Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 21

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! Here’s two short scenes, in which Kael gets slapped and Willow flies, 56:30-58:17 on the Blu-ray.

We cut from the previous shot straight to Bavmorda’s throne room, not bothering was an establishing shot of the castle exterior. I suppose by this point, the audience recognizes this place as her throne room. In this shot, we see Bavmorda on her throne, with a bridge-like structure in front of her that visitors must cross to speak with her. There are also two stairways on each side of her and an additional door to one side, I’m guessing her advisors approach from these stairs, and the door leads to her private rooms. There are big windows behind her so that, metaphorically, she had turned her back to the light.

General Kael enters with two NockMaar soldiers. Bavmorda asks if he’s found the child. Kael, not wearing his skull helmet but still holding it to his side, says, “The search goes on, my queen.” Bavmorda says, “Why, with my powers and the strength of my army, can you not find one little child” The “with my powers” part of that sentence is interesting. Has Bavmorda given his warrior strength a boost with her magic? “We look even now,” Kael says. “It won’t be long.”

Bavmorda, who’s not sitting on her throne but pacing back and forth in front of it, hurried over to Kael and shouts, “Find the child!” She then backhands him across the face. This doesn’t appear to hurt him, but as a symbolic gesture, it’s loud and clear. Bavmorda calms down a little and says, “Time is running out” in a somewhat more measured tone. The movie doesn’t specify how much time, but based on the official map, I figure at least a couple of days must have passed for this message to get to Bavmorda, and that Willow and friends have been travelling unnoticed during this time.

Speaking of which, the movie does a classic George Lucas wipe to Elora Danan sitting by a campfire at night. Willow is right next to her, giving her a playful hello. Madmartigan admits the baby is cute, “when she’s quiet.” Willow says the baby is really a princess. Madmartigan goes into sarcasm mode, saying “Really? And you’re a great sorcerer, and I’m the king of Cashmere.” This line baffles a lot of first-time viewers, but thanks to the tie-in books, we know that Cashmere is a kingdom located to the easternmost part of this continent. The books also reveal that Madmartigan once romanced a Cashmere princess, which adds a curious layer to his joke.

Madmartigan says “Good night, Willow,” and he lies down to sleep by the fire, in a fetal position. Then it’s time for comedy  shtick with the Brownies, as they are also sleeping next to the fire. Rool has a nightmare about rats, which wakes up Franjean. “You and that stupid rat dream,” he says. Do I dare ask if these two are a couple? Do fans ship them?

Willow picks up Cherlyndrea’s wand and starts playing with it, waving it around. He recites three magic words, which according to the canon are, “Tuatha locktwaar tuatha.” Where did he learn these words? Well, back during his disastrous disappearing pig trick near the start of the movie, he also spoke magic words, those being “Wuppity bairn, deru, deru.” So he must have learned this magical language from somewhere, either from the High Aldwin or from his own personal studies. Anyway, the causing a spark and puff of smoke to alight under Willow, sending him flying straight up into the air

This wakes up Madmartigan, who looks around for Willow, and then spots him sitting on a tree branch. Madmartigan goes back to sleep. Willow ponders the wand for a moment, and then whispers to Madmartigan for help, but Madmartigan has already fallen asleep again. So what have we gained from this short scene. First, confirmation that the wand is indeed a powerful magic item, as we were told it was, and second, the banter between Willow and Madmartigan helps establish their growing friendship (for now).

Next: Gone fishing.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Streaking

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Things are about to get wild in annual #26.

Throughout the summer of 1993, every one of Marvel’s annuals introduced a new character, in the hopes that some of all of them would go on to be the next big thing. Fantastic Four got the first appearance of… Wildstreak!

Gimmie a gimmick: Each 1993 annual was polybagged, containing a card for every new character. Collect them all!

We begin at King’s Castle Luxury Resort for rich mobsters. One of the mobster’s wives goes for a swim, only to bond with the symbiote Dreadface, last seen as a gorilla symbiote in issue #360. Now a sexy lady symbiote, Dreadface makes a deal with Emmanuel King, leader of this place, to seek revenge on Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm.

At Four Freedoms Plaza, we pick up from the cliffhanger at the end of issue #376, in which Franklin was taken into the future and returned as adult Franklin. Reed runs some tests in the lab to authenticate that this is the real Franklin, but a distraught Sue refuses to believe it. Franklin wanders off by himself, giving only the faintest hints of where he’s been, and his psychic powers draw him to a letter the FF has received from the King Resort. Meanwhile, Sharon Ventura is still trying to get through to Ben. He takes off the metal helmet he’s been wearing to reveal that the scars on his face are now horribly infected. Franklin shows Ben the letter, and Ben doesn’t want to investigate. Franklin uses his powers to change Ben’s mind.

Cut to a seedy bar, where new hero Wildstreak is beating up a bunch of thugs with her cool fight moves and exoskeletal arms and legs. She gets some info a big crime about to go down in Florida. She then goes to a van outside where her father is waiting. She sits in a wheelchair while he recharges the power to her exoskeleton.

Ben and Franklin arrive in Florida, passing by Wildstreak and her dad at the airport. They arrive at the resort, which is now run down and empty. Franklin is unable to read the minds of any of the staff, with all of them coming off like automatons. Inside, we see that Dreadface has scared all the resort’s customers away while building a device called a duplitron.

We then get a flashback to Wildstreak’s origin. She’s Tamika Bowden, daughter of Dennis Bowden. Dennis is a genius mechanical engineer who fell on hard times, forced to take work for criminals. He tried leaving the life, only for the crooks to take revenge by staging an accident at one of Tamika’s gymnastics events. She lost the use of her legs, so her father built the super-powerful exoskeleton, which she now uses to after the bad guys.

At the resort, Franklin dons his “Psilord” (without a hyphen) armor to fly overhead and scan the place. Wildstreak also searches the place, coming across the symbiote, appearing less like a liquid and more like “living shroud.” She fights it, getting Ben’s attention, and he fight it as well.

Elsewhere at the resort, Franklin spies on more crime bosses confronting Emmanuel King. They then get taken over by symbiotes. Dreadface explains that the duplitron can create more and more symbiotes. Dreadface then leave’s King’s wife’s body, killing her, so it can possess a thug named Mr. Fisherman.

Ben finds his way to the duplitron room where he fights Dreadface. Franklin flies around overhead, avoiding attacks from the symbiote-possessed mobsters. Wildstreak catches up with King, who reveals he has explosives hidden throughout the entire resort as a contingency plan. Dreadface goads Ben into hitting him, causing Ben to come into contact with the symbiote. He struggles to resist becoming possessed by it. With Franklin’s telepathic help, Ben frees himself of Dreadface’s grasp.

King sets off the explosives, destroying the entire resort, sacrificing his own life, and seemingly killing all the symbiotes. Franklin protects himself, Ben, and Wildstreak in a telekinetic force field. Ben makes a quip about how this was a lousy vacation, and the story ends.

Then we get a backup story, returning to the deeply-buried storyline of cosmic beings Kubic and Kosmos taking a tour of the universe. This time, Kubik teaches Kosmos about the Celestials, and this several pages of grade-A sci-fi gobbledygook. It’s full of prhases like “the Philosophix Ultimus of the Xch’tul Hegemony,” “the Consortium of the Velsarius Six,” and “the recursive plasticity of the universe.” If you can follow this, you’re a greater nerd than I.

Unstable molecule: After proving that Franklin is really Franklin, Reed swears to find some way to restore his son back to childhood.

Fade out: The new tough, take-charge Sue refuses to believe the truth about Franklin, even threatening to suffocate him with a force field at one point.

Clobberin’ time: In addition to Ben’s scars being sensitive and easily harmed during a fight, we now learn they’re also infected, further necessitating Ben’s metal mask.

Flame on: There are several references to Johnny having turned himself in to the cops last issue, and now he’s locked up while awaiting trial.

Fantastic fifth wheel: We’re told several days have passed, so I guess Sharon is living with the team again. She’s not subtle at all about wanting to get back together with Ben in this issue.

Four and a half: Frustratingly, no one asks where Franklin was during his years-long time travel adventure. He thinks to himself thoughts about how he’s been trained to eb a warrior, and how he’s seen a lot of violence and slaughter over the years.

Franklin calls his armor “Psilord” armor, but he’s not calling himself “Psi-Lord” yet.

Commercial break: “It’ll be just as big as Jurassic Park, we promise!”

Trivia time: Like most of the 1993 annual characters, Wildstreak never gained a following. She returned in Thunderstrike to once again fight the mob. Much later, she had a cameo in the controversial Civil War event, where she was arrested for being on the anti-registration side.

There’s just not enough time in the day to go over all 27 new characters, but I did compile the list. Along with Wildstreak, there was Annex, Bloodwraith, Raptor, Bantam, Darkling, Cadre, Charon, Kyllian, Dreamkiller, Hitmaker, Assassin, Lazarus, Devourer, the Flame, the Face Thief, Nocturne, Night Terror, Legacy, Empyrean, Tracer, Phalanx, Khaos, Irish Wolfhound, Eradikator Six, X-Treme, and X-Cutioner (a different one from the X-Cutioner’s Song crossover).

This was Dreadface’s last hurrah as a villain. He had a very brief cameo in the Fantastic Four: Foes miniseries in the 2000s, and he showed up in the Fantastic Force series, which was set in the distant future, and that was it.

Fantastic or Frightful? This comic isn’t perfect, but I did enjoy it in an old-fashioned superheroics kind of way. I also like Wildstreak. The fact that she fights organized crime instead of supervillains could have made for a cool street-level Marvel comic. Maybe somebody at Marvel can bring her back someday, and really give her a moment in the spotlight.

Next: Join the hunt.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 21

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! In D&D terms, this is where Madmartigan joins the party: 53:48-56:29 on the Blu-ray.

This whole scene is about trying to figure out what’s going on with Madmartigan, and just where he is at in his character arc. Continuing from the wagon chase, Willow scolds Matmartigan, saying “You never, never drive that fast with an infant.” Enraged, Madmartigan says, “I just saved that infant’s life!” He scares the horses with a “Hee-yaw.” The horses run off, taking the wagon with them. I assume this is so that pursuing NockMaar soldiers are likely to follow the tracks of the wagon and not their footprints. Remember that we left behind at least three NockMaar plus Sorsha back at the tavern.

Madmartigan grabs ahold of Willow’s cloak and pulls him and the baby to the side. The Brownies follow. Rool, still dizzy from the wagon chase, says, “Don’t worry about me, I’m fine.” Then he does a slapstick pratfall. Madmartigan says “Get down!” And he, Willow, and Franjean hide to the side of the  road as those remaining NockMaar ride up. (See? I was right about them following the wagon.) There’s more slapstick as the horse’s hooves narrowly miss Rool as he bumbles about. Franjean says “Rool you fool, get out of the road.” This gives the special effects a hand in cluing in the audience as to who is where. The NockMaar soldier ride past, not seeing our heroes. There are six of them now. So that’s three left behind from the tavern, and three new ones.

Madmartigan says Willow had better “clear out” before more troops come back. Willow speaks to the baby, saying “We don’t need him.” The baby starts crying upon hearing this. A running gag throughout the movie is Elora Danon somehow (magically?) aware of what’s going on around her. The now-shirtless Madmartigan walks into an open grassy area, apparently no longer concerned with hiding. Willow pursues him, shouting “Madmartigan, wait!” Madmartigan off-handedly tells Willow to go home. “It’s a dangerous world,” he says. Willow answers by saying “That’s why we need your help.” Recalling the conversation when the met, Madmartigan says, “What do you need my help for? You’re a sorcerer.” He adds a flourish with his hand upon saying “sorcerer,” mocking Willow. Willow calls Madmartigan “a great warrior and a swordsman,” then he adds, “and you’re ten times bigger than I am, stupid!” This angers Madmartigan, as he turns and points at Willow, saying, “Do you want to make my life harder than it already is?”

Dogs are heard barking in the distance, no doubt the Death Dogs from earlier in the film, and our heroes duck and hide in the tall grass. We get a reminder that the Brownies are still with us, as Franjean says “Hurry, big dogs.” Willow calms down and says, “Look, I’m sorry I got angry. We wouldn’t have escaped without you.” Madmartigan takes note of the baby, who smiles at him. But then he puts on the tough guy act and says. “Don’t expect me to help you again.”

Madmartigan gets up and starts to walk away. Franjean says “Good!” He says they are traveling to the lake, which is “this way,” pointing to the right. Rool corrects him, pointing “that way,” right at camera, this close to breaking the fourth wall. Franjean says, “You are drunk, and when you are drunk, you forget that I am in charge.” Rool repeats, “You are in charge.” Rools asks Franjean which way they should go, and both the Brownies point toward the camera and in unison say, “That way!” This is consistent with earlier, where Franjean believes himself to the be the heroic leader, while Rool is the map/directions guy.

There’s a silent, dramatic pause as Madmartigan and Willow eye each other. Then Madmartigan reacts with a big “Oh, no! That’s the way I’m going.” He says Willow can follow him as far as the lake. He asks if they’re going any further south, but Willow says just as far as the lake. Madmartigan answers, “Good.”

So, where is Madmartigan going? Upon being freed from the crow cages and losing the baby to the Brownies, his next stop was the tavern, where we saw his dalliance with Llug’s wife. This speaks to his status as a deserter, seeking only to escape. Now, though, he says he’s going south. According to the map from The Willow Sourcebook, which is canon, to the south is the kingdom of Galladoorn. This is both Madmartigan’s home and where Airk and his army come from. I find it unlikely that Madmartigan has decided at this point to rejoin Airk’s army, despite his “I’ll win this war for you” line from earlier. I suspect Madmartigan has other unfinished business in Galladoorn that the audience is not privy to. Whatever it is, he’ll never get to it, eventually learning the greater good is important.

Madmartigan addressed the Brownies as “Mumbo” and “Jumbo” and he asks them to get him “some eggs or something” to eat. We’ve heard birds chirping in the background throughout this scene, so it’s within reason that there might be nests with eggs nearby. Franjean says “We are not afraid of you.” Madmartigan demands “Now!” and the Brownies run off, squealing in terror. The phrase “mumbo jumbo” is believed to have first appeared in the 1795 book Travels in the Interior of Africa, allegedly in reference to West African god Maamajomboo. The Wikipedia page for “mumbo jumbo” has a list of times it’s been referenced over the years, but Willow is not included.

Next: Time is NOT on your side.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Grandfathered

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s for time travel antics and family drama in issue #376.

After returning home from a space battle against Dr. Doom, the FF, with Sharon Ventura and Lyja with them, found Reed’s father Nathaniel Richards in their home, waiting for them. To recap, Nathaniel Richards disappeared years earlier after experimenting with a time machine. In an alternate timeline, he remarried and had a child. His wife was the Overlord of that world, while he was content with just hanging back and being a family man. In this issues though, something has changed, because now he’s a wandering time traveler.

We begin with a recreation of a scene from the classic X-Men Days of Future Past storyline where, in an alternate future, Sentinels are hunting down the last remaining mutants in a nightmare dystopia, and where adult Franklin is killed right in front of Rachel Summers. Back in the present, Nathaniel explains that he’d seen this alternate future on his travels throughout the multiverse. He further says that the FF can prevent DOFP dystopia, adding that the Sentinel menace only happened because of circuitry Reed invented.

The meeting is cut short with the arrival of attorney Matt Murdock and Makio Yakaki, the FF’s financial advisor. It’s time for Johnny to face the music after he accidentally destroyed part of Empire State University and became a fugitive. Murdock says the district attorney willing to arrange a dismissal of the charges, but only if Johnny turns himself in. Meanwhile, Ben and Sharon have a heart-to-heart chat. She’s upset that he’s been avoiding her since learning she worked for Dr. Doom until recently. Ben says there’s always a price for dealing with Doom. Speaking of which, we cut Latveria, where Dr. Doom kills a henchman who speaks out of turn, and then swears revenge on Sharon for betraying him.

Johnny surrenders to the police, with Murdock telling him and Ben to have faith in the legal system. Reed and Sue argue about the settlement, with Reed saying the Fantastic Four Incorporated cannot afford to rebuild the entire university, with Sue arguing that they must to whatever it takes to help Johnny. In another room, Franklin can sense his parents are fighting. Nathaniel says Franklin’s growing powers represent great danger. Supernatural nanny Agatha Harkness has sensed what Nathaniel is up to, and says there is no other way to do what must be done.

Reed and Nathaniel meet up in Reed’s lab to look into the Sentinel/dystopian future thing. Nathaniel shoots Reed in the back, knocking him out, while apologizing that he must do so. Sue bursts and attacks, saying she didn’t trust Nathaniel, only for Agatha to fight back with her magic. Nathaniel confronts Franklin, who defends himself with his psychic powers. Agatha tries to freak out Sue by revealing the Malice persona in Sue’s mind, but it doesn’t work because Sue has already accepted her dark side.

Reed recovers and tries to stop Nathaniel, while also demanding answers. Nathaniel says Franklin is a “pivotal point” in history, one which leads only to dark futures. He says if the universe is to survive, Franklin must be removed from the timeline. Nathaniel uses a time machine similar to the one we’ve seen Dr. Doom use over the years, and he escapes with Franklin.

Agatha says she had to fight the FF because she could see the torment in Nathaniel’s mind caused by all the dystopian futures he’d seen in his time travels. Then, it appears that Nathaniel returns via the same time machine, fully dressed in the Overlord armor. Only we turn the page to reveal that this is not Nathaniel in the armor, but an adult Franklin. He says, “I hope you missed me! I certainly missed all of you!”

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed is partially complicit in the creation of the Sentinels? You’d think this would be played up as something a lot more serious. The Marvel wiki doesn’t even mention this on its Sentinels entry.

Fade out: As part of the settlement with Empire State University, Sue gives the ownership of a bunch of Reed’s patents, which fund Fantastic Four Incorporated.

Clobberin’ time: In addition to wearing the metal helmet to protect his injured face, Ben dons a trench coat and fedora, for the full Raphael-in-New-York look.

Flame on: Look closely, and you can see that photographer Peter Parker is at police headquarters when Johnny turns himself in. I guess this resolves the subplot of the New Fantastic Four searching for Johnny.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Sharon eagerly wants to be a good guy again, but Ben keeps shutting her out. She joins the fight against Nathaniel, but he takes her out real quick.

Four and a half: It continues to be ambiguous how Franklin’s powers have evolved. At this point, it appears to be the usual Marvel telepathy/telekinesis combo, with the danger that it become much more.

The Alicia problem: Lyja is still hanging out with the FF, and will be for a while. She says she’s there to kill Johnny, but that has to wait until the current crisis has passed. This issue also has a scene where Ben introduces Lyja to Alicia, but we don’t see that outcome of that meeting, or anything they talked about.

Commercial break: They are from France, etc.

Trivia time: It was around this time that Marvel published Fantastic Four Unlimited #4. The Mole Man forced the Hulk and the Thing to fight to death, so he could draw energy from his battle to bring his love Kala back to life. The FF and the Hulk’s pals the Pantheon saved the day, although Kala did successfully come back to life. She even agrees to marry the Mole Man!

Fantastic or frightful? The original Nathaniel Richards story from Fantastic Four #271-273 is one of my all-time faves, so it’s disappointing to see the character so grossly misused here. This could be any Marvel time-traveling character, as opposed to Reed’s father. I keep wanting to like this run of the comics, but it’s like these just aren’t the same characters.

Next: Totally wild.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 20

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! You want swashbuckling adventure? Here’s your swashbuckling adventure. It’s the wagon chase, 48:59-53:47 on the Blu-ray.

We’re still inside the tavern as the fighting starts, with the tavern ruffians barroom brawling with the NockMaar soldiers. There’s a shot of Llug throwing one more punch. As Willow runs through the tavern, he does a roll, tripping one of the NockMaar. People say that Willow never fights, but this shows that he does have some moves. Madmartigan runs up some stairs. Sorsha is smart enough to know where this is headed, and shouts, “To the horses!”

Cut to outside, where it has stopped raining. Madmartigan, who has the baby, punches a guy and then uses the outdoor rope-and-pully system to lower himself from the third floor balcony down to the ground in an impressive stunt. This infamously begins the carrying-around-the-baby-during-action-as-if-she’s-weightless thing that persists throughout the movie. If Elora Danon is magic, perhaps she’s unknowingly (or knowingly?) using magic to make herself lighter during awesome action. The barrel used as Madmartigan’s counterweight smashes open on the ground, with red liquid (wine, I’m assuming) splashes out of it. This causes a man standing nearby to fall backwards out of surprise.

On a wagon, Madmartigan sets the baby down on what looks like a brown blanket, conveniently pre-shaped to hold a baby. He takes the reins, gives a cowboy-style “hee-yaw!” and the horses take off running. Willow follows, doing an impressive leap off the balcony and onto the back of the wagon. He yells “Madmartigan!” here, and he’ll continue to “Madmartigan!” throughout this entire sequence. The Brownies fall off of Willow and onto the Wagon as well. This also reveals more barrels of wine inside the wagon.

The Nockmaar soldiers hop on their horses and begin pursuit. I count six soldiers on horseback, plus two more riding a horse-drawn chariot. (Chariots are not normally intended for long-distance travel. Maybe they commandeered it from one of the tavern ruffians.) We get our final shot of Llug, still shouting “Not a woman!” as the NockMaar ride off. Whatever happened to Llug? We never see him again, and his and his wife’s fates are unknown.

The horses pull the wagon at full gallop, and the filmmakers to a good job of making it appear as if everyone is moving ridiculously fast. Now there are three NockMaar in pursuit, with the chariot farther behind them. The remaining three soldiers must have taken a wrong left turn somewhere because we never see them again. Willow checks on the baby and pleads for Madmartigan to stop as he checks on the baby. Franjean and Rool stumble around, interacting with an apple rolling about. Even during action, there’s time for jokes. Madmartigan reaches into his shirt and pulls out some fruit, which we’re meant to think was part of his disguise as a woman. He looks around, considering throwing it at the NockMaar, but the wagon goes over a bump, the fruit falls out of his hand, and bonk Willow on the head. This is a cheap laugh, but it also establishes the geography of the scene, to the audience is clear on who is where. Franjean, still believing himself to be the hero of this story, yells “Prepare to die!” at the NockMaar.

A NockMaar jumps onto the wagon from the left, while another fires an arrow from the right, narrowly missing Madmartigan. Madmartigan kicks the invading Nockmaar. Madmartigan picks up a shovel that happens to be inside the wagon and knocks the NockMaar (heh) off the wagon. Because it’s been rainy and muddy, I’m assuming this shovel was to be used in case the wagon wheels got stuck in the mud. The wagon continues on, with two NockMaar seen riding behind it.

The NockMaar to the right jumps onto the wagon with a flamboyant flip. Madmartigan hits him with the shovel, but NockMaar isn’t fazed. He swats the shovel out of Madmartigan’s hand and draws his sword. Madmartigan reaches for the man’s wrists, and they struggle for control of the sword. Remember that Madmartigan bragged earlier about being a great swordsman, but we haven’t seen him use one yet. I’ve always felt the “swordsman without a sword” idea behind Madmartigan is iconic, like something myth/folklore that’s always been with us.

The Brownies run around, avoiding everyone’s feet, while Willow climbs onto the front of the wagon, calling for Madmartigan to stop. The reins, however, are loose, barely dangling off of the front of the wagon. Somehow, the sword is gone, as the NockMaar is now strangling Madmartigan. This NockMaar is not wearing a metal helmet, but a big furry cap. (I’m guessing this is to protect the stuntman’s safety gear.) Madmartigan punches him, and then gets on top of him. We don’t see what he does, because the movie cuts to Rool, acting seasick (Carsick? Wagonsick?). It’s hard to hear, but Rool says “No more beer,” referencing the previous scene. Willow reaches for the reins, but they slip and between the two horses, who are still mindlessly galloping forward at full speed.

There’s a big log in the path. The horses instinctively leap over it to keep running, and the wagon bumps over it and into the air, getting some impressive hang time before crashing back to the ground. The impact knocks Willow forward, onto the wooden rigging connecting the horses to the wagon (I know there’s a word for this, but darned if I could find it.) Rool is thrown a small hole in the side of the wagon and is hanging on for dear life. He calls to Franjean for help.

If all this wasn’t enough danger, one of the wagon wheels breaks apart. The practical effect of this is impressive, as the wheel more or less explodes,  with pieces of it flying all over. Franjean finds Rool and asks “What are you doing?” as Rool cries “Help me!” I guess Franjean has gotten so used to Rool being mischievous that Franjean just assumed Rool is doing shtick and isn’t in real danger. He pulls Rool back inside. At the front of the wagon, Willow climbs forward with determination, hoping to get at the reins. He succeeds, but then has to climb all the way back up the front of the wagon before he can use them. There’s a quick shot of Madmartigan and the NockMaar fighting over the NockMaar’s sword — so the sword is back somehow — and a shot of the baby smiling, just enjoying the ride.

A second NockMaar jumps onto the wagon. Willow picks up a mallet for self-defense. Why is a mallet there? Maybe it was used to hammer the lids securely onto the tops of the wine barrels. This NockMaar is wearing a proper metal helmet, but it doesn’t help, because Willow smacks him in face. This causes him to rear upward, only to get smacked in the face a second time by a passing tree branch. He falls off the wagon (heh).

Time for yet another crisis as the wagon’s second rear wheel breaks apart. The entire wagon is now at an angle, it’s rear being dragged along the ground, with Madmartigan and the Nockmaar soldier being dragged behind it, Indiana Jones-style. If that’s not enough, Willow falls backwards at the front of the wagon, and is knocked unconscious. Madmartigan and the Nockmaar continue to exchange punches as they hang onto the back of the wagon. (Look closely: You can see Madmartigan’s legs being dragged through the dirt, but behind the scenes, those legs are not Val Kilmer’s but a stuntman behind Val Kilmer. Simple forced perspective pulls off this illusion.)

Franjean looks to Martigan and then to the barrels of wine inside the wagon. He says to Rool, “We can cut the rope.” They succeed, breaking the rope and causing one (but not both) of the barrels to roll down the back of the wagon and knock the NockMaar off. The Brownies jump up and down in celebration.

The action doesn’t end there, though, because those two guys in the chariot ride up behind the wagon. One of them throws a ninja star, narrowly missing Madmartigan. It strikes a post on the wagon, though, see we can see it in close up. This is the only time in the movie we see one of these ninja stars. According to the tie-in books, these smaller units of NockMaar were called squads, as opposed to larger regiments and battalions our heroes later in the movie, so perhaps only squads get to be equipped with ninja stars. Alternatively, the lore states that “charioteer” is an official title in the NockMaar army, so perhaps only charioteers get to have ninja stars.

Still without a sword, Madmartigan picks up a large block of wood as a weapon. If this wagon falls apart this easily, I’m sure spare wood was on board in case on-the-road repairs were needed. The charioteers keep the variety-of-weapons fun going by pulling out a mace. Willow regains consciousness as Madmartigan and the charioteers swing their weapons at each other. A tree is in the path, and the two vehicles go around each side. You can hear Madmartigan say “Willow, stay down!” So Madmartigan isn’t just trying to escape. He really does care.

Willow doesn’t stay down, and instead reaches for the reins once again. He pulls back and cries “Whoa,” finally slowing down the wagon, while the chariot races on ahead of them. Remember that Willow is farmer raised in an agricultural society, so it’s safe to assume he knows his way around horses. Madmartigan asks “Are you crazy?” But Willow says they can’t chase around with the baby like this. “We’re getting off,” he says. Madmartigan responds by taking the reins and hee-yawing the horses back into the full gallop. Willow falls backwards for a little slapstick humor.

The chariot has turned around up ahead, so now it and the wagon are headed right at each other, jousting-style. Madmartigan somehow now has the NockMaar’s mace, and his swinging it furiously over his head. The charioteer now has a spear, and is holding it in the about-to-throw position. Madmartigan does him one better by actually throwing the mace, striking the NockMaar right in the face. He falls off, causing the guy next to him to lose control of the chariot. The side of the chariot rides up against a small incline, causing it to topple over. Its horses drag it along behind them. The charioteers’ fates are unknown, either dead or out cold.

Madmartigan brings the wagon to a stop, and there’s a comedy bit of Franjean and Rool stumbling out the back of it. Madmartigan says to Willow, “Now we stop, peck.” He seems really angry as he says this, even though he cautioned Willow to stay down earlier. I assuming he’s just speaking with the heat of battle still in him. Then more comedy with the Brownies, as Rool is dizzy and says, “Ask him to the stop the wagon.”

Next: Getting the band back together.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Shiny

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. This weird and wacky storyline of the last six issues comes to an end (or does it?) with the double-sized issue #375.

Gimmie a gimmick: First, here we have a holofoil cover, in which the drawn characters are placed against a shiny, metallic-looking background. When people think of Fantastic Four in the ‘90s, this image is normally what they think of, with Sue’s sexy costume, Ben’s metal helmet and everyone’s matching brown jackets, complete with plenty of pouches.

 

Recap: Johnny is wanted by police after accidentally destroying part of Empire State University. To protect him, the FF battled the New Fantastic Four (including Wolverine), only to be mysteriously teleported away, with Lyja and Sharon Ventura along for the ride. Dr. Doom has stolen the powers of Aron the rouge Watcher, and has traveled to the moon to battle the regular Watcher. Got all that?

 

Turns out the Watcher was the one who teleported the FF away. They’re inside his home on the moon. He explains that Dr. Doom has stolen Aron’s powers, and the came to the moon to steal his. Then he admits that he might have violated his oath to always watch and never interfere, so just teleports away, leaving the FF alone in his house. All eyes turn to Ben, who was slashed in the face by Wolverine during the fight last issue. Wolvie’s adamantium claws cut him up real good:

Dr. Doom, meanwhile, is wandering around deeper inside the Watcher’s home. Remember that the Watcher’s home is filled with cosmic weirdness beyond human comprehension that drives normal humans insane. Dr. Doom is no normal human now, as he speechifies about using all his new cosmic knowledge and power to finally defeat the Fantastic Four.

The FF have decided to split up (I guess they’re also taking the Watcher’s house in stride) where Sharon and Ben are attacked by a giant robot. The robot punches Ben in the face. This causes him extreme pain, as Wolverine’s claws have torn away his rocky exterior, exposing sensitive skin underneath. He still manages to defeat the robot.

Johnny and Lyja have taken off together, which seems like a bad idea because she’s incredibly ticked off at him, believing that he abandoned her. They are attacked by Dr. Doom, and they’re no match for his new cosmic powers. Doom next appears before Reed and Sue. Sue ties to defend them with a force field, put passes out, not able to withstand Doom’s cosmic energy.

Back on Earth, attorney Matt Murdock and FF financial advisor Makio Yakaki offer a cash settlement to Empire State University to repair all the damage Johnny caused in the fight. Murdock worries that this might leave the FF penniless. At HQ, Franklin can sense his parents are in danger. When supernatural nanny Agatha Harkness tries to calm him down, he unleashes his psychic powers on her, knocking her unconscious. Then a mysterious armored man shows up and confronts Franklin.

Cut to the moon, where Ben has donned a metal helmet to protect the weak spot on his face. He and Sharon are confronted by the Inhuman royal family, who have come to investigate these strange goings on (so this takes place before Fantastic Four Unlimited #2, where they moved back to Earth). Sue recovers, and Reed starts modifying some of the Watcher’s devices to enhance the FF’s powers.

Doom reappears, and the FF use Reed’s “optimizers,” which are guns that can fight back against Dr. Doom. Everybody fights! Sue goes into a haze, unable to concentrate. Reed blasts Doom, and it seems like the fight is over, but then he recovers. The Inhumans then join the fight. Doom finally reveals that Sharon has secretly been working undercover for him during all this, but she betrays him and rejoins the FF.

Reed hands an optimizer to Black Bolt, amplifying the power of BB’s destructive voice. This successfully blasts Dr. Doom into “critical mass” so that he disappears. Instead of pretending Dr. Doom is dead, we see that he used the last of his new power to teleport himself back to Latveria, battered and beaten.

The Watcher shows up again and teleports everyone back home without a word. Back home, Sharon wants to talk to Ben but he wants nothing to do with her. We then see the armored man from earlier, who is Nathaniel Richards, Reed’s  long-lost father who is the Overlord in another universe. Franklin adds, “Grandpa came to help me!”

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Everyone’s matching brown jackets have a purpose. Reed invented them so that they somehow give our heroes protection against Doom’s energy blasts.

Fade out: After being defeated by Doom the first time, Sue gets redemption by protecting everyone with a force field during the finale.

Clobberin’ time: Get used to Ben wearing that metal helmet. It’s going to be around for a while. A lot of fan sites say this is the one he wore way back in issue #3, but that’s not the case in this issue.

Flame on: Johnny tries to talk to Lyja, but she’s too ticked off at him. His line, “I’m the injured party,” which makes me hugely uncomfortable.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Sharon secretly working for Dr. Doom pretty much comes to nothing. I don’t know that she did anything to actually assist him during all this. But, she’s now one of the good guys again.

Four and a half: Franklin shows immediate remorse after zapping Agatha Harkness. Also, one of his toys is the baby from that weird Dinosaurs sitcom of the early ‘90s.

The Alicia problem: Lyja puts killing Johnny on hold because Dr. Doom is the greater threat. She’s still with the FF at the end of the issue, so there’s still more Lyja drama to come.

Commercial break: A comics outlet called Entertainment This Month has two pages of these ads, shilling all the early Image comics.

Trivia time: This month saw the publication of Fantastic Four Unlimited #3. The FF traveled into the Negative Zone where they were caught up in a struggle between Annihilus and the Brute, who you’ll remember is Reed’s evil Negative Zone twin. The Brute allied himself with the Tyannans, the villains who more or less created Annhilius. It ends when the Tyannans seal themselves off from the outside world (worlds?) and our heroes return home.

Fantastic or frightful? Just frustrating. Everyone continually acts out of character, with little regard to consistency. Plot elements like the Watcher’s home, Doom’s new powers, and these optimizer guns are also inconsistent. That, combined with the tangled knot of plot threads from previous issues that got us here, give the whole thing a making-it-up-as-we’re-going-along feel. Paul Ryan’s art is nice, though.

Next: Grandparent’s Day.

****

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Fantastic Friday: All guest stars all the time

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #374 continues an ongoing arc with multiple plotlines and numerous guest stars — and this one has all the guest stars!

Recap: During a fight with villains, Johnny accidentally destroyed part of Empire State University, so now he is a fugitive from the police. Spider-Man got involved, hoping to find a way to help Johnny. Meanwhile, Dr. Doom has stolen the powers of Aron the rogue Watcher.

Spider-Man sneaks into Dr. Strange’s sanctum. (It appears that Doc merely left a window open. I guess he predicted Spidey would show up.) Spider-Man asks for help in looking for Johnny. Strange has a vision of Dr. Doom, and says Johnny’s disappearance has far-reaching, cosmic significance. Spider-Man asks Dr. Strange to contact three other superheroes who filled in for the FF with him a while back. Using his astral form, Strange reaches out to Wolverine, the Hulk, and Ghost Rider. It’s the return of the New Fantastic Four (with a capital N.)!

Back at HQ, Reed and Sue get into a huge argument about Johnny’s predicament, with Sue’s new take-no-prisoners attitude not helping. In the next room, Franklin is upset about the argument and his psychic powers manifest for a moment before he calms down. Supernatural nanny Agatha Harkness fears what Franklin might be turning into.

In Latveria, Dr. Doom has transferred Aron’s stolen cosmic powers into a special battery back, and he checks in on his tech guys, who are building a new suit of armor for him. As he dons his new shiny silver armor, Doom comments about how the Watcher is always up there on the moon, with seemingly godlike power that he never uses.

 

In New York, the FF split up, flying the four-part Fantasticar over the city, looking for Johnny. Johnny is hiding out in an abandoned tenement, looking all grizzled and homeless. Johnny says he can’t face his teammates after the mistakes he’s made. Nearby, the New FF has already assembled, with Dr. Strange’s astral form tagging along. Wolverine’s heightened senses are able to track Johnny with ease. Spider-Man just wants Johnny to turn himself in, but Wolverine, Hulk, and Ghost Rider are out for blood. Up in space, the situation is being monitored by Paibok the Power-Skrull, Devos the Devastator, and Lyja — the three who started all this. Lyja is having second thoughts about taking revenge on Johnny.

The New FF confront Johnny briefly, and then the original FF show up, and of course it’s a superhero misunderstanding fight. Ghost Rider knocks out Sue and then burns Johnny, because he has supernatural hellfire and not earthly fire. Spider-Man webs up Sharon before she can swing a punch. Reed makes his body so malleable that Wolverine has nothing to cut with his claws. Ben and the Hulk exchange a few punches, only for Wolverine to break free and slash Ben across the face. (!) This happens pretty quick, but it will have big consequences in issues to come.

Cut to the moon, where the Watcher has placed Aron in suspended animation. Dr. Doom, in his new armor with the cosmic battery attached, teleports into the Watcher’s home to pick a fight. We don’t see the results of because we go straight back to Earth, where Lyja appears, breaking up the fight between the two FFs. In space, Paibok sees this and declares that Lyja has betrayed him. We then see that Devos is also planning to betray him. On Earth, Lyja and the FF vanish, leaving the New FF behind. Dr. Strange, who’s still hanging around, says he fears they’ve finally seen the last of the Fantastic Four.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: It’s worth noting that Reed has started wearing his brown adventuring vest during this arc. In true ‘90s comic book style, the vest has tons of pouches that we never see being used.

Fade out: When Ben’s face is slashed by Wolverine, Sue reacts compassion, showing that her new attitude during this arc doesn’t have to be all rage monster all the time.

Clobberin’ time: Ben is still struggling with his feelings for Alicia. Sharon keeps confronting him, wanting to talk to him about it, but we don’t see them have that talk in this issue.

Flame on: I’m not sure what to think of Ghost Rider being more powerful than Johnny. We can chalk this up to Ghost Rider’s huge popularity in the early ‘90s, but still.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Sharon knows how to fight and she has some superhuman strength, but she doesn’t stand a chance against Spider-Man.

Speaking of Spider-Man, this issue finds him at the end of the Return to the Mad Dog Ward story arc, which introduced the laughable Captain Zero to the Marvel Universe. He’s also dealing the mystery of whether his parents have returned from the dead.

The Hulk recently left his long-running Vegas mob enforcer role, and now has a new headquarters called the Mount, and new teammates in the Greek mythology-themed Pantheon. This issue, however, still references Las Vegas, so maybe it’s just before that change.

Wolverine came to this issue after experiencing a lot of trauma in his solo series. His love Mariko died, and then he descended into madness while trying to recover some of his lost memories. Maybe that’s why he’s so bloodthirsty in his fight with the FF.

Ghost Rider was all over the place in Marvel during this time, appearing in Shadow Riders, Midnight Sons Unlimited, Spirits of Vengeance, and Nightstalkers in addition to his own series, all doing the usual demon fighting stuff.

Four and a half: Agatha Harkness uses magic to help calm Franklin down, and she chooses not to reveal what she knows about Franklin to Reed and Sue. Why did they hire her?

The Alicia problem: Lyja once again mentions her and Johnny’s “unborn child” pretty much confirming that her pregnancy was not a hoax, but a tragic miscarriage. (EDIT: I just did a little bit more research, and this plot hole will be explained in a weird way coming up in issue #390.)

Commercial break: I don’t know if I can handle this much coolness:

Trivia time: The reason Dr. Strange hangs back and doesn’t join the fight is because his powers were severely weakened in Dr. Strange #50. This led to him recruiting other heroes to help him fight evil, which was the premise of The Secret Defenders. Because of this issue, the New Fantastic Four also count as members of the Secret Defenders.

It was also this month that Fantastic Four Unlimited #2 was published. Black Bolt and Medusa have a son, Ahura, who gets caught up in a fight between good Inhumans and bad Inhumans. The FF show up and join the good side. It ends with the Inhuman royal family relocating to a new home on Earth, leaving the Inhumans on the moon without traditional leadership.

Fantastic or frightful? The New Fantastic Four may or may not have been a cash grab the first time around, but they certainly are this time. This could have been any four guest stars. On the plus side, this issue serves to tie together some of the parallel plotlines of the last few issues, making it feel less random and more like one cohesive story.

Next: Ooh, shiny.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 19

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! Gentlemen, meet Llug: 43:53-48:58 on the Blu-ray.

 

We begin with Willow and the baby in the rain, walking out from behind some trees and coming across a three-story building. The wiki merely defines this as a roadside tavern, not giving it a proper name. There’s a lot of activity out front, with people and animals walking about, and a large crate being lifted up to the second floor balcony via some sort of pulley system. Willow looks down at the baby, and then Franjean pops up from inside Willow’s backpack, saying “We are not going in there.” Willow argues that the baby needs fresh milk, and that they’re drenched. Franjean insists that he’s in charge, calling Willow “shorty,” and Willow’s having none of it. He walks toward the tavern.

 Cut to inside, where Willow walks up some stairs with festive violin music playing. There are a lot of people inside, and a lot of activity. It’s hard to tell, but it appears two of the people are fighting. Behind Willow, someone has brought a white pony inside the building. Willow makes his way through the room, as two gruff, mustachioed men frown down at him. There’s a funny reaction of shot of the baby staring back at them, wide-eyed. Willow moves forward, and next sees a bald man with a red snake tattoo on his arm. This man is leaning forward with his head resting against a table, probably to suggest he’d been drinking.

 Willow tries to get the attention of two women, one of whom has long bone-like attachments in her hair. He asks the women for milk for the baby, and one says “Get out of here, peck!” and throws some lettuce from a nearby bowl in his face. More follow suit, with everybody throwing lettuce at Willow and shouting at him. Willow walks past a staircase which, oddly, appears to be in the center of the room. He kneels down next to it, out of harm’s way.

 The two Brownies pop their heads of Willow’s backpack, and notice a pretty Daikini woman nearby. “Look at her,” Rool says. “I could use a love potion on her. Franjean, give me the Dust of Broken Hearts. Come on.” Rool reaches for a pouch around Franjean’s neck, and there’s some slaptick of the two of them fighting over it. Franjean says the dust is “very dangerous” and that it belongs to the fairies.

 A small amount of the dust falls on Rool’s face, and he falls out of Willow’s backpack. The dust glows bright yellow. Willow asks the Brownies to be quiet, saying “Do you want to get us killed?” Rool, still with the glowing dust floating around his head, hits the floor and rubs his eyes. Franjean says, “Rool, always playing with those fairy love potions.” I believe this is the first time Rool’s name is said in the movie. This also establishes that Rool has messed around the dust before, suggesting that it hasn’t gone well in the past. I’ll discuss the Dust of Broken Hearts in more detail when it comes up again later in the movie.

 We then see a cat walk into frame, next to a huge animal skull. This of course leads to a comedy bit where Rool falls in love with the cat, saying it is beautiful. He praises the cat’s eyes and whiskers and moves forward to kiss it. The cat hisses at him, which somehow makes fly straight up into the air, so he lands on a counter of some sort. There’s even more slapstick as he stumbles around and falls into a mug full of liquid. He pokes his head back out, spits out some of the liquid, and cheers, “Beer!” He laughs and starts swimming around in the beer, which is pretty disgusting.

 There’s more rowdy behavior from the tavern patrons, where two men on two other men’s shoulders hit each other with flails. One of the men falls near Willow, conveniently knocking him, the baby, and Franjean through a loose board into the next room. There’s more activity in this room, as a panicking woman is running around saying, “If my husband catches you, he’ll kill us both!” The camera pans over to reveal Madmartigan… in a pink dress.

 Willow says “Not you!” and Madmartigan asks “Where the hell did you come from?” Like Star Wars before it, here is another fantasy universe that throws the word “hell” around casually. Willow says “I trusted you!” Franjean recognizes Madmartigan and informs everyone that he stole the baby from Madmartigan while Madmartigan was, um, relieving himself. (The movie uses cruder language.) This sort of explains how the Brownies brought the baby to Cherlindrea, but it makes Madmartigan look like a real jerk for hanging out with this woman in a tavern instead of searching for the baby.

 The woman instructs Madmartigan to cover his face, and Madmartigan points out that Willow is “crawling with Brownies.” The woman shrieks and says she hates Brownies. So this establishes that the Brownies have visited this place before, which in turn explains how the Brownies know what beer is.

 A huge man enters the room, knocking Willow to the side with the door, demanding “Where is he?” This is Llug. The woman is his wife. Her name is not revealed, and the script unfortunately just calls her “the wench.” The wench says there’s no one but her and her “cousin Hilda,” referring to Madmartigan in drag. We get reaction shots of Willow and the baby being incredulous about this. Llug and his wife even get some backstory in the tie-in books. She didn’t want to marry him, but he sat on her (!) until she agreed to. As seen in the movie, Llug’s whole philosophy is that the husband can sleep around all he wants, but the wife must remain faithful. Classy guy, our Llug.

 The wench says “this is my husband, Llug.” Madmartigan, in a comedic female voice says, “Big husband.” Llug’s demeanor switches immediately from rage to lust, and he gets all predatory towards “Hilda.” When Llug starts getting grabby, Madmartigan snatches the baby out of Willow’s hands, making a crack about Willow being a nursemaid. Willow reaches for the baby, but Madmartigan kicks him to the floor. Madmartigan again comes across as a real jerk in this scene. There’s a quick bit where Rool enters, asking if this is a party, only for Willow to pick him up. Llug gets right up into “Hilda’s” face and simply asks, “Wanna breed?” Not subtle, our Llug. “Hilda” answers with, “Tempting, but no.”

 Madmartigan backs up to the door and is about to make an escape when it opens, and several black-clad soldiers enter. We see the soldiers rounding up everyone in the tavern, including Madmartigan, Willow, Llug, and the wench. The camera pushes in close on Madmartigan’s face, as he realizes what’s going on and how the serious the situation is. Sorsha is there, checking another baby for the mark on its arm. “That’s not the one,” she says. Willow then reacts, realizing that this one of the head bad guys.

 Sorsha approaches “Hilda” and asks if she’s the mother. “Hilda” says yes. Sorsha demands to see the baby. Willow steps in between them and says “No, don’t let her.” This is a bold move on Willow’s part, seeing as how Sorsha and the other guards are all armed to the teeth. Sorsha kicks Willow to the floor (that’s twice in one scene he’s been kicked). Sorsha says, “I gave you an order, woman.” She reaches for the baby again, but Madmartigan pushes her back. This causes the other soldiers to draw their swords on him.

 Sorsha removes her helmet, and Madmartigan gazes at her, wide-eyed. He breaks character and says, “You’re beautiful.” She, however, has him all figured out, saying “And you’re very strong.” There are a couple of seconds of tense silence, after which Sorsha removes the scarf from Madmartigan’s face and announces “You’re no woman!” Madmartigan smirks, as if he already knows what’s about to happen.

 Cut to Llug and his wife. Llug immediately freaks out, shouting “Not a woman? Not a woman?” As if he planned this from the start, Madmartigan quips, “Gentlemen, meet Llug.” Llug takes a swing a Madmartigan, who ducks out of the way, causing Llug to punch one of the guards instead. This causes everyone else to start fighting the guards, with everyone running around and fighting like crazy, setting up for one of the movie’s most elaborate action scenes.

 Next: Runaway cart.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Down with reality

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #373 packs a ton of story into one comic. But is any of it a good story?

To recap: Aron the rogue watcher kidnapped Alicia, and used her to trap Reed, Ben, and Sharon Ventura in a “perfect” alternate reality based on Alicia’s subconscious. To rescue Alicia, Puppet Master has mind-controlled the Molecule Man to do his bidding. Meanwhile, Johnny is a fugitive after destroying part of Empire State University in a superhero battle.

We begin with Dr. Doom in his lab in Latveria. One of his underlings tells him that they’ve lost track of the agent Doom sent to infiltrate the Fantastic Four. Doom says he already knows, and he’s aware that “star-spanning power” is at hand. Elsewhere, the Puppet Master has mind-controlled the Molecule Man, using him to attack Aron and hopefully rescue Alicia and the others. They fight outside Aron’s mountaintop lab by bringing the environment to life around them, for some trippy visuals.

We cut to the alternate reality where Ben, Reed, Alicia, and Sharon have been trapped. In this world, Ben is a human, married to Alicia, and he works for a huge company alongside Reed and Sharon. Ben is having nightmares and feels like he’s being watched. Ben transforms from human back into the Thing, just as Reed and Sharon discover their powers as well. Alicia appears, seemingly knowing what’s happening, saying not to jeopardize this perfect life. They’re then interrupted by this world’s version of the Fantastic Four, wearing uniforms with masks and capes.

Back in NYC, Sue is meeting with attorney Matt Murdock in hopes of getting Johnny out of legal trouble. Murdock says there’s not much he can do as long as Johnny is a fugitive. He hints, however, that he has other talents that might help. From there, we meet up with Silver Sable and the Wildpack, mercenaries who have been hired by J. Jonah Jameson to hunt and capture Johnny. Spider-Man shows up and confronts Sable, saying that Johnny is his friend. The Wildpack finds Johnny and, with their flying jetpacks, chase him around the city. He fights back and escapes.

On the mountaintop, Aron defeats the Molecule Man by sealing him in a vacuum, where there are no molecules for him to manipulate. (I fail to see why Molecule Man doesn’t use the molecules in his clothes or even his own body. I guess he didn’t think of that.) This knocks him unconscious and severs his connection with the Puppet Master. In Aron’s alternate universe, Ben, Reed and Sharon are easily able to defeat the alternate FF thanks to their years of experience. Alicia freaks out, not knowing what is real and what is a lie. Her emotional breakdown is what causes the heroes to escape from the other universe and return to Earth.

Outside, Aron is momentarily distracted by the goings-on in his lab. Dr. Doom appears and makes the most of this and attacks Aron with an energy-syphoning device he just happens to have. Inside the mountain, Reed frees Alicia from Aron’s lab, and she is okay, if upset over what she saw in the other universe. The heroes go outside to find the Watcher standing over the comatose Aron. Reed asks the Watcher if he’s the one who defeated Aron, but the Watcher stays silent, just watching.

In New York, Matt Murdock has donned his Daredevil uniform, and he watches from the shadows as Spider-Man meets up again with Silver Sable. Sable asks Spidey for his support, but Spidey swings away, saying that he needs to sort out his priorities and that it’s time to call in “the really big guns.” Elsewhere, the Molecule Man recovers and flies back home. Dr. Doom is also on his way back home, with his syphoning device pulsating with power. He says there is “another” he must visit to magnify this power, after which Doom will rule not just the world, but the entire universe.

Unstable molecule: Reed says the alternate universe version of him bears “a vague resemblance to that fictional super hero who died amid so much media ballyhoo!” That’s a very mild shot fired at DC over the then-recent Death of Superman event.

Fade out: In addition to meeting with Matt Murdock, Sue is also meeting with Makio Yakaki, the FF’s financial advisor (this character’s first appearance). Sue, in her new take-no-prisoners attitude, informs Makio to “buy off” Empire State University to clear Johnny’s name.

Clobberin’ time: The big dramatic moment in this issue is Ben revealing to Alicia that he still cares about her, in real life and not just in the alternate universe. We’ll  have to see how much of a seed this plants in them eventually getting back together.

Flame on: This story arc continues trying to paint Johnny as a dark antihero, by having him lose his temper as he fights the Wildpack, boasting about how they’re nothing compared to his power and experience.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Even though Sharon is the one who dumped Ben, in this issue she’s broken up about him being affectionate towards Alicia.

Commercial break: Prime Chuck.

Trivia time: Although described as a mercenary, Silver Sable is seen operating out of the Symkarian embassy. A quick re-read of early issues of Silver Sable and the Wildpack reveals that she’s both a secret agent for Symkaria and the head of her own mercenary business. That’s some serious multitasking. The members of the Wildpack, by the way, are Chen, Powell, Battlestar, Striklan, and Quentino, and a seemingly endless supply of anonymous grunts in full-face masks. The Sandman was also a member of the Wildpack for a while.

It was during this time that Marvel published five issues of Fantastic Four Unlimited. I won’t be writing full-length reviews of them, because they’re not very good. In the first issue, the FF join Black Panther for another battle against Klaw, revealing that Klaw and T’Challa’s ancestors were also enemies.

Fantastic or Frightful? This run of issues has multiple storylines, multiple villains, and tons of guest stars, but it all feels frustratingly directionless. It’s challenge trying to find those scant few moments of character development during all this.

Next: It’s a New world.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 18

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! In this short scene, we’re exploring the connection between this film and Akira Kurosawa, 42:52-43-52 on the Blu-ray.

The scene begins with Willow and Brownies walking through the woods, presumably leaving Cherlindrea’s dreamlike magical forest behind and reentering the regular world. I think for most viewers, the two Brownies are simply “the Brownies,” and thought of as one character instead of two. For this rewatch, I’m going to try to give each one his due. Rool says he knows the way, but Franjean says “You always think you know the way. I am the leader.” This shows that while Franjean considers himself the hero of this adventure, Rool also had the Brownies’ boisterous self-confidence.

Willow asks how long it will take to find Fin Raziel, and Rool says, “Not long. She has been exiled to an island, just over those hills.” Willow says, “She’s what?” And Rool responds. “Exiled by the evil Queen Bavmorda,” with him giving the name “Bavmorda” a dramatic flourish and a laugh. Franjean is more serious, however, chiding Rool for telling Willow everything. “I didn’t tell him everything,” Rool says, only for Franjean to say, “You told him enough.”

The two Brownies bicker, with Franjean saying not to mention the queen. Willow learned about Bavmorda in the previous scene, so I’m not sure where this concern of theirs comes from. Willow is more interested to know about the island, demanding answers while holding the wand. Franjean again is the serious one, saying “Don’t play with that wand. Cherlindrea told you it has vast powers.” This is the first time Cherlindrea’s name is spoken in the movie. I guess the viewers are meant to understand that this refers to the angelic being of the previous scene.

Franjean continues, “Only a great sorcerer can use it, not a stupid peck like you.”  The movie keeps the borderline-offensive “peck” running joke going, and Willow doesn’t like either, reacting with an angry glare. During all this, there’s some interesting special effects here with the Brownies running along a log, and then falling off of it, all while Willow walks at a normal pace. Physics demands that the Brownies would have be moving incredibly fast to keep with Willow, based on their differing sizes, but the movie’s VFX do a good job with the illusion so that viewers don’t question it.

Franjean points to the right, saying “This way,” but Rool corrects him by saying “No” several times. Franjean marches to the left, and Rool again corrects him with more nos. What to make of this? Franjean styles himself as the leader, but the less serious Rool appears to be the one with greater knowledge of the world outside their forest. Rool points upward (to the top of the screen, that is) and says, “This way.” Rool says, “That’s what I said,” with another overly dramatic flourish on the word “said.” Franjean, less show-offy and more direct, looks up to Willow, points in Rool’s direction, and agrees, “This way.” The two of them arguing over directions will come up again later in the movie. Willow asks if they know where they’re going, and Franjean says, “Of course. With us as your guides, no harm will befall you.” Then of course we smash cut to Willow trudging along in the mud and rain, for a cheap laugh.

This is a simple scene that provides a few small pieces of exposition, while establishing Franjean and Rool as Willow’s traveling companions and comic relief. Except that this scene has its roots in classic foreign cinema. It’s no secret that Willow is heavily influenced by Star Wars, and most everyone knows that Star Wars was heavily influenced by the films Akira Kurosawa, with The Hidden Fortress being the one cited most often. In The Hidden Fortress, a princess and a warrior are fighting for their kingdom, but most of the action is seen through the POV of two lowly peasants, Tahei and Matashichi. These characters are often cited as the inspirations for C-3PO and R2-D2. I rewatched The Hidden Fortress in preparation for this blog post (You’re welcome!) and I can’t help but see big similarities between the two peasants and the two Brownies.

Next: You big lug.

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