Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! One character is transformed, and I continue to wonder how magic works, 1:07:16-1:09:47 on the Blu-ray.
We begin with a cool establishing shot of the NockMaar camp at night with a sliver of a crescent moon in the sky. A howling can be heard — one of the Death Dogs, no doubt. To confirm this, the next shot is a NockMaar guard and a Death Dog walks by on patrol, the guard holding a lit torch. He and the dog walk over to a campfire nearby, with no one else around it, so I guess they’re going on break.
Cut to Willow and Madmartigan in an iron cage. They’re sitting on snow, suggesting that the cage either has no floor, or that it snowed after the cage was set in this spot and the NockMaar can’t be bothered to clean it out. Willow is repeating the magic words from earlier, while using Cherlindrea’s wand to grind up some black powder in a small bowl. (Where’d he get these?) Madmartigan watches, saying “That’s magic? It smells terrible.” Willow starts to say, “It’s the life spark,” but Madmartigan cuts him off and loses his cool, saying, “Well, it stinks. This whole thing stinks!”
Fin Raziel, still in possum form, is in her cage nearby. You’d think the NockMaar would have separated them, but no. She says, “Ignore him, Willow. He’s a fool.” This, understandably, makes Madmartigan even angrier. “If only I had a sword,” he says, gritting his teeth and pantomiming a sword move. “If only you’d quit talking about it,” Willow responds. Here we have the movie playing up the folklore-ish “swordsman without a sword” aspect of Madmartigan. Plus, after several scenes of seeing him be the nice guy, the movie is now re-establishing his edgier, unpredictable side.
Raziel keeps the plot going by saying, “Willow, you must transform me to my human self.” Willow says, “But Raziel, I’m not ready yet.” Raziel toughens up and says, “You better be. Get me down.” Madmartigan uses a long stick (where’d he get that?) and reaches through the bars of the cage to Raziel’s smaller cage, which is hanging nearby. He drops Raziel’s cage, causing it to open, and he bumps his head on the bars of his own cage for a cheap laugh. He says, “Why don’t you help me get out of here instead of chattering with that muskrat?” Because of this line, many viewers over the years have mistaken Raziel for an actual muskrat during this stretch of the movie, but a quick Google image search confirms that she is a possum, not a muskrat.
Raziel squeezes through the bars of Willow and Madmartigan’s cage and says, “When I change back into my human self, I will crush this army, and take Elora Danan to Tir Asleen where she will be safe.” This kind of talk has me wondering what kind of badass warrior woman Raziel was before she was betrayed by Bavmorda. Madmartigan doesn’t buy it, making a mocking a face at her while she says this.
There’s a somewhat creepy shot of the possum biting Willow on the finger, complete with blood. Willow asks what she bit him for, and she says he needs three drops of his own blood to put in the potion. “You could have warned me,” he says. Madmartigan rolls his eyes, and Raziel says, “For beginners, there is some pain. But don’t let anything break your concentration.” Willow smears his blood up and down the wand (ew) and it looks like more than three drops. There a pause, with total silence, as we get closeups of Willow and then Madmartigan looking serious.
Willow stars to recite the words again, when the Brownies show up, with a boisterous “Hello everybody, we have arrived!” from Franjean and “You are safe!” from Rool. It’s not shown how they got managed to catch up to everyone. Maybe they hitched a ride on a bird. Everyone shushes them, so they go quiet.
Willow starts reciting the words again, and Madmartigan smirks, not taking all this talk about magic seriously. “What are you going to look like if this works?” he asks. She curtly says “Don’t interrupt.” But then, as Willow continues reciting, she adds, “I am a young, beautiful woman.” So of course now Madmartigan is all about the magic, saying “Concentrate, Willow!”
The wand starts to glue blue and the score gets all dramatic. Raziel’s next line is hard to understand. According to the Blu-ray subtitles, she’s saying “No, Willow, you’re losing me.” Willow’s eyes open in surprise for a second, breaking his all-important concentration, before going back to the words. Then there’s a super-gross effect of black feathers sprouting out of the possum’s body, made even more gross by Raziel moaning in pain, and some bone-crunch sound effects.
Willow falls to the side, dropping the wand and grasping his hands as if they are burned. Madmarigan catches him, now back in nice guy mode, asking “Are you all right?” followed by, “Nice try, Willow.” A bird is heard, and we see a black bird. The bird has not taken the possum’s place, but is instead somehow emerging from the shell of the half-possum/half-bird. This bird, according to the wiki, is neither a raven nor a crow, but a rook. “Farmers,” Raziel says, “Cherlindrea sends me farmers.” Now as a Rook, actress Patricia Hayes now makes her voice a little harder and rougher, to approximate a squawking-bird effect to Raziel’s speech. Franjean punctuates the joke by saying “The Nelwyn really butchered that one.” Looking defeated, Willow sits back and says, “I’m sorry.”
Once again, it’s frustrating trying to sort how magic works in this universe. It appears as if there are three levels of magic. One involves simply waving a hand and making magic happen, one involves intense concentration and reciting words, and the third involves words, concentration, and a potion. In the case of this transformation spell, it appears that Willow only needs to make the potion once, and not every time he tries. We’ll have to see if this is true in upcoming scenes.
Next: Bang your head.
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