Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “Ladyhawke”

Dear Frank,

TWIST! Change in plan. While I have seen Wall Street, your most recent request, and taken a great deal of notes on its specialness, I am also dealing with a crazy week at work, thus necessitating the use of a pre-written post on another of your requests. Oh, and this movie, man. This movie will fill the 1980s hole in your heart.

I mean, you never saw Ladyhawke as a kid? Really? I mean, sure, your mom wasn’t my mom, which means that your mom didn’t have a weird crush on Rutger Hauer and thus sat you down to watch this movie at least two or three times before you were 12 years old. But I’m still glad that I have a chance to fill in this grave oversight in your education.

So here’s what happens in the second-best trashy medieval fantasy epic of the 1980s (Willow being the first, and I will totally knife fight anyone who disagrees). First, there are the opening credits, which consist of a hawk flying into a wind machine set against the most ridiculous synth score ever created for a fantasy epic. It must be heard to be believed, which is why I have found this handy YouTube link!

And then Matthew Broderick shows up! He’s a thief escaping from prison, kind of working a Ferris Bueller at Medieval Times angle — which, as you might imagine, is CHOCK FULL of authentic flavor. Instead of bitching to the audience about not having a car, though, Ferris asks God for favors and (when reduced to more thievery) reminding God that God knows how weak-willed he is, being God and all. Side note: Matthew Broderick? Not a master of accents.

Apparently, the evil clergy ruling Unnamed Vaguely French Medieval Kingdom give a shit about Ferris escaping, even though he’s clearly just a common thief. Ferris’s escape from the dungeons is labeled a miracle, btw, but “I believe in miracles,” says the Evil Main Priest. “It’s part of my job.” AUTHENTIC MEDIEVAL FLAVOR IN THIS MOVIE, RIGHT HERE.

So the evil clergy’s guards go hunting for Ferris and catch up with him quickly, but here’s Rutger Hauer, NOT wearing tight leather and talking about tears in the rain but instead being a blond badass with a sword. He also has a pet hawk. NOT THAT THAT’S AT ALL RELEVANT.

Anyways, Rutger saves Ferris from the evil church soldiers, and then hauls him away into the forest to… Okay, I’m not totally clear as to why. But that doesn’t matter, because please note that every time I mention an action scene happening, that smooth synth Alan Parsons sound can be heard. I cannot describe how phenomenal this soundtrack is.

When the sun sets that night, Ferris, who’s taken on his new role as Rutger’s bitch with no small amount of bitching, meets Michelle Pfeiffer, rockin’ a cute spikey hairdo and a badass black cloak. Look, I’m gonna cut to the chase here because the movie sure won’t: Rutger is a dude during the day and a wolf at night, while Michelle is a hawk during the day and a lady at night. I will save the explanation of how this happened for later, but rest assured that it is completely sensical and not at all ridiculous.

Before we get the full rundown on this shit, though, we gots to deal with a lot of coy scenes between Rutger and Ferris about the hawk, and a lot of coy scenes between Michelle and Ferris about the wolf. The truth isn’t revealed, though, until Ferris tries to escape this crazy threesome, gets caught by the evil church soldiers, and gets liberated by Rutger again. In the process of said liberation, the Ladyhawke takes an arrow to the chest, and Ferris takes her to Drunky McEx-Priest for medical attention.

Drunky McEx-Priest is the one who explains that the reason we’ve got DudeWolf by day and Ladyhawke by night is that Evil Main Priest fell in love with Michelle, back in the day, and once jilted by her for Rutger (she and my mom have similar taste, apparently) he made a deal with the devil to create this totally awesome high-concept premise for a fantasy epic! But Drunky McEx-Priest has a plan for fixing this sucky deal — if Rutger and Michelle confront Evil Main Priest with their love during an eclipse (well, there’s a lot of malarky about “a night without day and a day without night,” but it’s a fucking eclipse, we get it), the curse will magically be broken. Like I said, it is totally not ridiculous at all.

But now we’re finally at my favorite bit of the movie, where Ferris essentially plays matchmaker for a couple who are already in love, carrying messages back and forth between Michelle and Rutger and making up some shit of his own while he’s at it. Super-cute.

Okay, maaaaaaaaybe it goes on for hours and hours, this bit. But whatever. The main purpose is to I guess convince Rutger that Drunky McEx-Priest’s plan is a good one, instead of Rutger’s current plan, which is to kill Evil Main Priest and probably die in the process. Ferris and Drunky go so far as to dump the pair of them in a hole right before sunrise, so for the first time since the cursing they get to see each other as humans for a few moments in between hawk-wolf transformations. It’s a sweet scene, except for the part where you could replicate the visual effects used to create it with a super-8 camera from the late nineties.

Even that doesn’t discourage Rutger, though — he’s determined to make with the vengeance, not believing that the eclipse plan could work (to be fair, if you don’t even know that the earth is round, the concept of a solar eclipse might be hard to buy). He even gives Ladyhawke to Drunky and tells him to kill her, which pisses me off on a feminist level and an animal cruelty level. Note to any of my present or future suitors: Yes, I’d be sad if you died, but if that becomes a possibility please avoid leaping to the murder-suicide place without my explicit consent.

Rutger has some good luck storming the castle on the day of the eclipse, and there’s a lot of swordfighting and shit. But just as he’s about to kill Evil Main Priest, Michelle in non-Ladyhawke form walks in, because Drunky and I feel similarly about Rutger’s stupid-ass plan, and that eclipse business ended up working out after all.

(Ewwwww. When Michelle shows up at the church, Evil Main Priest totally strokes the shaft of his big pointy scepter. Man, I wish I could unsee that.)

The whole thing is big and dramatic and ridiculous, especially when Evil Main Priest is all, fuck this, and tries to stab Michelle with his big pointy scepter, and Rutger totally skewers him with his giant sword. EMP dies, Rutger and Michelle make out… okay, give ’em credit, it’s a pretty sweet makeout scene, especially the part where Rutger gives Michelle shit about cutting her hair. For the record, Michelle’s hair in this is AWESOME, short and spunky. I want that haircut. I bet it’s a bitch to maintain, though, especially when you’re a hawk all day long.

And then we get some jazz flute up in this Alan Parsons business, Ferris and Drunky walk into the sunset, and Rutger and Michelle dance the night away. HAPPILY EVER AFTER, Frank. May we all be so fortunate as to have drunk ex-priest friends who know better than to be accessories in murder-suicide pacts. Because, seriously.


About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor, and has been talking about television on the Internet since the very beginnings of the Internet. She is currently Senior TV Editor at Collider, and her work has also been published by the New York Times, Vulture, Variety, the AV Club, the Hollywood Reporter, IGN, The Verge, and Thought Catalog. She is also a produced playwright, a host of podcasts, and a repository of "X-Files" trivia.

Posted on November 9, 2010, in All the Spoilers, Movies and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. You left out the best part – Drunky McEx-Priest was the best of the Number 2s in The Prisoner!

  2. I found this site after devouring the book..and I had to say–what!?! Willow is not better than Ladyhawke (though this could be because I had a crazy Rutger Hauer crush in my teens & Drunky priest is Rumpole!)…but since I agree with you otherwise, I won’t take you up on the knife fight. 🙂 I look forward to checking out the site, though I hope there will be another book!

  1. Pingback: Movie Talk — Ladyhawke (1985) | Stell Standing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: