Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! This is a short scene, but it’s packed with action and fighting, 1:13:45 to 1:14:46 on the Blu-ray.
Picking up where the last scene left off, we see the exterior of Sorsha’s tent as it collapses, with the sounds of NockMaar soldiers grunting and fumbling about inside. There’s a shot of Willow emerging from the folds of the tent, letting us know they’re both okay. Then a sword pops straight up through top of the tent (paging Dr. Freud), tearing it open. Madmartigan, with his shirt wide open, emerges from the tent with a playful jump, swinging the sword around. It’s never explicitly said, but his confident-yet-crazed demeanor means he’s over the effects of the Dust of the Broken Hearts. Throughout the movie, Madmartigan has been the mythic-sounding “swordsman without a sword.” Now, though, he has a sword in hand for the first time, so we can finally see him cut loose.
Two NockMaar soldiers run out from behind two tents, ready for a fight. Madmartigan does a lot of flashy moves, swinging the sword and then flipping it in midair and catching it again. Madmartigan takes kills the first guy with two slashes of the sword. The second guy appears to die after only one sword strike, except he also somehow goes flying through the air after Madmartigan slices him. A third NockMaar runs up and gets Madmartigan’s sword right in the gut. No flashy stunt work for this one, he just flops down dead.
Watching this, Willow says “You are great!” with emphasis on the word “are.” Madmartigan smiles, flips the sword around again, and then, for a slapstick laugh, falls on his butt. This is important because it shows that although he can fight, he is still fallible. Having a sword gives him power, but he’s not in god mode.
Madmartigan says, “Get on that shield!” We don’t see this shield yet, but we see Willow look to the side, so we understand it is nearby. Willow runs over to it, and my question is, which NockMaar left this shield just sitting in the snow, out in the open? For that matter, have we seen NockMaar use shields before this? In this and previous fight scenes, the NockMaar fight strategy has been basic brawling, with them merely drawing swords and charging ahead. Anyway, Willow apparently knows what Madmartigan has in mind, so he dutifully sits on the shield. Madmartigan flips a guy over his shoulder. Does this kill him? The movie makes it seem as though it does. A fifth approaches him, only for Madmartigan to punch him in the face, and then slice the guy’s gut. We’re going to see a lot of fistfight/swordfight combos as the movie progresses.
Sorsha emerges from a tent. Notice that this isn’t her own collapsed tent, but instead she’s stepping out one that is fully standing. What was she doing in there? Madmartigan runs toward the shield, stops, and calls to Sorsha. The score briefly switches from action to romantic for a few seconds as the two hold each other’s gazes. They don’t say anything, but he does take a step toward her. What exactly is going on in this moment? For Sorsha, seeing Madmartigan in action isn’t just about her thinking he’s hot, but also that he represents a way out of the life of violence and militarism that she’s always known. But what’s going on in Madmartigan’s head? Is this still the Dust of Broken Hearts at work? Or, perhaps, did the dust awaken some truth in how Madmartigan feels, and he’s in this moment realizing it? It’s left to the audience to decide.
Keeping the action moving, the romance is cut short by General Kael, still not wearing his skull mask, shouting “After them!” A NockMaar soldier on horseback rides across the screen right in front of them, with the assumption that there will be more. Madmartigan sits on the shield behind Willow and the baby, using it as a makeshift sled. All it takes is one push from one of Madmartigan’s hands, and the shield/sled takes off at high speed, Clark Griswold style.
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