Watching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! This scene has four words that sum up the whole movie, 1:43:58 to 1:44:19 on the Blu-ray.
From the previous scene, we fade to an establishing shot of Castle NockMaar. There’s one guy on the wall, and two walking down an exterior staircase somewhere in the castle’s inner courtyard. The effect is that the place looks empty, as all the soldiers, thinking they are victorious after the “you’re all pigs” incident, have cone inside, possibly to get some sleep. Then we cut to the castle exterior where we see some decorative piles of skulls right outside, no doubt meant to frighten away any would-be attackers. It’s a long, slow pan of almost 20 seconds across the empty-looking field facing the castle, until Willow and Fin Raziel come into frame. Are the filmmakers pulling a little trick on us, and are all the stuntmen actually under the ground during this shot?
Then another shot of the top of the castle walls, and now a few more NockMaar are gathered, looking down at the pair. Willow turns to Fin Raziel and merely says, “Raziel.” She responds, “Willow, all these years I have waited to face Bavmorda. It is you who has made this possible. Whatever happens, I shall always admire you.” Willow looks pensive, and then considers Kaiya’s braid, given to him earlier in the movie at the start of his journey. The music swells, as he (and the audience) reflect on how far he has come. Raziel puts a hand on his shoulder and says, “Your children will come to remember this day.”
Atop the castle wall, General Kael shows up, looking down at the two, followed by another wide shot of the castle, again emphasizing how empty the field in front of the castle appears. A couple of birds fly overhead in that odd silhouette animation they used on the trolls earlier. Willow and Raziel take a few steps forward. Raziel says, “We call upon you to surrender.” Are they projecting their voices magically, Gandalf-style, or should we just suspend our disbelief that the characters can hear each other over what’s obviously a long distance? Willow adds, “We are all powerful sorcerers. Give us the baby, or we will destroy you.”
Kael actually cracks a smile upon seeing this. His skull-face mask isn’t on during at this moment, so we’re getting human Kael as opposed to he-thinks-he’s-a-god Kael. He and the others then break out into a huge laugh. Willow looks at Raziel again, now with a more determined look in his face. He’s turned a corner from being hesitant to prepared for what’s about to happen.
Kael points and says “Kill them.” The point seems unnecessary, because who else would be talking about? There’s yet another wide shot of the seemingly-empty field. In the reverse shot, we see the drawbridge slowly lowering. (They built a working drawbridge for this movie!) Willow and Raziel exchange glances, and then five NockMaar on horseback come riding out of the castle.
Willow raises his staff in an action pose. Raziel says, “Patience, Willow.” The camera zooms on Willow as he says to himself, “Courage, Willow.” What else can I possibly say about this four-word exchange? This is the movie’s mission statement, and it’s just pure movie magic.
The five soldiers ride closer. Then, with a “Hee-yaw!” Willow raises his staff and bangs on a drum conveniently placed next to him. With a second “Yaw!” he bangs it again, and then the Galladoorn troops emerge from underground, having been hidden in huge holes in the earth covered with tarps. A couple of the horses with riders are simply lying under the tarps, with the horses springing up immediately and taking the rider with them. (Stuntmen love stuff like this.) The previous scene established that Willow got the idea for this by watching gophers in his village. I assume this means gophers burrowing and residing just under soil, because I’ve never heard of a gopher springing up from underground to attack. The Willow fan wiki, sadly, has no entry on gophers, so we don’t know how they differ on Willow’s world compared to ours.
Madmartigan gets a closeup, raising his sword and doing his own “Yaw!” battle cry. The five NockMaar stop, clearly outnumbered, and one matter-of-factly states, “Back to the castle.” There’s yet another shot of the Galladoorn troops riding forward, suggesting that there’s a whole lot of them. This whole strategy raises a number of questions. Were these holes preexisting, or did the Galladoorn stay up all night digging them? If they did, how are they in any shape to ride into battle first thing in the morning? Even though this scene opens establishing very few NockMaar atop the castle walls, did the NockMaar really have no lookouts during the night who could have seen all this? Anyway, the two Brownies pop up from their hiding place under a soldier’s helmet. They raise their spears and run forward. I guess they are also going to fight.
There’s a very quick shot of the Galladoorn overtaking the five soldiers, with one of them falling off his horse while making the classic Wilhelm scream (you know the one I mean). Then the movie’s main theme music kicks in as Madmartigan leads the troops over the drawbridge and into the castle’s main entrance in an awesome hero moment.
Next: To battle!
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