The story takes place in a medieval France setting and starts with a young thief named Phillippe the Mouse escaping from an inescapable prison through its sewers. Said prison and the lands around it are controlled by a Corrupt Church
led by a Bishop who is none too pleased to hear of Phillipe's escape (the prison is supposed to be inescapable, after all). The Bishop sends his soldiers out to kill Phillipe, but just as they catch up with him Phillippe is rescued by the mysterious Etienne of Navarre, who is accompanied everywhere by his Cool Horse
Navarre turns out to have been the former Captain of the Bishop's guards, and he has a score of his own to settle with the Bishop. See, the Bishop was lusting mightily over a young woman named Isabeau, but Navarre and Isabeau fell in love and when it looked like they would escape the Bishop, he cursed them so that by day Navarre would be human and Isabeau a hawk, while by night Isabeau would be human, and Navarre a wolf. As a result, while the two lovers may be together, they are always separated. Now Navarre is looking to get revenge, and to use Phillippe's knowledge of the sewers that lead into the Bishop's fortress to his advantage.
The film contains a number of both veteran actors (such as John Wood, Rutger Hauer
, and Leo McKern) and young actors who would go on to become household names (Matthew Broderick
and Michelle Pfeiffer
This film provides examples of:
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Phillipe climbs through it to get in and out.
- Action Survivor: Phillipe escapes from prison and then runs from the Bishop's guards. He'd like to get away clean but he has to help the leading man and lady.
- The Alcatraz: The prison Phillipe was sent to. It's supposed to be inescapable you know.
- Ancestral Weapon: Navarre's sword. It's been around for a few generations and went with his father to the Crusades.
- Animal Eyes: Used in the lovers' face-to-face transformation scene.
- Animal Stereotypes: The guy who turns into a wolf is a fierce, loyal badass who can be absolutely vicious when riled up, and the guy called "the Mouse" is a cowardly Action Survivor thief who prefers to hide and be sneaky whenever possible. Isabeau is fairly fierce and graceful herself. It's also observed in The Movie that hawks and wolves mate for life (though not with each other, of course) signifying the couple's enduring faithfulness.
- Annoying Arrows: Played with. Arrow injuries are deadly when Isabeau is shot in hawk form and still injured in human but Navarre just shrugs off one arrow because he's wearing armor.
- Artistic License – Astronomy: There is a scene under a full moon. Two days later, there is what seems to be a solar eclipse (which requires a new moon).
- Artistic License – Religion: A minor one that just requires a Hand Wave to fix — Imperius is described as a monk. A monk has not taken Holy Orders and thus cannot take confessions — he would need to be a priest to be able to hear confession and give absolution. (It is possible to be both a monk and a priest but you would be more likely to refer to yourself as a priest in the same way that someone with credentials as both a paralegal and a lawyer would probably not mention the paralegal part). The handwave: Imperius may have been a priest in the backstory then renounced his priestly vows after his crime of betraying secrets of the confessional - which he thought he did while drunk. He did not - Marquet did..
- The Atoner: Imperius, the monk who helps Navarre and Isabeau. He feels at responsible for their curse because he accidentally revealed their love to the Bishop.
- Autobots, Rock Out!: 1980s synthesizer rock by The Alan Parsons Project
- Automatic Crossbow: Badass people strap two crossbows together.
- Badass Cape: Navarre's is awesome. He is, naturally, incredibly badass.
- Badass in Distress: Navarre is surprisingly vulnerable in wolf form, having nearly fallen prey to a hunter, nearly drowned in an icy lake after falling through thin ice, and was nearly stabbed by a random guard for fun.
- Badass Preacher: Imperius is technically a monk, not a priest, but he's still a formitable man of God.
- Baleful Polymorph: The curse turns Isabeau into a hawk; Navarre, a wolf.
- BFS: Navarre's sword is a Zweihander.
- Black Knight: Etienne Navarre is a literal one, clad in black armor, as he's been cast out from service to Aquila and has no lord or master. Subverted in that he's The Hero and a noble man.
- Bow and Sword, in Accord: Navarre uses a crossbow and a Cool Sword.
- Cassandra Truth: Nobody believes Phillipe, admittedly with reason.
Imperius: Thank you for trying, and for standing up for the truth.
Phillipe: I should have known better. Every moment of happiness in my life has come from lying.
- Also, he tells the truth to some evil guards and is still in trouble:
Phillipe: I told the truth, Lord! How can I learn any moral lessons when you keep confusing me this way?
- At the end of Phillipe's and Isabeau's near-capture at the monastery:
Guard: Where's the woman?
Phillipe: She flew away.
Guard: WHERE IS SHE?
Phillipe: God's truth, she flew away!
Guard: YOU L-AAAGH!!! (Guard is shot by Navarre and falls.)
Phillipe: (beat)... It pays to tell the truth, Lord. Thank you. I see that now.
- Chekhov's Skill: Navarre scared Phillepe into helping him by throwing his sword like a spear into a tree. He uses the skill again to kill the Bishop when he was about to kill Isabeau in his breakdown.
- Chew Toy: Mouse spends a lot of time in peril, and even gets bitten by Navarre in wolf form while saving his life.
- Cool Helmet: So cool, Guts had to get one for himself!
- Cool Horse: Goliath, a huge black Friesian. Just don't call him a her.
- Marquet's white horse in the climax counts too.
- Cool Sword: It is even used to chop wood.
Navarre: This sword has been in my family for five generations. It has never known defeat, until now.
- Corrupt Church: In the movie it shows that the entire region of Aquila in the Middle Ages is ruled by this trope. Unusually, the movie averts the trope's implicit Take That qualities in that the protagonists are all depicted as genuinely devout, faithful and God-fearing.
- Really, it's only the Bishop and Marquet who are corrupt but they have the authority to pervert the Church's influence in the region.
- Curse: On the two Star-Crossed Lovers. They can never be human at the same time and so they can never be conventional couple.
- Curse Escape Clause: A solar eclipse allows Navarre and Isabeau to meet each other in human forms at the same time, dispelling the curse.
- Deadpan Snarker: Phillipe.
Phillipe: (to Imperius) When you kneel before the altar, how do you get up again?
- Deal with the Devil: The Bishop asked the Devil to curse the lovers.
- Navarre and Isabeau have been cursed for two years but neither has yet to give up hope.
- Philippe. He promises to get into Heaven even if he has to pick the lock to the pearly gates.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Isabeau is barefoot quite a lot, even in instances where it doesn't make much sense like her final confrontation with the Bishop.
- The Dragon: The Captain of the Guard, Marquet, for the Bishop.
- Evil Sorcerer: The Bishop cast a curse on the lovers so he must be one
- Evil Plan: The Bishop seeks to capture Isabeau.
- Fee Fi Faux Pas: Be careful who you offer to buy a drink for when celebrating your prison break.
- Green-Eyed Monster: The Bishop was so overcome with jealousy that he turned to the infernal to satisfy it.
- Hero Exit Stage Left: An inversion of the normal trope. After the curse is broken, Imperious and Mouse try to exit quietly without being seen. Navarre doesn't let them.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Philippe and Imperius become a pair.
- He Went That Way: Zig-zagged. Philippe directs the guards after Navarre knowing they will expect him to lie. It works at first until one of them works it out.
- Hoist by His Own Petard:
- The wolf hunter who dies falling headfirst into a jaw trap.
- Marquet, who pushed one of his own men onto Navarre's sword for referring to Navarre as 'Captain', ultimately dies by falling on Navarre's sword.
- I Know You Know I Know
: I believe he was heading south, toward Aquila. Guard
: Then we ride north, sir! Phillipe
: It's impolite to assume someone is a liar when you've only just met them! Guard Leader
: And yet you knew we would... we ride south.
- If I Can't Have You: "...then no man shall!" Thus the hawk curse.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The ending, twice.
- Improvised Weapon: In addition to swords, weapons used include a bunch of horseshoes, an iron bar, rocks, the opponent's helmet, and a huge candelabra.
- Incendiary Exponent: Averted. The captain of the guards is anything but badass when it's on fire.
- Involuntary Shapeshifting: The curse upon Navarre and Isabeau forces them to transform between human and animal forms every dawn and dusk.
- Ironic Echo: When Isabeau runs off towards danger, Phillipe mutters "He's going to kill me!" referring to Navarre. When Phillipe talks Isabeau into releasing him from where Navarre tied him up, she says the same thing.
- I Will Find You: Etienne Navarre: "And know this - if you fail, I will follow you the length of my days. And I will find you."
- Karmic Death: The Bishop is killed in the process of trying to stab Isabeau in the back.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Navarre has this down to the timeperiod; a heroic and pious man who uses a sword to fight evil.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Phillipe regularly directly addresses God (but effectively the audience) as his personal confidante. None of the other characters notice, but he does go out of his way to put distance between himself and the other characters before talking to the camera.
Phillippe (to Navarre): No offense, sir, but I talk to God all the time, and He never mentioned you.
- Light Is Not Good/Dark Is Not Evil: The Bishop and the Captain of the Guard wear white and gold, and Navarre is The Hero and wears black and red, rides a black horse and becomes a black wolf.
- Living MacGuffin: The bishop really wants Isabeau back.
- Magic Pants: There seems to be little consistency as to whether or not clothes transform. Both are naked on resuming to human form so it could be argued that there is just no need to see an empty dress falling off a little hawk.
- Magic Realism: Apart from the curse, the setting is mundane medieval France.
- Malevolent Architecture: Imperius's castle has two bridges designed to drop you in the moat.
Imperius: Walk on the left side.
- The Middle Ages: The location and time period; medieval France.
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: According to Imperius's description of the curse, neither Navarre or Isabeau are aware of their human selves while in animal form; Navarre in particular is quite vicious.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Though it saved Navarre, the only reason Isabeau was shot was because Phillipe threw a rock at the guard, causing him to accidentally fire into the air.
- Noble Bird Of Prey: Isabeau in hawk form.
- Noble Wolf: Navarre's wolf form is firece and loyal.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Both Navarre and Isabeau are this to each other depending on the time of day.
- Novelization: A novel was published based on the film, which included screenshots from the film illustrating scenes and an alternate ending where, once the curse is broken, the Bishop is turned into a wolf as punishment.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Matthew Broderick does an alright job for the first 15 minutes, then we're basically watching Ferris Bueller swanning about Medieval France.
- Our Werebeasts Are Different: As the result of a curse, Navarre turns into a wolf at night, and his lady turns into a hawk during the day.
- The Queen's Latin: If we infer from the names we can guess the film is set in France, yet everyone speaks with Received Pronunciation, or ...tries to.
- The Reveal: Imperius didn't betray the lovers. Marquet did - to replace Navarre as the Captain of the Guard.
- Scenery Porn: The movie has some beautiful shots at times.
- Sinister Minister: the Bishop is a jealous and lustful man who called on the devil himself to curse a pair of lovers.
- Slow Motion Fall: Isabeau from the tower at Imperius' home. She falls just slow enough for the sun to rise and turn her into a hawk to save her from certain death.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Medieval setting with Alan Parsons Progressive Rock music. It sounds even more unusual decades later, now that synthesizers have become very dated. Kind of a Base Breaker.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Invoked by the Bishop on Navarre and Isabeau.
- Stepping-Stone Sword: A sword is at one point used to anchor a rope for people to cross thin ice.
- Sword Fight: Surprisingly realistic ones, at that, i.e. no Flynning.
- Sword Plant: Several times, for different reasons.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: If you're Navarre it does.
- Title Drop: Phillipe dubs Isabeau's animal form the "lady hawk". Navarre is amused by this sobriquet.
- Unexplained Accent: Rutger Hauer, a Dutch actor, acting in a film set in Medieval France, adopts an American accent.
- What the Hell, Hero?: At one point, Navarre flips out at Philippe for supposedly losing his sword. He gets called out first by Mouse, who tells him he's being selfish with his fixation on revenge, but doesn't really snap out of it until he sees the cuts all over Philippe's chest— which he inflicted, in wolf form, when Philippe saved his life.
- Yandere: The Bishop. He puts a cruel curse on the two lovers so they can never see each other. All because the woman doesn't want him.