda now has both hands up, and Raziel’s wand now glows blue. Sorsha falls to the floor, apparently out cold. Then another shot of the baby looking sad.

Bavmorda says, “Your powers have gained in strength, Raziel.” Before the audience can wonder how that’s possible, Raziel answers for us, saying “I have Cherlindrea’s wand, Bavmorda. There’s a closeup of Bavmorda, now looking less playful and more grim. Raziel points the wand at her, saying “Alora Danan will be queen.”

Next: Blood n’ guts.

****

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