Watching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! It’s morphin’ time! Alpha, bring my Zune.
We begin with Bavmorda and her wide men setting up for the ritual, so I guess now is as good a time as any to get into what this ritual is, exactly. This is the Ritual of Oblivion, also known as the Rite of Oblivion. It takes twelve hours to prepare (this is important for later) a purified copper altar (the “purified” part will also be important later, a thunderstorm, several rare ingredients, and a “large quantity” of human blood. (!) The idea is that over this twelve hours, vast magical entities are built up, enough to not just kill a living being, but kill that living being by banishing his or her soul to the netherworld. Just killing Elora Danan wouldn’t have been enough, Bavmorda needs this ritual to destroy both the baby’s body and soul. Also, the caster, Bavmorda, cannot leave the ritual chamber once the ritual begins, or else the magic fails.
We see the wise men preparing the baby in a red blanket with what appear to be black straps around her (to keep her from crawling away?), while one of the wise men strikes a gong that has an almost-but-not-quite ying/yang symbol on it.
Back outside, Willow steps outside his tent to see what the audience already knows, that the whole Galladoorn army has been turned into pigs. This is demonstrated by a wide shot of the whole area covered with actual pigs (no CGI here). A couple of horses run by in the background, no doubt wanting to get out of there. Willow sees two piglets underfoot, meant to represent the two Brownies. Many viewers over the years have pointed out that the two piglets are actually much larger than the Brownies, but it’s still a good gag.
Willow runs back into the tent, throws himself onto all fours, and punches the ground in frustration. We’ve seen him angry and frustrated at other times during the movie, but never pushed to the edge like this. He says, “We’ve come all this way and Elora Danan is going to die.” I’m not sure this exposition is needed this late in the film, but it’s not so bad. Fin Raziel, still in her goat form, says there is still a way to defeat Bavmorda. Willow says Bavmorda is too powerful. Then there the camera does the heroic push-in on the goat as she says “Transform me, and I will destroy her.”
Willow immediately snaps out of his funk, and he gives a Raziel a serious nod. Instead of the usual magic words he’s been saying throughout the movie, this time he chants in English. “Elements of eternity, above and below, balance of essence, fire begets snow.” Then he begins with the fantasy magic words. The tie-in material has less to say about this spell than it does the Ritual of Oblivion. This is simply called a transformation spell, and it’s defined as using magic to transform one thing into another thing. Yeah, thanks for that. The tie-in fiction says most magic-users in this world consider transformation unethical, but we’ve seen it a lot in the movie. In addition to Fin Raziel and all those pigs, this is the same spell that turned the troll into the Eborsisk, and it’s even how the High Aldwin turned a rock into a bird.
Now the camera pushed in on Willow as he chants, and we hear Raziel say, “Willow, believe in the words. Concentrate.” Then we get crazy special effects as the goat transforms, its neck stretching upward in a grotesque way, until Raziel turns into an ostrich. She says, “Oh, no,” and Willow opens his eyes for a second, sees this, and then goes back to chanting. Note that this time it actually is CGI, one of the first and biggest uses of “morphing” in a movie. This scene’s transformation effects were a huge leap forward in VFX tech.
Then the ostrich feathers are drawn into Raziel’s body, and she shrinks down to small size, becoming a turtle. She says, “Stop, Willow,” but he keeps going. The turtle’s front legs grow into big fuzzy paws, and Raziel quickly transforms into a tiger. You’d think this would come in handy during the upcoming battle, but the tie-in books state that Raziel can’t perform magic unless human, and her magic is what’s needed now.
The tiger form doesn’t last long, turning into a naked lady. (Wa-hey!) Notice that she keeps some tiger stripes on her legs. Let’s assume they’re permanent. Exhausted, Willow collapses from exhaustion. Raziel sits up, and we see she is back to human form. The score gets all heavenly-sounding as Willow sees Raziel. She looks at her hands and smiles. He covers her with a convenient blanket and hands the wand to her. She looks down at herself again and says, “Has it been so long?” Raziel then takes the wand, stands, and gets all determined. She says, “We have work to do. Give me the wand.” He hands her the wand and says, “We must undo Bavmorda’s sorcery.” He too stands and nods. (Lots of nodding in this scene.) She points to the side and says, “Let them in, now.”
This next shot is hilarious. Willow opens the tent door, and a single pig walks in and stands in place. Does this mean all the pigs have retained their human intelligence? Further, if this pig knows what’s going on, were all the pigs just outside the tent eavesdropping. Anyway, Raziel starts to chant and the wand glows blue. This is all visual cue we need to know that she’s going to turn them all back to human.
Next: Agriculture, or not?
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