Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! In this short scene, we’re exploring the connection between this film and Akira Kurosawa, 42:52-43-52 on the Blu-ray.
The scene begins with Willow and Brownies walking through the woods, presumably leaving Cherlindrea’s dreamlike magical forest behind and reentering the regular world. I think for most viewers, the two Brownies are simply “the Brownies,” and thought of as one character instead of two. For this rewatch, I’m going to try to give each one his due. Rool says he knows the way, but Franjean says “You always think you know the way. I am the leader.” This shows that while Franjean considers himself the hero of this adventure, Rool also had the Brownies’ boisterous self-confidence.
Willow asks how long it will take to find Fin Raziel, and Rool says, “Not long. She has been exiled to an island, just over those hills.” Willow says, “She’s what?” And Rool responds. “Exiled by the evil Queen Bavmorda,” with him giving the name “Bavmorda” a dramatic flourish and a laugh. Franjean is more serious, however, chiding Rool for telling Willow everything. “I didn’t tell him everything,” Rool says, only for Franjean to say, “You told him enough.”
The two Brownies bicker, with Franjean saying not to mention the queen. Willow learned about Bavmorda in the previous scene, so I’m not sure where this concern of theirs comes from. Willow is more interested to know about the island, demanding answers while holding the wand. Franjean again is the serious one, saying “Don’t play with that wand. Cherlindrea told you it has vast powers.” This is the first time Cherlindrea’s name is spoken in the movie. I guess the viewers are meant to understand that this refers to the angelic being of the previous scene.
Franjean continues, “Only a great sorcerer can use it, not a stupid peck like you.” The movie keeps the borderline-offensive “peck” running joke going, and Willow doesn’t like either, reacting with an angry glare. During all this, there’s some interesting special effects here with the Brownies running along a log, and then falling off of it, all while Willow walks at a normal pace. Physics demands that the Brownies would have be moving incredibly fast to keep with Willow, based on their differing sizes, but the movie’s VFX do a good job with the illusion so that viewers don’t question it.
Franjean points to the right, saying “This way,” but Rool corrects him by saying “No” several times. Franjean marches to the left, and Rool again corrects him with more nos. What to make of this? Franjean styles himself as the leader, but the less serious Rool appears to be the one with greater knowledge of the world outside their forest. Rool points upward (to the top of the screen, that is) and says, “This way.” Rool says, “That’s what I said,” with another overly dramatic flourish on the word “said.” Franjean, less show-offy and more direct, looks up to Willow, points in Rool’s direction, and agrees, “This way.” The two of them arguing over directions will come up again later in the movie. Willow asks if they know where they’re going, and Franjean says, “Of course. With us as your guides, no harm will befall you.” Then of course we smash cut to Willow trudging along in the mud and rain, for a cheap laugh.
This is a simple scene that provides a few small pieces of exposition, while establishing Franjean and Rool as Willow’s traveling companions and comic relief. Except that this scene has its roots in classic foreign cinema. It’s no secret that Willow is heavily influenced by Star Wars, and most everyone knows that Star Wars was heavily influenced by the films Akira Kurosawa, with The Hidden Fortress being the one cited most often. In The Hidden Fortress, a princess and a warrior are fighting for their kingdom, but most of the action is seen through the POV of two lowly peasants, Tahei and Matashichi. These characters are often cited as the inspirations for C-3PO and R2-D2. I rewatched The Hidden Fortress in preparation for this blog post (You’re welcome!) and I can’t help but see big similarities between the two peasants and the two Brownies.
Next: You big lug.
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