Watching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! Our clash with enemies and with old friends, 1:17:02 to 1:22:00 on the Blu-ray.
First things first: Where are we? According to the lore, this location is simply the “snow village” although the wiki capitalizes “Snow” suggesting that this is its proper name. According to The Willow Sourcebook, the Snow village is south of NockMaar base camp, meaning our heroes were traveling north to NockMaar, but have now done a 180, heading away from NockMaar, with Tir Asleen located relatively nearby, to the southwest. Back to the movie, we can see peasants in simple robes walking about in the background, and there are chickens in pens and baskets full of fresh fruit around, meaning that the Snow village is an agriculture/farming community like others we’ve seen in the film, though I am at a loss to figure out how this is possible on a snowy mountaintop.
Finn Raziel flies up onto a rooftop and says “Kael! Kael!” like a parrot. We then cut to an elaborately-designed lookout tower, where a man shouts, “NockMaar soldiers!” The tower appears to have some kind of furnace-type thing with a big rock heated up in it, providing smoke. What is this thing? A signal fire? Something to keep him warm? Is he cooking his lunch on it? Then we see a group of NockMaar approaching on horseback, looking tiny against the huge mountain. It’s hard to tell, but it appears there are only about twelve of them. This is important, because this number remains consistent throughout this scene. In a few minutes, when Kael and Sorsha split up, you can follow the NockMaar soldiers, as six follow him and six stay with her.
Willow is now outside again, and looks around as all the locals panic. There’s a lot of running around as a man shouts, “Hide! Hide the children!” Madmartigan tells the man “We need a place to hide,” and then man says to come with him quickly, followed by the action movie requirement of shouting “Move!” There’s no information in the tie-in lore as to who this character is, or who this actor is. A bunch of actors are listed in the credits under “villager” and he could be any one of them. Then we see the soldiers riding into town, with Kael and Sorsha, now fully armored, leading them.
Cut to a dusty cellar, where the man has led Madmartigan. There are several seconds of Madmartigan looking around in wonder, as if he’d never been in a basement before. I think the idea is supposed to be that he’s wondering why all these other people are down there. There’s a shot of Willow looking around with the same wonder/confusion. A hand grabs Madmartigan’s shoulder, and there we see Airk Thaughbaer, last seen not freeing Madmartigan at the Daikini crossroads.
“I knew you’d get out of that rat trap,” Airk says with a smile. Madmartigan smiles too, but then gets serious, grabbing Airk, spinning him around, and pushing him against a wall. “You left me to die, Airk,” Madmartigan says. Airk gets serious too, saying “I probably saved your life. We were slaughtered and a lost a lot of…” He’s interrupted by someone shushing him. Notice that there’s a man in the shot wearing the exact same bronzed armor as Airk. This is a quick and easy way to establish that these folks in the cellar are Airk’s soldiers. Where Airk has been is mostly left to the audience’s imagination. We know he and his troops lost to the NockMaar army at the River Troon, which is way over on the east side of the map. Now we find them in the northwest, with severely depleted in the northwest, where, although defeated, they’re planning a last-ditch assault on NockMaar Castle.
Upstairs, Sorsha enters the building by kicking the door open, even though it was obviously not locked. I guess she’s just angry. Behind her, a NockMaar soldier (is it Kael?) orders “Tear this place apart. Look everywhere. Find the child.” In the cellar, there’s an interesting camera move, where the camera starts out hiding behind a wooden post, only to move around it to find Willow and the baby. There’s a shot of the wooden floor above Willow creaking as the soldiers move about just above him, and then a shot of a soldier flipping over a small wooden table. This would have to be a show of intimidation, as there’s obviously nothing under the table.
The baby starts crying and, in a very cool shot looking upward through the floor, Sorsha draws her sword. Fin Raziel flies into the building cawing, mimicking the baby’s cries. Willow quiets down the baby and Raziel flies back out again, pursued by a NockMaar soldier wearing a cumbersome-looking metal helmet. He looks around in confusion, making him one of my favorite background extras. Airk and Madmartigan are now by the basement entrance, where a third solider checks the door. There’s another below-the-floor shot looking up at Sorsha, followed by a closeup of Madmartigan, looking up at her in and smiling slightly.
Outside, there’s more commotion as the locals are running around, with a NockMaar solider grabbing one peasant and throwing them to the ground. Kael says, “Tell Sorsha I searched the north end.” A soldier responds, “Yes, general.” Kael leads five or six soldiers away from there by shouting “Haa!” to his horse a few times. In the foreground, we can see one of the village’s buildings has been lit on fire, showing that the NockMaar really mean business.
Back inside, Sorsha does some Sherlock Holmes-ing. She spots an animal-skin rug on the floor, and lifts up to reveal the cellar entrance. Below, Madmartigan and the rest of Airk’s crew immediately back up around a corner from the steps leading into the basement. One of Airk’s men, an older man with white-grey hair, tells Willow “Quiet” as the baby is still fussing. Sorsha slowly walks down into the basement. It says a lot about her that she walks first into danger, rather than sending a henchman in ahead of her. Airk hands Madmartigan a knife — not a sword, notably. There’s yet another cool shot of Sorsha’s sword slowly passing in front of Madmartigan’s face. The sword is serrated along one edge. I’m not sure how that would help in the heat of battle, but it looks cool. Once Madmartigan spots Sorsha’s wrist, he grabs it, spins her around, and puts the knife at her neck. This causes the NockMaar behind Sorsha to back up. Now calling the shots, Madmartigan simply says, “Back! Back!”
Madmartigan and Sorsha head up the stairs, with Willow following right behind. Upstairs, he orders another “Back!” at the NockMaar. Airk addresses Willow, telling him to keep the baby quiet. “She needs to be changed,” Willow says. If the baby is secretly helping out our heroes with magic, why is she jeopardizing everyone by crying at this time? I guess she can only do so much because, obviously, she’s still just a baby.
Madmartigan looks out a window and says, “NockMaar scum.” Sorsha says, “You’ll never defeat us. Give up the baby.” Willow sets the baby down next to a lit fireplace and gets to work changing the baby. (We’re spared the diaper-y details.) Airk asks “What does Bavmorda want with this baby anyway?” Willow says, “She’s a princess. We’re taking her to Tir Asleen.” Airk says, “Tir Asleen? Even if you could find it, peck, she’s right. You’d never get past the NockMaar army.” Airk talks about Tir Asleen as if it is like a mythical Atlantis, but we know from the lore that it is one of the major kingdoms. I suppose he means that Willow specifically can’t find it. Willow says, “There’s an even bigger army at Tir Asleen, if we could just get there.” Airk hears a woman screaming outside, and he rushes over to the window next to Madmartigan. He says, “I’ve lost more than half my men fighting Bavmorda. Now you and this peck are going to take her on? You always told me you served no one, Madmartigan. Since when are you a crusader?”
There’s a dramatic pause as Madmartigan lets these words sink in. Then Airk says, “He’s not going to help you, peck. He’s a worthless thief.” Airk steps away from Madmartigan (where’s he going?) and Madmartigan says, “I’m not a thief, Airk.” This “thief” talk is odd, because we know from the lore that Madmartigan got in trouble for being a deserter, not a thief. Willow adds, “He’s not a thief,” only to turn to Madmartigan and say, “Are you?” Madmartigan doesn’t answer, his eyes darting around the room, even meeting Sorsha’s angry-yet-scared gaze for a second. Madmartigan and Sorsha stand, his knife still at her neck, and he says, “I serve the Nelwyn, Airk.” Does this line mean he now swears loyalty to all the Nelwyn people, or is he referring to Willow specifically? I believe it to be the latter, seeing as how Airk uses the “peck” insult throughout this exchange, but Madmartigan has now reached the point where he is friends with Willow and is above such insults.
Airk looks incredulous, and he steps up to Madmartigan. Madmartigan asks Airk to come with them, and Airk says they’ll never make it. “Then once again, we say goodbye,” Madmartigan says, with he and Sorsha quickly ducking out of the shot. Airk peers out the window to see two NockMaar soldiers roughing up some of the peasants.
Madmartigan, Sorsha, Willow, and the baby all emerge through the door outside, as the score goes from suspenseful to heroic. They make their way to some nearby horses. Sorsha gets up onto the first one, and, in the moment it takes Madmartigan to mount the horse right behind her, she shouts, “Over here!” There are now three NockMaar roughing up peasants. They hear here and one calls her name. Madmartigan says “Weapons down or she’s dead!” The NockMaar don’t bother trying to negotiate, immediately dropping their swords to the ground.
Willow does a nifty move, grabbing onto part of the building and then swinging onto the back of one of the horses. With a “Hyah! Hyah!” Willow takes off the horse, quick to get out of there. Madmartigan backs the horse up (nice horsemanship there) and then takes around and takes off at a gallop. As soon as he does, the NockMaar pick their swords back up as one of them says, “Get to your horses! After them!” They’re interrupted by Airk and the knights, who burst through the doors and windows of the same building, firing arrows at the NockMaar. Airk fights on of the NockMaar hand-to-hand, elbowing the guy in the face and then stabbing him. The peasants (or are they Airk’s men, but not in armor?) get in on the action beating on more NockMaar. Airk then throws a knife at one, immediately killing him. Then there’s a shot of Willow and Madmartigan’s horses leaving the village and heading off farther into the snowy mountains, followed by a quick shot of Fin Raizel flying off, letting us know she’s following. The score gets more somber as Airk watches the heroes escape.
Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.