Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 14

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! I know you’ve been waiting for this one: Madmartigan finally joints the party, 26:25-30:34 on the Blu-ray.

Our heroes have arrived at the Daikini crossroads, a muddy wasteland-looking area, situated around a rickety wooden structure with two large cages hanging from it. Willow and Meegosh look around, as the camera pans across a skeleton in one of the cages. There’s a fade to show time passing, with a shot of the Nelwyn setting up camp under a dark grey sky. A strange howling is heard in the distance, and everyone reacts with fear. Vohnkar is all business, of course, ordering the others to get their spears.

The tie-in books describe the Daikini crossroads as a once-inmportant locale, a center of trade and commerce this continent’s four kingdoms. It once had a grand marketplace and a meeting hall for diplomatic negotiations. All that changed once Bavmorda took control of the kingdom of NockMaar, however. Bavmorda’s troops cut off all the trading routes in hopes of weakening the three kingdoms, to where all that’s left of the crossroads is a small village nearby. The villagers sentence their criminals to death by dehydration/starvation in these cages. As for that howling noise, the source of it is never identified. We can see how windy is was when they filmed this, so maybe the sound was just a trick of the wind.

The howling is heard again, and Willow backs up against one of the cages. It’s a big jump scare when a hand reaches down from inside the cage and grabs him. They won’t reveal this character’s name for a little while, but come on, we all know it’s Madmartigan. “Give me some water, peck,” he says, “or you die.” Get used to this word “peck” being used in an offensive, insulting manner throughout the film. He demands water a second time, and drops Willow. Willow falls back with the other Nelwyn, and nobody brings the water. This just makes Madmartigan angrier, saying “Bring me some water, you measly little pecks.”

While the others look concerned, Burglekutt leans forward and says, “This Daikini. We’re in luck.” Willow insists that they can’t give the baby to this stranger. “Somebody put him there for a reason,” Meegosh says. Burglekutt counters with, “Those soldiers are after us.” Meegosh then points out that Madmartigan is watching them.

Madmartigan’s attitude has changed, as he now smiles at the group. Vohnkar says they have to give the baby to somebody, and Madmartigan says, “I’m somebody.” He offers to take care of the baby if they let him out of there. He makes kissing noises at the baby, and there’s a terrific reaction shot of the baby with an “I’m not so sure about this” look on her face.

Burglekutt says he trusts this stranger “completely.” Willow says “But he tried to strangle me,” and then Burglekutt shows his true colors by saying “I want to go home.” Willow says they should wait. Burglekutt chides Willow for challenging his authority, but Willow says he will as far as the baby’s concerned. Madmartigan is quite to read the situation, saying “don’t listen to him, Burglekutt.” Burglekutt tells Willow he can stay there alone, but the rest of the group are leaving. Madmartigan encourages Burglekutt to stay.

Burglekutt tells the others to get their gear. Willow pleads for Vohnkar to stay, but Burglekutt says the decision is his, not Vohnkar’s. Fed up, Willow says “Burglekutt, you’re troll dung.” Madmartigan says, “Don’t let him talk to you that way, Burglekutt!” Burglekutt calls Willow a “runt” and says while they’re wasting time there, Willow’s fields aren’t getting planted. This is some nice continuity, as the movie began with planting and a planting festival.

Willow and Burglekutt have a standoff. Willow says “Burglekutt, I’m going to…” but he doesn’t finish the thought. Burglekutt mockingly says, “You’re going to what?” and then laughs in Willow’s face. Willow tries to get in the last word with “Someday, Burglekutt, someday,” but it’s no use. Burglekutt already has his back to Willow, saying to Vonhkar, “Let’s go.”

Vohnkar, who’s been mostly silent during all this, now says, “Meegosh, you coming?” Meegosh says he’s staying, and Burglekutt laughs at him as well. As Burglekutt and the others leave, Madmartigan pleads with them to let him out of the cage. He asks Vohnkar to borrow his spear, presumably for lockpicking. This foreshadows him picking a lock later in the movie. His feigned friendliness turns back into anger as he says, “Well, at least give me some water! Burglekutt, don’t leave me alone with these two!” He then sits back down in the cage, frustrated.

Meegosh asks what they should do now, but before Willow can answer, Madmartigan says, “Well, that was really stupid, peck.” Willow says not to call him that, and Madmartigan mockingly says “I’m sorry, peck.” He then repeats “peck” a bunch of times in a children-in-the-schoolyard way. Note that there’s a now a sunny blue sky behind Madmartigan, when it was overcast at the beginning of the scene. This could be to help the audience see him now as more of a humorous character rather than a threat, or maybe stuff like this comes with the territory when filming on location.

Willow then pulls out one of the magic acorns the High Aldwin gave him. He says he’s a powerful sorcerer and threatens to throw it at Madmartigan and turn him to stone. Madmartigan pretends to be scared, crying “No, don’t! There’s a peck here with an acorn pointed at me.” Willow puts the acorn away, saying he wouldn’t want to waste it. Madmartigan laughs at him again. Again, the acorns are a ticking clock throughout the movie, as the audience is unsure what will happen if/when Willow actually uses them. Willow and Meegosh return to their campfire as Madmartigan chants “peck” at them over and over.

In the Willow graphic novel, there’s an odd addition to this scene, in which a horse drawn cart goes by with some men on it. The men throw some lit torches at Madmartigan, burning his feet. They then ride off again. Madmartigan says to Willow, “Why not give them the baby? They eat babies!” I suspect these strangers are meant to be the caveman-like Poha referenced in the other tie-in books, but there’s no way to know for sure.

Time passes. We cut to night, where Willow and Meegosh sit around the campfire while the baby sleeps, as Madmartigan silently watches. Time passes again, and it’s morning.

Next: Here come the troops.

****

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Fantastic Friday: The end of infinity

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #370, the Infinity War crossover finally comes to an end… of sorts.

Recap: Magus, the evil doppelganger of Adam Warlock, has created evil doppelgangers of all the Marvel heroes. While the heroes deal with that, Magus successfully collected all the Infinity Gems and the Infinity Gauntlet, giving him godlike power. After Reed was abducted by his doppelganger, Sue merged with Malice, a psychic entity who represents all of Sue’s anger and aggression, so that Sue could lead a task force of Marvel heroes into space to save the day.

Magus makes a big villain speech about how he’s now omnipotent, conveniently catching readers up to speed, while the Marvel heroes all fight doppelgangers of themselves. Johnny uses his powers to destroy the doppelgangers, knowing they’re mere constructs and not alive. Ben, however, can’t bring himself to destroy Sue’s doppelganger because she looks just like Sue. As the doppelgangers gang up (heh) on Ben, he thinks that after this battle, “nothing will ever be the same again.”

During the battle, Sue turned invisible and snuck into Magus’ high-tech stronghold, which is apparently nearby. She comes across Thanos fighting his doppelganger. Sue ponders how both versions of Thanos are the evil one. She uses her force fields to help Thanos defeat the doppelganger, and then she sneaks off again.

Sue then finds Reed and Iron Man, who had been abducted by their doppelgangers a few issues back. They’re in suspended animation, alongside Daredevil, Black Widow, Namorita, and Darkhawk. (We never actually see these abductions. I think we’re meant to think that they occurred between issues 4 and 5 of Infinity War.) Sue frees Reed, only for Magus to appear before them. Sue, who is now part Malice, attacks, demanding action. It doesn’t work, because this Magus is only a projection.

Elsewhere, Magus once again makes a big speech about how he’s a god now, and he has apparently captured all the heroes who were in the battle, holding them in his “trophy case.” Thanos interrupts, and picks a fight with Magus. This distracts Magus long enough for Adam Warlock to place his hand over the Infinity Gauntlet. Because Warlock once wore the gauntlet, he can withstand its power. This begins a battle of wills between Warlock and Magus, with the fate of the universe on the line.

All the heroes are released from the trophy room as the universe gets all twisted and psychedelic around them. Galactus has everyone gather on board his ship, where they fly to safety. There’s a huge explosion out in space, and the FF are immediately teleported back to Earth, with no explanation of what happened. You have to read Infinity War #6 for that. Warlock, Thanos, and Warlock’s pals in the Infinity Watch pulled a fast one on Magus, replacing the Infinity Gauntlet’s Reality Gem with a fake one, which gave Warlock a means to defeat Magus. The cosmic being Eternity then declared that the gems can never again be used in unison, no matter what the reason.

Back at FF HQ, Sue is still angry mode, calling Reed the team’s weak link because he was defeated by his own doppelganger. Johnny flies off, still pondering whether he should quit the team. Sue calms down to play with Franklin, showing that she’s not all evil, while Reed ponders whether he should step down as team leader. Then the Puppet Master shows up, telling the team that Alicia has been kidnapped.

In Earth’s orbit, we catch up with Devos the Devastator and Paibok the Power-Skrull. They reveal that Lyja is not only still alive but has returned to full health. She steps out in her sexy new battle armor as Paibok announces that she wants vengeance.

Unstable molecule: This issue’s character arcs (such as they are) have to do with fears over the team breaking up. Reed faces a loss of confidence over his leadership abilities.

Fade out: The Thanos vs. Thanos fight is the same one from Infinity War #6, except that one doesn’t reveal Sue’s presence or involvement in the scene, making her truly invisible.

Clobberin’ time: Ben seems to be the only one who can tell that Sue has changed, and tat the group is heading for a breakup.

Flame on: Johnny wonders if this experience with Infinity War is what’s causing his desire to leave the team, but then he dismisses this idea.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Former alternate team members She-Hulk and Frankie Raye can be seen in the background in Magus’ trophy room and aboard Galactus’ ship.

Four and a half: Franklin has a Rubik’s cube among his toys, a good ten years or so after its popularity.

The Alicia problem: Lyja appears to be a lot taller and more muscular than the last time we saw her, but I guess shape-changers can get away with that.

Commercial break: Barry Sanders was such a big deal that he gets an entire page of the comic devoted to just his face.

Trivia time: Of course this isn’t really the end. Warlock, Thanos, the Infinity Gems, the Infinity Gauntlet, and even Magus will all return a year later in Infinity Crusade. The Fantastic four will appear in that crossover as well, but not to the same degree as they did in Infinity War.

Fantastic or frightful? A lot of this issue is repeating Warlock/Thanos scenes from Infinity War, so that the Fantastic Four feel like supporting characters in their own comic. Beyond that, this should be epic space adventure with godlike cosmic beings fighting for the fate of the entire universe, but it all feels so ordinary, without any sense of wonder. What a waste.

Next: Where’s Shaft, Chapel, and Badrock when we need them?

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 13

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! It’s time for another  cross-country travel montage, 24:25-26:24 on the Blu-ray.

We begin with a shot of Burglekutt walking out from behind a tree, wiping his hands on his shirt. Was he just using this tree as his bathroom? Let’s hope not, because he walks over to two of the others and has a bite to eat. The camera mercifully pans over to Willow, tending to the baby. He hears a dog howl, and then sees two NockMaar soldiers in the distance, riding toward them. Vohnkar of course is the first to leap into action, ordering the others to “Move!” The rest of the Nelwyn quickly gather their things as the riders get closer.

There’s another shot of the Nelwyn running further into the trees, with Vohnkar shouting an action-hero style “Come on!” We then see two of the Death Dogs running alongside the riders. The Nelwyn hide in some leafy green bushes as the Death Dogs run by them. A third NockMaar rider comes at the first two at angle, stopping them. “The Nelwyn have got the baby,” one says. “We searched the village, but a group of them are on their own somewhere.” The second says, “They couldn’t have gone far. Widen the search and report to Sorsha.”

It’s likely that the first NockMaar to speak is the Death Dogs’ pack leader. The pack leaders are NockMaar soldiers who, according to the tie-in fiction, have somehow given up their higher humanity to care for and command the Death Dogs. Doing so makes the pack leaders devolve into a doglike form, with “corrupted flesh and spirit.”

The big question here is if the Death Dogs are such great trackers, then why did they just run past when the Nelywn and the baby were right there? If Willow has latent magic powers he’s using without realizing it, perhaps he’s unknowingly using magic to protect the baby. Maybe, just maybe, this also explains how the movie gets away with the hearing-exactly-what-you-need-to-hear-while-eavesdropping cliché. Another question is how these guys can report to Sorsha, when in the previous scene we just saw Sorsha at Castle NockMaar, half a continent away. I guess we’ll have to assume he means they’re reporting to Sorsha’s officers.

Another big question is the reference to the NockMaar claiming to have searched the Nelwyn village. Is this referring to the Death Dog that attacked the Nelwyn festival, or did the NockMaar raid the village during the montage? Again, the movie references major events that we don’t see.

Vohnkar is again all business, saying “Come on, we’ll keep to the woods.” Remember that the High Aldwin instructed their group to follow the river, and this line suggests they are no longer doing that. The High Aldwin never actually specified the Daikini crossroads as their destination, but we’re about to see that’s still their goal.

Next we get the second half of the Nelwyn’s travel montage, which started a few scenes ago. First is a very Lord of the Rings-ish shot of the Nelwyn marching single file in silhouette along a mountaintop with taller mountains in the background. Then there’s a shot of the group sitting around the campfire sharing a meal, and this is where the score switches from suspenseful to uplifting, telling the audience they’ve successfully escaped. After that, the group is crossing a log across huge chasm of two cliffs, and then them walking among some large trees.

The montage ends with an odd shot of the Nelwyn emerging from an opening in a group of chalky white trees. Is this some sort of hidden entrance to pathways eventually leading to the Nelwyn village, or just the group’s way of staying out of site? Vohnkar leads the way, and announces “There it is! The crossroads!” The music stirs, but then cuts out as we see these “crossroads” are a rickety wooden structure with two large cages hanging from it. That’s where we’ll pick things up next time.

Next: Not William Atherton.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Being Sue Malice-vich

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #369 has cosmic crossover craziness and a familiar face from Sue’s past.

We’re still in the middle of Infinity War, where supervillain Magus (the evil twin of Adam Warlock) is creating evil doppelgangers of all the Marvel heroes. Last issue, a task force made up of select members of the FF, the Avengers, the X-Men, and Alpha Flight teleported to space in pursuit of Reed and Iron Man’s doppelgangers. This issue begins with that task force in the middle of a massive fight against Adam Warlock, Thanos, and Warlock’s pals the Infinity Watch. Infinity War #4 establishes that this is a cliché “superhero misunderstanding fight,” where the task force thinks Warlock is really Magus. Also, Thanos is here because he and Warlock have formed a temporary truce to stop Magus. None of this is properly explained in issue #369, however, making it look like everyone is fighting just for the sake of fighting.

The fight is interrupted when Galactus’ ship appears overhead, and beams everyone aboard. Inside, Dr. Strange, the Silver Surfer, Galactus, and former FF member Frankie Raye are on board, just having finished their own Eternity Quest crossover. Meanwhile, Magus has created a doppelganger of Thanos, and the two of them are secretly watching all this, with Magus bragging about how this is all going according to his plan. Magus presses a button in his ship, saying it’s time to take control of the Earth.

Back on Earth, Alicia is having tea with her father, the Puppet Master. He’s about to tell her that he saw Ben having lunch with Sharon Ventura, when the two become frozen in place. Time has stopped all over the Earth for everyone, except for Aron the rouge Watcher, who can sense what’s happening from his hideout in the arctic, and he ponders how to use this to his advantage.

In Galactus’ ship, Galactus runs a cerebral scan of all the heroes to get everyone up to speed. This has unforeseen complications for Sue, though, as she gets lost in a surreal mindscape of her own subconscious. There, she is confronted by Malice. The comic rightly points out that Malice was merely a temporary name and costume Sue adopted when she was being influenced by the Hate Monger (in issues #280-281). This version of Malice disagrees, saying that she’s always existed as living psychic entity repressed deep within Sue’s subconscious.

Sue and Malice fight, with Malice arguing that Sue needs Malice’s aggression and ferocity to deal with the conflict that lies ahead. Sue defeats Malice, and then absorbs Malice’s persona into her own somehow, hoping to combine Malice’s with Sue’s wisdom and compassion. Back in Galactus’ ship, Sue awakes and tells Johnny she’s never felt better.

 

On Earth, everyone is still frozen in time except for Aron, who teleports to Alicia’s apartment and abducts her. Elsewhere in outer space, we see Devos the Devastator and Paibok the Power Skrull have succeeded in bringing Lyja back to life. She’s unconscious, and Paibok plans to alter her genetic structure. In Galactus’ ship, we catch up with the events of Infinity War, where Warlock has retaken the Infinity Gauntlet and reassembled all the Infinity Gems, giving him the power of creation itself. Then a portal opens, with Magus and the Thanos doppelganger stepping out of it. They abduct Warlock and disappear.

Sue takes leadership of the superhero task force over Captain America, saying the heroes must attack Magus as soon as possible, before Magus gets adjusted to his new power. When the Hulk makes fun of her, Sue throws him around the room with her force fields. Ben and Johnny note that Sue is acting different than usual. The heroes open another portal (I’m assuming Dr. Druid is the one who does this, since he’s standing right next to it) to follow Magus. They jump through it, only to face an army of their own doppelgangers. Everybody fights. While the battle rages, we see that Magus has succeeded in wresting the Infinity Gauntlet from Warlock, claiming his victory over Warlock… and infinity itself.

To be continued!

Fade out: The original Malice story was about Sue facing her trauma and heartbreak head on, becoming a stronger person in the end. This issue makes the metaphor literal by having Malice be an actual character separate from Sue. Now that they’ve merged into half-Sue/half-Malice, we’ll see that play out in unexpected ways in upcoming issues.

Clobberin’ time: Ben makes a funny meta comment on these big crossovers by saying, “I hate these big brawls! No one gets ta admire my fancy moves!”

Flame on: There’s a quick scene where Johnny finds himself attracted to Psylocke, but doesn’t say anything because it’s still too soon after the whole Alicia/Lyja thing. Unknown to him, the telepathic Psylocke reads his mind, and thinks the two of them as a couple might have proven interesting.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Once again, both She-Hulk and Frankie Raye appear in this issue, but have no speaking lines.

The Alicia problem: Lyja appears in only one scene, where she is unconscious and strapped to a table, while two men discuss what to do with her. I know the word “problematic” gets thrown around a lot these days, but…

Commercial break: This is an ad for the videogame Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. Right to left, the characters are Neanderthal Donatello, Pirate Michelangelo, Cowboy Raphael, and Astronaut Leonardo.

Trivia time: The Infinity Gauntlet first appeared in 1990’s Silver Surfer #44. After Thanos gathered all the Infinity Gems, he just stuck them on his knuckles of his regular glove for a cool look. It’s not called “the gauntlet” until an issue later, when Mephisto tries to swipe the glove with the gems for himself. Later stories describe the gauntlet having cosmic properties by itself, with a lot of talk about the importance of building a new one.

As for the gems themselves, their history is way too long and complicated for this blog post. They first appeared in 1972’s Marvel Premiere #1, where they were called the Soul Gems. Their importance grew over time as the cosmic parts of the Marvel universe kept getting more and more cosmic. Marvel Premiere #1 is also when Adam Warlock got his name, and was no longer just called “Him.”

Fantastic or frightful? This is like one of those X-Men comics where it only works if you’re already deeply knowledgeable about the last 200 issues, plus all the other tie-ins to the current crossover. It’s supposed to represent a major turning point for Sue’s character, but that comes off as a watered-down version of what was done before. Can Infinity War please end?

Next: Infinity War ends.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 12

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! We check in on our villains, and it’s the first appearance of General Kael, 22:36-24-44 on the Blu-ray.

 

We begin with a shot of NockMaar Castle, with no other buildings around it. This movie often references huge cities and vast kingdoms that we never see. NockMaar Castle appears to be both the seat of government for NockMaar, while simultaneously acting as a border fort, protecting the kingdom from outsiders. Perhaps this system is to make it easier for the queen to visit with foreign dignitaries. Or, perhaps this one of many castles within NockMaar. We don’t know.

We then see the castle interior, a dark brick hallway lined with torches. Bavmorda and Sorsha stand in the center of the hall. Bavmorda tells Sorsha she didn’t ask for a dead nursemaid. With over-the-top anger, Bavmorda tells Sorsha, “You’re useless!” Sorsha is all business, though, saying her men are tracking the nursemaid’s trail, and are still in pursuit of the village. This maybe explains how the Death Dogs found their way to the Nelwyn village. Two huge doors open at the far end of the hall, and Bavmorda says “General Kael, at last.”

In walks General Kael, filling the screen with his suit of armor, cloak, and skull-faced helmet. The skull appears to not be human, but that of some kind of animal. He says, “My queen, I have destroyed the castle at Galladoorn.” A few scenes from now, when we meet the character Airk, we’ll see the fallout of this battle. Bavmorda says, “Well done,” adding she has another task for him. He is to help her daughter to find “that tiny, helpless baby that continues somehow to elude her.”

Then Kael lifts up the skull face on his helmet, revealing himself to be a man, and not some inhuman monster. (This is probably also so the audience doesn’t think he’s a total ripoff of Darth Vader.)  He does some exposition speak, asking “The baby of the prophecy? The one that will destroy you?” Bavmorda won’t have that, saying “I need that baby alive.” Then she does some exposition-speak of her own, saying she must perform a ritual to “exile the child’s spirit into oblivion.” How much of this sentence is literal and how much is hyperbole, I cannot say. We’ll see this ritual later in the film. Bavmorda then adds an extra-dramatic “Find her!”

Sorsha says she doesn’t need Kael’s help. Bavmorda says, “You will do as I say, child.” She then makes a motion with her right arm, but her hand is below the screen, so we can’t see what she’s doing. Whatever it is, it makes Kael smile slightly. Sorsha puts on her clunky black metal helmet and marches out of the room. Note that throughout all this, we see she has a quiver full of arrows on her back. Sorsha did the redheaded female archer thing way before Katniss and Merida made it cool. General Kael follows her.

Bavmorda’s druid advisor says to Bavmorda, “I’ve seen the signs. I fear your daughter will betray you.” Bavmorda responds with an uncalled-for insult, “I trust her loyalty more than I trust yours.” I’ve been researching all week, and I can’t find any background info on this character. His name in the credits is just “Druid.” All we know is that there are good druids named the Senkadi, and evil druids named the Brithemain. He’s obviously one of the latter. The question is whether he saw “the signs” using genuine magic, or if he could just tell this after seeing Bavmorda trash-talk her daughter. This could be his version of “the bones tell me nothing.”

Critics of the movie often argue that Bavmorda is a one-note villain. The tie-in books respond by giving her a lengthy and detailed backstory. A native of the kingdom of Tir Asleen, Bavmorda developed great magical powers at a young age, as well as an aptitude for evil scheming. Bavmorda’s chief rival since childhood was Fin Raziel, a sorceress whom we’ll meet later in the movie. When Raziel got engaged to Mikal, a prince of Tir Asleen, Bavmorda used magic to seduce the prince and make him obedient to her. She married Mikal, and worked her up through the royal family, eventually overthrowing and then destroying Tir Asleen. Now known by the moniker “the Demon Queen,” Bavmorda then conquered the kingdom of NockMaar, formerly a wild land made up of criminals and barbarians. With these ruffians serving as the NockMaar army, Bavmorda wages war against the two remaining free kingdoms, Galladoorn and Cashmere.

As for General Kael, we know that he is in command of the entire NockMaar army, with Sorsha being second in command. The novelization gives us a little insight into Kael’s thoughts. When he’s wearing the skull mask, he believes himself to be invincible. When not wearing the mask, he feels like a weary old man, overwhelmed by a lifetime of death and violence. This is important to remember when we get to the final battle. Behind the scenes, General Kael was allegedly named after film critic Pauline Kael. I say allegedly because it appears the filmmakers never did go on the record to confirm this. Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer have joked about this in interviews, but I doubt they’re the ones who came up with the name.

There’s also a lot to say about Sorsha and her backstory, but I’ll save that for upcoming scenes.

Next: Travelogue.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Infinity times X

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #368, the Infinity War crossover just keeps on infinity-ing.

In Infinity War, the villain Magus is creating evil doppelgangers of all the Marvel heroes. Reed and Iron Man were replaced by their doppelgangers. They arranged a summit of a bunch of the superheroes at Four Freedoms Plaza, only to set off a bomb. This issue begins with the predictable resolution of Sue using a force field to protect everyone from the blast. To add a little extra action, Thor summons some hurricane winds to blast the bomb’s nuclear radiation into space. In a scene almost identical from Infinity War #3, Magus and Thanos appear through a portal and take Evil Reed and Evil Iron Man away from the scene.

 

Sue offers all the other heroes the use of FF headquarters for the time being. That includes Daredevil, the Avengers, the X-Men, the New Warriors, and Alpha Flight. There’s a whole page of the Hulk and the Thing arguing, before Speedball, of all people, plays peacemaker between them.

Johnny takes off, flying over the streets of NYC. He considers leaving the team after they rescue Reed. He’s then attacked by a team of X-Men doppelgangers, as well as his own doppelganger. Most of the rest of the issue is Johnny fighting them all off. Johnny trashes a water tower to douse Evil Johnny’s flame, and he and storm chase each other around the skies for a while. When Evil Wolverine mentions something about not being alive, Johnny deduces that the doppelgangers are constructs, so he cuts loose with the powers, burning all the Evil X-Men to a crisp. Evil Johnny survives, and congratulates Johnny for being converted to “the dark side.” Evil Johnny escapes through a portal to join Magus and Thanos.

Back at HQ, there’s another scene identical to Infinity War #3, where the heroes decide that magic is the only way to find Magus and Thanos. Dr. Strange can’t be reached, so Scarlet Witch brings in magical help from Dr. Druid and Franklin’s former nanny Agatha Harkness. Sue takes Agatha aside and asks her to return, and help with Franklin again. Agatha initially refuses, but changes her mind once she sees Franklin again. Elsewhere in the building, it appears that Ben and the Hulk are about to fight again, but then we see they’re just playing foosball.

In the third scene lifted straight from Infinity War #3, Agatha, Scarlet Witch, Dr. Druid, and Shaman from Alpha Flight use magic to open a portal to Magus and Thanos’ location. A team of the most powerful and “most seasoned” heroes are hand-picked from the four teams to enter the portal. They do so, and the issue ends. The story is picked up in the rest of Infinity War #3. Thanos betrays Magus, teaming up with Adam Warlock to stop Magus. All the superheroes arrive. Thinking that Adam Warlock is Magus, the heroes attack both him and Thanos. With that, Infinity War is…

To be continued!

Fade out: Sue takes on a leadership role at the start of the issue, bossing all the other heroes around. By the end, though, Captain America is the one calling the shots. Maybe they’re co-leaders.

Clobberin’ time: Notice that while Speedball talks Ben and the Hulk out of fighting, Ben has his hand placed on Speedball’s shoulder, as if the two are old friends.

Flame on: Johnny’s newfound desire to leave the team will play out (sort of) in upcoming issues.

Fantastic fourth wheel: She-Hulk is present during with all the other heroes in this issue, but has no lines. The Marvel wiki states that Crystal is also here as one of the Avengers, but I don’t see her in this issue. Crystal can be spotted in Infinity War #3, though, confirming that she is there.

Four and a half: Agatha Harkness is described in a caption as having a look of concern on her face when she sees Franklin. Reading between the lines, it appears that she’s decided to return not out of sentiment, but because she can sense Franklin’s reemerging mutant powers.

Commercial break: Something something anatomy something.

Trivia time: Thor is shown to be out of his element, and now sure his own power. That’s because this is the new second Thor, Eric Masterson. Eric will later be known as Thunderstrike.

The reason Dr. Strange couldn’t be contacted is because at this time, he was off on his own crossover, the lesser-known Eternity Quest, where he, Silver Surfer, and former FF member Frankie Raye teamed up to fight the unlikely duo of Galactus and Juggernaut.

I believe this is the first time we’ve seen the entertainment room at Four Freedoms Plaza. In addition to foosball, there’s a pool table and a Xaxxon arcade game.

Fantastic or frightful? The Marvel Wiki lists 53 superheroes appearing in this issue, but by my count, only have 15 have speaking lines. The rest are just standing around in the background doing nothing. These big crossovers are supposed to be exciting because all the heroes are in one place at one time, but stunts like this dilute that excitement. It’s fun to see Johnny cut loose with his powers, but his big fight scene contributes very little to the plot.

Next: Malicious, again.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 11

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! Our hero enters a larger world, so let’s pull the camera way, way back to see just big of a world this is, 22:41-23:36 on the Blu-ray.

Not that I haven’t enjoyed all this time spent in the Nelwyn village, but I’m looking forward to getting into the real adventure part of this adventure movie. This section of the movie starts the obligatory travel montage, only this montage split into two parts, with other scenes in between. First we see Willow and his group climbing a grassy hill with a bunch of spikey rock formations in the background. Some fans have speculated that these rock formations form a sort of maze around the Nelwyn village keeping it from the outside world. Next, the company passes by some waterfalls. Remember that the High Aldwin told the group to follow the river. Is this meant to be that river? Those two shots are all we get of the montage. I suppose the upbeat travelling music in the score makes it feel like more time passing.

There’s a shot of the baby crying. Willow tells Meegosh to stop, and then the rest of the group. Vohnkar asks why, and Willow says the baby is sick. Nobody seems too concerned about this, so I think we can assume this is merely an upset stomach and not something life threatening. Burglekutt agrees, insisting the baby is just fine. He takes the baby from Willow and she spits up in his face for a cheap laugh. Willow says the baby will be fine after she gets some rest, while Vonhkar and one of the other village warriors wipe baby barf off of Burglekutt’s face.

Yeah, yeah, it’s wacky comedy. Because there’s nothing else to say about this scene, let’s instead take a deep, deep dive into the tie-in fiction and talk about the geography of this world. This planet is called Andowyne. The map of our heroes’ travels is laid out across four points. To the north is NockMaar (sometimes spelled Nockmar), the home of Bavmorda’s castle. To the west is Tir Asleen, which we’ll hear a lot about and even visit later in the movie. To the south is Galladoorn, which we’ll also learn a little about and we’ll meet some characters from there. To the west is the never-seen and hilariously-named Cashmere, described as both shadowy and also overflowing with great wealth. Willow’s village is located in the southeast, between Galladoorn and Tir Asleen. Near the center of the map is the fairy forest, home of Cherlindria and the setting for the movie’s big exposition scene.

The map contains a few locales not seen in movie. In the northeast, you’ll find the Poha Lands, home of savage, animalistic Daikini called the Poha. To the southeast, there are the Standing Stones. These are a group of monoliths described as predating known history, with a lot of fantasy novel gibberish about elves and druids possibly having created them, and what magical properties they may or may not have. The swamps and the Valley of Defeat are a formerly lush area made poisonous and lifeless after Bavmorda destroyed them seeking rare nightstone granite to build her caste. Beyond this continent, outside the map, there are a few fleeting references to the Sunset Ocean, a massive body of water to the east. Across that sea there is the Western Continent, about which we know pretty much nothing.

Pulling back even farther, we find ourselves in the Star Wars universe. No, really. A few years ago, StarWars.com revealed that Andowyne is a planet in Star Wars canon. Andowyne is located in the Kathol Rift, a nebula-like part of space known to cause hallucinations for those who enter it. The Kathol Rift is part of an even larger area of space that’s actually mentioned in the Star Wars movies, the Outer Rim — a wild, lawless, partially unexplored area of the galaxy. If all this isn’t upsetting enough for you, the site also stated that midichlorians are likely to exist on Willow’s planet.

But wait, there’s more. StarWars.com later went back and stated that all this Willow/Andowyne stuff was merely an April Fool’s joke. However, this hasn’t stopped fan sites like Wookieepedia from including from Willow among all the Star Wars lore.

But wait, there’s MORE. In my research, I’ve come across another connection between Star Wars and Willow. During the festival scene in Willow novelization, the High Aldwin says, “The Great Mystery is the bloodstream of the universe, and sorcery is the way to its energy.” Compare that to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, when Palpatine says, “If one is to understand the Great Mystery, one must study all its aspects, not just the dogmatic, narrow view of the Jedi.” That can’t be a coincidence!!!

Now wasn’t all that more interesting than baby barf?

Next: Super-villain team-up.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Encepha-what?

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The Infinity War crossover continues in issue #367. First Reed met his doppelganger, and now it’s Ben’s turn.

So, Infinity War. Magus, the evil doppelganger of Adam Warlock, is using a bunch of cosmic cubes to create evil doppelgangers of all the Marvel heroes. Also, Thanos is hanging around. Last issue, Reed’s doppelganger successfully defeated him and took his place. This issue begins with Evil Reed organizing a summit at FF headquarters, inviting the Avengers, the X-Men, the New Warriors, and Alpha Flight, to discuss the doppelganger situation. (Later in the issue, we’ll see he also invited Daredevil.) Suspecting something is up, Sue sneakily uses Reed’s encephalizer device to run a scan, discovering that Reed has been replaced by a doppelganger.

Out in NYC, Ben has been reunited with Sharon Ventura, his ex-girlfriend and former Ms. Marvel. He asks how she’s been working with Dr. Doom, and the reader at home says “Wait, what?” This is the first time we’re learning this. Sharon says she’s working with Doom because he cured her of being a Thing, and Ben of course says he doesn’t trust Doom. Their conversation is cut short when Ben spots the Puppet Master nearby. As Ben storms off to confront the Puppet Master, Sharon pulls out a communicator and says into it, “Inform the Master that I have made contact.”

Puppet Master says he’s only following Ben because he’s concerned about Alicia, and he accuses Ben of betraying Alicia. Ben says it’s complicated, what with the whole replaced-by-a-Skrull thing. Before they can converse further, a portal opens behind Ben, and out comes Ben’s doppelganger. It appears in Ben’s stronger-than-usual spikey form, and the two Things fight, damaging some nearby buildings. They make their way to a construction site, trashing it as the fight, and then onto a crowded subway platform. Puppet Master saves the day by carving a puppet of the doppelganger right there on the spot, and then throwing it onto the subway’s third rail, electrocuting both the puppet and the doppelganger.

At HQ, Sue frets about what to do about Evil Reed, when she discovers Wolverine inside the building, sneakily getting around all the building’s automatic defenses. Ben returns from the fight, and there’s a bunch of business with Sue using the encephalizer to make sure Ben is really Ben. Then Johnny arrives, and we repeat the whole scene to determine that Johnny is really Johnny.

Sue, Ben, and Johnny attend the superhero summit, with a whole roomful of Marvel heroes. This scene is repeated almost exactly in Infinity War #2, except this time we know that Sue, Ben, and Johnny already know about Evil Reed. As Evil Reed addresses the heroes, Wolverine and Daredevil use their heightened senses to reveal that Reed and Iron Man are really doppelgangers. (We saw Iron Man replaced by a doppelganger in Infinity War #1.)

Some of the heroes think that Wolvie and Daredevil are the doppelgangers, so we get the requisite scene of all the superheroes fighting each other. Evil Reed than reveals a gamma bomb hidden inside the room. The final panel is an explosion bursting out of the top floors of the building.

To be continued!

Fade out: Once again, Sue takes on a leadership role in Reed’s absence, this time also taking over the gadgets and gizmos in Reed’s lab.

Clobberin’ time: A line of dialogue states that Ben has several advanced degrees in engineering. He admits he got these degrees before joining the air force. So, does that mean he went back to college after the air force in order to meet Reed?

Flame on: Johnny promises to keep an eye on Evil Reed during the summit, but once the fight breaks out, he’s nowhere to be seen. We’re probably meant to think that he’s in the mix, fighting with everyone else.

Fantastic fifth wheel: I’m still baffled as to how Sharon’s new role as Dr. Doom’s assistant is not a big reveal, but written as something the reader is already expected to know. But, she’s back now, and get ready for her to go through some serious ups and downs in issues to come.

She-Hulk is present at the superhero summit, but doesn’t get any lines. Like Johnny, she’s not seen during the big fight.

Crystal had joined the Avengers by this time, and the Marvel Wiki insists that she also attended the summit, but I don’t her anywhere.

Four and a half: This issue reestablishes that Franklin’s world-ending mutant powers might be returning. Also, we see that Reed (or Evil Reed?) has placed a robot bodyguard in Franklin’s bedroom, one that has “the offensive punch of a small army.” What the heck?

Commercial break: Hercules muscles!

Trivia time: The superhero with the crutches is Silhouette, an associate of the New Warriors, who still recovering from a gunshot would she got in New Warriors #2.

Spider-Man is not present at the summit because he was injured while fighting his doppelganger. He’s in the hospital with Black Cat acting as his bodyguard.

Fantastic or frightful? The artwork is really great during the Thing vs. Thing fight, but other than that, there’s not a lot to recommend here. All the characters are written inconsistent and a huge chunk of this issue just repeats what was in another comic.

Next: All X-Men, all the time.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 10

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! It’s the usual heroes-embarking-on-their-journey scene, 19:31-22:41 on the Blu-ray.

We begin somewhere in the woods, where a bunch of Nelwyn are walking along, many of them carrying large packs, and others solemnly waving, as if to say goodbye. These little details might not be noticeable upon first viewing, but they inform the audience that this is the beginning of the big trip. The High Aldwin walks alongside Willow, asking Willow what’s troubling him. Here’s where we get the payoff for the “pick a finger” scene during the festival. After a little prodding Willow admits that his first instinct was to pick his own finger. The High Aldwin says that was the correct answer. He then says Willow lacks faith in himself, and more than anyone in the village, Willow has the potential to be a great sorcerer.

Some thoughts on this: Does Willow truly lack faith in himself? He’s a good father and husband who’s running a successful farm, and he had the confidence to get up on the High Aldwin’s stage at the festival. On the other hand, he lets Burglekutt boss him around and he was afraid the presence of the Daikini baby would give the superstitious villagers an excuse to run him out of town. I guess this one’s up to the interpretation of each viewer.

 

The High Aldwin has more advice. “When you’re out there, listen to your own heart.” We’ll see quite a few times when he does that, reminding his future traveling companions what’s important when things get really crazy. The High Aldwin then hands Willow some small objects, saying “These will protect you.” They are acorns, and Willow is unimpressed. The High Aldwin says they’re magic, explaining “Anything you throw them at turns to stone.” Willow doesn’t say anything, but pockets the acorns.

Because this is coming right after the “the bones tell me nothing” scene, these acorns become quite a ticking clock throughout the movie, as viewers aren’t sure if they’re genuinely supernatural, or total B.S. The movie makes you wait (or does it?) for the answer. The actors’ hands are at the bottom of the screen, so there’s no way to tell just how many acorns there are. The Willow graphic novel adaptation adds a few extra lines of dialogue, where Willow asks if he can throw an acorn at Burglekutt, and the High Aldwin answers, “Use sorcery for evil, and you will become an evil sorcerer.” That’s some Polonius-from-Hamlet logic right there.

In the movie, the High Aldwin says “You have much to learn, young Ufgood,” and then concludes the conversation with a series of hand motions. First he clasps his hands together as if in prayer, next he locks his fingers together tightly, then places one hand over his heart, and finally makes a flying away motion with that same hand. Willow pats the High Aldwin’s shoulder, as if to say he understands. I suspect the audience at home is not meant to know the specific meaning of this.

There’s a shot of the Nelwyn milling around some flat stone sculptures, somewhat reminiscent of the ancient stone circles that can be found in remote areas of the U.K. Then we cut back to Willow, talking with his kids, Ranon and Mims. Mims asks if he’s scared and he says no. The kids then rattle off a list of dangers of the outside world, making for some nice foreshadowing. First Ranon asks about fairies of the forest, putting travelers to sleep for 100 years. He also asks about Brownies, and Mims asks about dragons. Willow says these don’t bother him. Then Ranon asks about trolls, specifically, “Trolls that’ll skin you alive and take your face off?” Willow chides Ranon, saying “You know I hate trolls.” Does this mean trolls have attacked the village before, or at least live nearby? Are trolls why the village has a spear-carrying security force? The movie doesn’t say. What’s important here is that all the things the kids mention are more or less things that Willow is going to run into — fairies, Brownies, trolls, and, yes a dragon. (Multiple dragons, if you count the Shadow War tie-in novels.)

The kids offer to join Willow on his journey to give him some help. He doesn’t actually say no, but instead says what a lucky father he is. He gives the kids a hug and tells them to go play. Mims says “Goodbye Dada” here, but it’s hard to hear unless you’ve got the volume way up. Kaiya then helps Willow with the large backpack he uses to carry the baby. She says “We’ve never been apart.” I think we can assume she means for an extended period of time, because we already saw her stay home while he went to the festival. The tie-in books offer no background information about Kaiya. How did she meet Willow? What was her life like beforehand? We may never know.

Kaiya says “I miss you already.” He says he’ll be fine and he’ll be back before she knows it. Her next line is hard to understand. According to the Blu-ray’s subtitles, she’s saying “Remember to keep her warm.” She then hands Willow a braid of her hair, he compares it to a tuft of hair coming from under the headscarf thing she’s wearing, and realizes she’d just cut it off. “This will bring you luck,” she says. They hug, and kiss. The braid isn’t going to have as many appearances throughout the movie as the acorns, but when we do see it again, it serves as a reminder of how far Willow has traveled.

The background music shifts from romantic to heroic, as the High Aldwin addresses the crowd. “Good brave people,” he says. “The outer world is no place for a Nelwyn. Give the baby to the first Daikini you see, then hurry home.” This raises a lot of questions. First, just how much do the Nelwyn know about the outside world? They know the location of the Daikini crossroads, and they kinda/sorta know who the Daikini are. Second, just how good is this advice, of giving the baby to the first person they see? Does the High Aldwin have some sense of the future, knowing who Willow and co. will run into, or is he merely desperate to protect the village from another attack by killer dogs? Hard to say.

The High Aldwin reaches down, picks up a rock, says three magic words, and throws it into the air. In a nifty special effect, the rock transforms into a bird in midair. People react with smiles and wonder, and the High Aldwin says to go in the direction the bird is flying. Burglekutt then points out that the bird is going back to the village. The High Aldwin appears to be surprised by this, but covers for it, dismissively saying, “Ignore the bird, follow the river.”

For all the talk about magic so far in the movie, this is the first time we see it in action. But even after casting a spell successfully, the High Aldwin is still in “the bones tell me nothing” mode. This once again casts doubt over the acorns, and what will or won’t happen once Willow tries to use them. The camera pulls back to reveal the whole group. Vohnkar is all business, ordering a gruff “Move out!” With that, everyone is on their way.

Next: What are all these Jedi and Wookiees doing here?

****

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Fantastic Friday: To Infinity War and beyond

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #366 finds us in the middle of yet another big crossover. It was only a matter of time before Thanos and his freakin’ Infinity whatsits showed up.

Infinity War was the follow-up the successful and beloved Infinity Gauntlet. While the FF merely cameoed in Gauntlet, they’re major players in War. I’m going to try to summarize Infinity War and keep the emphasis what was happening in Fantastic Four. Infinity War deals with the conflict between space hero Adam Warlock and his evil doppelganger Magus. Using not one but five cosmic cubes, Magus hatched a plan to create his own team, made up of doppelgangers of various Marvel heroes. In Infinity War #1, we saw a fight between two Reeds, but it didn’t reveal which one was the evil, or which one won the fight. Fantastic Four #366 begins with a recap of this, where Thanos (who’s also hanging around) cautioning Magus not underestimate the Earth heroes.

At Four Freedoms Plaza, we see Reed working on his encephalizer device, in the hopes of monitoring and controlling Franklin’s rapidly-increasing psychic powers. Johnny is downright furious, saying that Reed’s obsessive work in the lab led to endangering everyone’s lives in the “Inniverse” of the previous three issues. Johnny attacks Reed (!) chasing him all over the lab, until Ben breaks them up. Reed and Sue then have a heart-to-heart talk about Franklin, how he deserves more protection that what they’ve given him. One panel shows Franklin asleep, but with eyes glowing with yellow light.

Then we meet up with Alicia and her father the Puppet Master, who are out for a walk in the park. He says he’s no longer wanted by police (a “white lie,” he thinks), while she thanks him, saying it was his actions that led to her being freed from the Skrulls. In space, Magus explains to an impatient Thanos that doppelganger fights are merely the foundation for a much larger plan.

 

Reed is alone in his lab, still worrying about Franklin’s powers, when a portal opens behind him and Evil Reed comes out. The doppelganger looks just like Reed, but with pointy ears, fangs, and glowing red eyes. Evil Reed argues that Reed spends more time in his lab than with his family out of own personal fears and weaknesses. Their fight has a lot of weird beats, including Reed using his head and neck as a battering ram, and Evil Reed trying to chock Reed by his whole arm down Reed’s throat.

We cut from the fight to Johnny, who is at Empire State University, reminding us that he’s now re-enrolled in college. He contemplates leaving the FF and striking out on his own, when a bunch of football toughs start a fight with him. A good-looking brunette girl breaks up the fight. Even though she clearly doesn’t’ like Johnny, he’s impressed with her. Ben, meanwhile, is at a gym somewhere in NYC where he’s impressing the other body builders by working out with a huge hydraulic press. He’s then surprised to see Sharon Ventura walk through. Sharon asks if he’s pleased to see her.

Back to the Reed vs. Evil Reed fight. Reed stretches himself around Evil Reed, cutting off the doppelganger’s oxygen. Evil Reed breaks free and uses a “microwave pulgator” (?) to attack Reed. It’s basically a flame thrower, and burns Reed, somehow also knocking him unconscious. Then it gets all hentai up in here when the doppelganger transforms into a bunch tentacles that wrap up Reed.

An alarm goes off and Sue runs into the lab. Reed is in there, and he assures her that it was merely a small malfunction. Of course, thanks to the old glowing-red-eyes-that-only-the-audience-can-see cliché, we know this is really the doppelganger.

We then cut to outer space, where we’re reunited with Devos the Devastator from issue #359. His ship is hijacked by a Skrull ship, where he comes face to face with Paibok the Power-Skrull from issue #358. The quickly compare notes and both agree that they want revenge against the Fantastic Four. Paibok says he has a secret weapon for this plot. He shows her Lyja, who is in suspended animation… still alive!

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: All this business about Reed spending more time in the lab than with his family has not only been done before, but resolved before. We’ve moved past this and yet here we are again.

Fade out: Sue’s only role in this issue is to be the doting wife and mother. Again, the writers are trying to do “classic” FF, but doing so by ignoring how much the characters have grown and changed over the years.

Clobberin’ time: We’re not told why Ben is working out in some random gym instead of using the high-tech weights in Reed’s lab, except that it gets him out of the action to set stuff up for future viewers.

Flame on: It’s uncharacteristic for Johnny to be so mad at Reed, to the point where he tries to more or less kill Reed. I guess he’s still working through the whole death-of-his-wife-who-wasn’t-really-his-wife thing.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Sharon is again back for one panel, but, again, we don’t know why she’s back and what she’s up to.

Four and a half: Franklin has a poster of Superman in his room. How does that work?

The Alicia problem: Lyja is back, though we only see her in one panel. It’s the always-problematic “unconscious woman trapped in a tube” cliché that’s so prevalent in comics.

Commercial break: What is this ad selling, exactly? Gumby and Pokey toys? Were there Gumby and Pokey comics? Will two guys dressed as Gumby and Pokey come to your house?

Trivia time: In this issue, there’s a brief glimpse of Spider-Man fighting his doppelganger, from Spider-Man #24, where Spidey fought the Hobgoblin and the Demogoblin as well. The Spider-doppelganger was popular enough to appear in the ‘90s Spider-Man cartoon, and he got his own action figure.

Fantastic or frightful? All this doppelganger stuff is as good an excuse as any for a big crossover, but out our heroes are written so out-of-character that it’s frustrating. The Devos/Paibok scene is the only really interesting part, in that it reveals their previous appearances were merely seeds planted for something bigger.

Next: Ad infinitum.

****

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