Ok, so when I wrote my first introductory article for The Back Row I happened to mention the movie Ladyhawke. A dear friend of mine read it and being the fellow blogger and grammar nazi that he is, he had to question whether it was spelt as one word or two as I had spelt it both ways. And yes, I know he was right and that it was an unforgivable typo. Well, I went to look it up and the answer is that it is spelt as one word. Happy now? I know you’re reading this, you know who you are!
However, what truly bothered me about his comment was that it started with “Who is Ladyhawke?” Out of all my friends, he is the one I would not be surprised if he’d seen the movie. However, the fact that even he hadn’t seen it upsets me and it just perfectly illustrated the need for this blog and keeping these movies alive.
So… *donning his hat and looking up in a dramatic closeup* it is my duty as Hatman to correct this error. Plus I needed to get to Ladyhawke at some point so this is the perfect reason to reintroduce this classic adventure film to all of you.
Ladyhawke is a 1985 fantasy/adventure film starring Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Rutger Hauer and directed by Richard Donner. If that name sounds familiar it’s because Richard Donner is a very prolific director who among other things has directed all four Lethal Weapon movies, Superman and Superman 2, The Goonies, four Free Willy Movies, Maverick, the first X-men film, and sadly X-men Origins: Wolverine (but we don’t talk about that one).
Phillipe Gaston (Broderick, before his Ferris Bueller days, and I really hope everyone knows that movie) is a young thief who escapes from the medieval prison of Aquila only to brag about his escape at a tavern, where a bunch of guards who are searching for him happen to be sitting. Probably not the best move. During a rather clumsy yet acrobatic escape attempt, Phillipe finds himself captured, only to be rescued at the last moment by a mysterious knight wearing all black with a hawk as a companion.
The knight is Ettienne Navarre (Hauer), a former captain of the guard. He tells Phillipe that he needs him to join him because he needs a way into Aquila to kill the bishop. Naturally, Phillipe is less than keen but quickly finds himself ‘persuaded’ by Navarre. Thus begins an adventure that Phillipe never imagined.
You see, Navarre’s single-minded quest to kill the bishop stems from the fact that the jealous bishop cursed Navarre and the lady Isabeau d’Anjou (Pfeiffer). The bishop was enamoured with her but she and Navarre were in love. As a result of this curse, by day Isabeau is transformed into a hawk and by night she takes her human form again. However, Navarre also suffers from the curse. By day he is a man, but at night he transforms into a large black wolf.
This curse ultimately means that the pair can never be together. However, while Navarre is on his quest to kill the bishop, Phillipe learns of a way to break the curse but killing the bishop will render the curse unbreakable. Will he reach Navarre before it is too late?
Now that you know a bit more about the story, it’s time to get into what makes this movie so much fun to watch.
One of the first things that makes Gaston such a lovable character is the fact that he is somewhat cowardly, yet still goes through with the adventures. His constant one-sided conversations with God are always amusing, such as when despite telling the guards who captured him the truth they decide he’s lying and do the opposite. He then looks up and says: “I told the truth, Lord. How can I learn any moral lessons when you keep confusing me this way?”
Navarre is a quiet, stoic hero who is either surprisingly kind towards Phillipe, often smiling and seeming to be amused by the young man, or he is angry and determined. Isabeau, on the other hand, appears strong and composed at times while seeming incredibly innocent, bordering on naive, at other times.
The film is also rounded out with some enjoyable and memorable characters such as Father Imperius, the drunken monk who knows the true story about what happened to Navarre and Isabeau, as well as the beastly Cezar (Alfred Molina, you might remember him as Doc Oc in Spiderman 2), a wolf trapper employed by the bishop.
While it is not the most action-packed film, there are plenty of suspenseful moments and memorable scenes such as Phillipe kneeling on a trapdoor trying to close it while the guards keep knocking him off it as they try to open it.
All in all, this is a great fantasy adventure that is sure to give you some laughs and keep you interested throughout. The pacing seems slow but it is actually well planned and not as slow as it seems.
I grew up watching Ladyhawke as my brother was a fan of the movie and over the years I have found that it never ceases to be an entertaining and fun movie to while away two hours (two hours and one minute to be exact). If you’re in the mood for a good fantasy adventure that doesn’t rely heavily on special effects and is focused more on the characters and the story itself then Ladyhawke is a good choice.
You can watch a trailer for Ladyhawke below.