Watching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! You want a two-headed fire-breathing monster? You got it, 1:29:04 to 1:32:44 on the Blu-ray.
The NockMaar army bursts through the front gate, and so much happens in so few seconds, I’m having trouble recapping it all. Madmartigan lets out a battle cry and fires one of the crossbows, hitting a NockMaar in the chest. A shot of the water bubbling, reminding us where the slimy troll fell into. Three arrows hit the barrel Madmartigan is hiding behind. He pops his head up with the crossbow and fires again, hitting a second NockMaar, again in the chest. Then a closeup of him trying to reload the crossbow. It won’t work for some reason, so he throws it over his shoulder. He stands, yells again, and does his signature move of flipping his sword around, all while more flaming arrows hit the barrel.
Madmartigan’s battle yell reaches its height just as a large object rises up from below just behind him. The NockMaar halt, with several of them saying a contemporary-sounding “Whoa!” They begin to retreat. Madmartigan smiles, thinking they’re all afraid of him. He turns around, does a comedic jaw-drop, and also runs.
The camera pans up and we see what everyone is so afraid of. This is the Eborsisk. Yep, the big two-headed beastie. But what is it, exactly? I always assumed that Willow merely mutated the troll into some unholy never-meant-to-exist creation. Instead, the official tie-in lore insists that the Eborsisk is simply a dragon. Dragons were mentioned fleetingly earlier in the movie, but they’re all over the tie-in books, especially the Shadow War novel trilogy, where a dragon even narrates part of one book. Dragons come in both one- and two-headed types and can fly. They’re also intelligent and capable of speech, though we don’t see that from the Eborsisk.
We all know that the name “Eborsisk” is poking fun at film critics Siskel and Ebert, but where did the name come from? It’s not spoken anywhere in the movie, or seen in the credits. Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer have said in interviews that they’re the ones who came up with the name during promotional interviews for the movie, but I find that unlikely. This is because it’s also used in the novelization and the graphic novel, which long lead times and are often based earlier versions of a movie. Most likely, somebody came up with a funny name during pre-production and it stuck.
Each of the Eborsisk’s two heads have large bulges on the snout and chin. These are apparently to assist with fire-breathing, which one does right off the bat. It appears that the streams of fire come out of both its mouth and its snout simultaneously. Again not waiting around, one of the NockMaar gets burned up in the fire. Most dragon movies make you wait a little while for fire-breathing action, but not Willow.
Then it’s time for more comedy shtick, as Madmartigan is now outside the castle, standing alongside all the NockMaar as they all stare in awe at the monster together. They then look around confusedly among each other, with Sorsha giving him a “What are you doing?” look. General Kael, however, isn’t having it, saying “Get him!” Madmartigan runs back into the castle, toward the monster, with everyone following him with their swords drawn.
Cut to Willow on the upper level where we last saw him, backing up from the monster, whose heads are about level with him. He has a stone gargoyle on one side of him and the actual monster on the other, for a nice juxtaposition. The Eborsisk appears to take notice of Willow.
Madmartigan runs over to one of the catapults, which we see is only a little taller than he is. He cuts it loose and it tosses a small object (what is that?), hitting a NockMaar soldier on horseback, knocking him off the horse. Willow picks up the baby and attempts to run across the bridge connecting parts of the castle, but the Eborsisk moves in and breathes fire again, burning up the bridge in front of him.
There’s a shot of Sorsha shouting “the other side!” Of what, though? We don’t know where she is. Then we see the Eborsisk again, now several arrows stuck in it as the NockMaar attempt to fight back. One reaches down, snatches a man off the back of his horse, and rears up with the man’s legs dangling from its mouth. It then gobbles them man up. A NockMaar aims an arrow and fires, hitting the Eborsisk in the neck. More arrows follow. Instead of each head doing its own thing, in this shot they are unified, moving as one as they stare down at the soldiers and roar at them.
General Kael orders “Destroy the beast! Find the baby!” He’s not letting a little thing like a two-headed dragon slow him down. Next, Fin Raziel, in goat form, runs into frame, saying “Take that!” She knocks a soldier off a ledge, though I’m not clear on what part of the castle this is. As if all this wasn’t busy enough, we also catch up to one of the trolls, who can be seen jumping around some rubble, and then springing up behind Willow as Willow tends to the baby. Willow picks up one a flaming piece of wood, as half the place is fire by now, and uses it a makeshift weapon, swinging it at the troll.
Cut to another soldier, stepping in one Madmartigan’s bear traps. Two more kick open a door, setting off two crossbows inside that Madmartigan had rigged to fire. Then there’s a bit where a bunch of NockMaar are standing next to a bunch of boxes, only for them to fall over, revealing Madmargian on the other side holding two crossbows. With a “Ha!” he fires, killing two more NockMaar. He then scrambles into a small round hole carved into the wall for his escape. I’m guessing this is some primitive sewer system?
Then it’s back to the bridge, still on fire, with Eborsisk’s heads looking around angrily. Willow continues to use his fire stick to keep the troll at bay. He stops and digs through his pouch for one of the magic acorns the High Aldwin gave him earlier in the movie. In this shot you can also see the braid of Kiaya’s hair still affixed to Willow’s belt. Willow withdraws an acorn, only to drop it. There’s some debate as to what happens next, and whether the acorn turns part of the bridge under Willow into stone. Watching carefully, you can definitely see a special effect where part of the bridge becomes stone. I don’t like this, as it removes the “ticking clock” quality of the magic acorns, answering too soon the question of what will happen when Willow finally uses them.
There’s a quick shot of the baby crying, suggesting that she understands what’s happening. Then the troll turns around and appears to start to climb over the side of the bridge. Willow runs at it with his fire stick. He stabs the troll right in the butt, and it does a comedic reaction shot. That doesn’t finish him off, though. Part of the bridge breaks, and Willow and the troll fall through. The troll is hanging on the bridge, and Willow is hanging onto the troll. The Eborsisk is still right there, and notices them both, one of its heads goes in for a chomp, its open mouth coming right at the camera. It bites down on the troll, pulls it off the bridge, and, in one of the movie’s more violent moments, the Eborsisk’s second head also bites down on the troll, and they pull its body apart. Then we cut to Willow hanging onto a different part of the bridge, having apparently jumped to safety.
Back to Madmartigan, he has now removed that goofy helmet as he slashes another enemy soldier across the gut. Sorsha is sitting on her horse, watching him intently. Madmartigan kicks a guy in the face and runs up some stairs. Sorsha keeps watching him, as the score goes from action-y to all romantic for a few seconds.
Finally we get a wide shot of the castle’s courtyard. It’s not that huge of an area for everyone to be fighting in. Also, the Eborsisk appears to be half-buried in the ground. It breathes fire again, even as we can see a bunch of fires around it that it already started. Madmartigan reaches the top of the stairs, putting him on the same upper level as Willow. He calls Willow’s name. In another wide show, we see the Eborisk eyeing them menacingly while another troll climbs around the castle walls. The Eborisk breathes fire fight at the camera, only for Madmartigan to duck behind a wall and out of the fire’s path.
Willow now has an unlit metal torch in his hands, which he’s using to try to force open the door at the end of the bridge. He hears the troll and looks up as it falls on him. The score goes back from romantic to heroic as Madmartigan stands on a much larger catapult while kicking and swordfighting three soldiers. He’s fighting with a sword in each hand now, slicing and dicing these guys real good. Sorsha is on foot now, mesmerized as she watches him. Willow calls for Madmartigan’s help.
Madmartigan cuts the rope on the catapult, sending himself flying through the air. He soars over the Eborsisk heads, smacks into the castle wall, and then falls onto the troll. Many people have pointed out that the arc of the catapult arm does not match the arc of Madmartigan’s flight. I like to think this Alora Danan and/or Willow helping out with magic. Willow says “Get him, Madmartigan!” (Anybody else reminded of “Get her, Ray” from Ghostbusters?) The troll roars at Madmartigan, only for Madmartigan to roar right back at him, for another comedic beat. He then goes ahead and kicks the troll. The troll falls of the bridge. We don’t see it land, but we do an Eborsisk head lower down to eat it. Madmartigan says “Here,” and gives Willow a sword. The actors play this sword exchange as if it’s a big dramatic moment, but it gets lost in the midst of all this action and carnage.
An Eborsisk head then rears up right next to Madmartigan for a real Jurassic Park moment. Two more arrows hit it and it looks away for a second. Madmartigan sighs in an I-have-to-everything-around-here kind of way, and then he leaps on to the back of the dragon’s head.
And… we’ll get to the rest of the battle next time.
Next: The rest of the battle.
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