Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! This turns into a brief Gulliver’s Travels remake as we meet the Brownies, 37:19-39:47 on the Blu-ray.
The score is big and heroic as Willow and Meegosh walk through some tall brush, on their way back home. Willow tells Meegosh to slow down, and Meegosh says that if they hurry they can be home by tomorrow morning. It’s not clear how long they traveled to get here, but because they traveled via montage, it seemed like a long time. Perhaps they can travel quicker now that they believe they’re no longer being chased by Bavmorda’s troops.
Meegosh says they’ll be heroes when the return, and Willow asks, “Do you think so?” Meegosh acts out the part of villagers welcoming the two of them home, and Willow plays along, saying “Welcome back, boys. You deserve medals!” They laugh, but then Willow gets serious and asks if they did the right thing. Meegosh answers, “Absolutely. There’s nothing to worry about.”
On cue, they hear the baby crying nearby. (It really could be any baby, but because this is a movie, we know it’s the one we’ve been following this whole time.) Then we’re treated to an odd sight. The baby in a small pouch, being carried by a bird, with a tiny man riding on the bird’s back. “I have the baby!” the man cries, in a strange accent. We’ll soon learn this is Franjean, one of the Brownies. He gets a very quick close up, where we can see he has ‘80s music video hair.
The bird is flying very low to the ground in one shot, making this look very dangerous for the baby. The bird then flies over Willow, so close that he ducks. He shouts, “That’s my baby!” This is an interesting choice of words, considering his quest so far has been to give her away. This shows he still hasn’t let go. He calls for the bird and its rider to come back. Then we get our first taste of the Brownies’ comedy shtick as Franjean says, “Left, you stupid bird! Left!” The tie-in fiction reveals that this bird is an eagle, and its name is Canterfree.
Willow pursues, only for a tiny arrow to hit a tree next to him. There’s a quick shot of a Brownie on a tree branch with a bow, and then a second arrow strikes Willow’s arm. Meegosh says “Brownies! Let’s get out of here.” This suggests that he’s encountered Brownies before, or has at least heard of them.
Willow and Meegosh continue running, although it’s unclear if they’re still pursuing the baby or just trying get out of there. There’s a shot of a whole bunch of Brownies on a tree limb, firing arrows down at the two of them, with one arrow striking Meegosh. This repeats, with more shots of Willow and Meegosh running as the Brownies fire arrows from the trees. Willow says “Outrun them,” and then he and Meegosh fall through a hole in the ground as the Brownies can be heard laughing at them.
There’s a fade to later, to nighttime. Willow is asleep, and a Brownie voice says, “Hey ugly, wake up.” Water is thrown on Willow’s face. He wakes up and looks over, and we get our first real look at the Brownies. They all of big hair and are dressed in animal furs, all they have elaborate face paint. Most of them have a signature brown stripe down the center of their face, while others have a big brown circle painted over their left eye. I doubt we’re meant to understand the symbolism of this. One Brownie has a hollowed-out mouse’s head he’s wearing as a hat or helmet. This guy is Rool, the other prominent Brownie character.
The camera pulls back to reveal Willow and Meegosh tied to the ground, with about twenty Brownies surrounding them. One Brownie makes a comment about they are prisoners now. Willow asks Meegosh where the baby is. A light shines overhead, and heavenly voice says “Bring the Nelwyn to me.” Franjean says “You heard her,” to the other Brownies, suggesting that he is in charge. Also, Franjean is standing on Willow’s chest throughout this, for a nifty visual effect. Willow asks what’s going on, and Franjean, holding a spear, says “Shut up or I’ll break your nose. You are mine to toy with.” This is a recurring theme throughout the movie, that the Brownies never see themselves as small, but instead as equal or even superior to everyone around them.
The tie-in books have some information about the Brownies, but not as much as other characters or species. Despite being avid tree climbers, they live not in the trees but in underground burrows. They are an average of 9 inches tall. The Brownies live to be hundreds of years old (!). As the decades turn into centuries, the Brownies grow playful and mischievous to alleviate boredom. Because of this, the Daikini often consider them nuisances. Despite their playful nature, the Brownies are nonetheless fiercely loyal to their friends, and are skilled warriors with bows, spears, and swords. I’m having some trouble trying to identify the Brownies’ comedic accents. I think maybe they’re trying to sound French, but their voices are too exaggerated for humorous effect to know for sure. I’m pretty sure no one else in the movie talks with these accents.
As for our leader Franjean, the Willow graphic novel adds a line where he introduces himself as “the king of the world.” The music in Willow was composed by James Horner, who also did the score for Titanic. Could James Cameron have gotten “I’m the king of the world” from Willow via Horner?
Franjean orders, “Forward!” and the rest of the Brownies start dragging along the ground via their Brownie-sized ropes. Struggling against the ropes, Willow asks where Franjean got the baby. “I stole it from a stupid Daikini,” Franjean says. We in the audience assume Franjean means Madmartigan. Later in the movie, we’ll get a slightly more detailed version of how this happened.
The light and the heavenly voice reappers, saying “Franjean, release the Nelwyns and stop pestering them. Yes, the voice says “Nelwyns” as the plural, whereas everyone else in the movie has said just “Nelwyn” as the plural. Franjean says “Uh-oh,” and jumps off of Willow’s chest and on to the ground, for another nifty effect. Rool and another Brownie cut one of the ropes around Willow’s ankle, and this loosens him up enough so he can move. The next shot is like something out of King Kong, where Willow frees himself from the ropes, stands up, raises his arms, and roars at the Brownies, scaring them off. The Brownies run off into the trees, with one of them clearly crying “Yee-haw!”
The heavenly light appears again. It’s going to have a lot to say, so we’ll end here for now.
Next: A midsummer night’s Willow.
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