Episode #4 - An In-Depth Review

"Sparra's Kingdom"
BJ QUOTES
[From the Introduction] "Hello! I'm Brian Jacques and welcome to Redwall! When we last left our Abbey friends, Constance was battling Cluny on a perilous plank high above the Abbey walls and we met the jovial Basil Stag Hare! Today's episode brings us riddles and mysteries. Will Matthias be able to solve them? Watch closely and find out on today's episode of Redwall!"

[When asked about Redwall animals] "Let me tell you something about animals, pals. Animals that stand up and speak, they're right through all the folk tales and all the legends of the world. From Africa to America, from Iceland right the way through to Egypt. There are animals that stand and speak. And they're so identifiable in my books. 'You dirty rat.' You may know somebody who is as sly as a fox or somebody who is as slippery as a snake. We're identifying animals all the while, y'see? And the mouse... the mouse is the little hero."

[Character Spotlight on Father Abbot] "Mordalfus! What a wonderful name! He's the Abbot of Redwall Abbey. And Mordalfus, the Abbot, he is everybody's father. They address him as 'Father' and he addresses them as 'my son' or 'my child' or 'young one'. Because he's there for all the help he can give everybody. He's a lovely character. And he's also... he's a mouse of peace. He only goes to war when his back is right against the wall and he thinks that the Abbey must be saved."

[ASK THE AUTHOR Segment] "In your story, what made you decide to make mice the good guys and rats the bad guys?"

"Quite simply, really. Um, foxes, stoats, vermin... Y'know, fox, stoats, weasels, ferrets... they're all classed as vermin to farmers. Landowners. Now, the mice... we know that mice are sometimes classed as vermin, but they're really harmless little creatures and the creatures that are protected in my country are the little red squirrels, the badgers, so they're the nice ones. I thought I'd make them the goodies and the rats the baddies. It's simple, really, isn't it?"

SUMMARY OF NEW FOOTAGE

The episode opens with Methuselah talking to Martin (with tapestry shots for visuals), saying that they "finally found his tomb" and that they must now unravel the riddle of his shield.

Upon finding out that the sword is on the weathervane, Matthias attempts to climb the Abbey by using the rain gutter. As he reaches the top, the rain gutter breaks away from the Abbey and he grabs onto a carved eagle's head. He's then attacked by Warbeak. The gutter breaks away further as Cornflower, Basil, Methuselah, and Jess arrive below. They begin shouting for him to be careful. The gutter breaks away even more and begins bending in half as Matthias is lowered to the ground. Jess runs forward and helps Matthias to his feet. Once he's safe, Jess climbs for the sword and Cornflower hands Matthias his breakfast-- a bag of candied chestnuts. Matthias slips them into his habit, then turns to watch Jess reach the weathervane. She's attacked by the Sparra, as in the book.

A piece of the tapestry is shot into Redwall and lands at Matthias' feet (interestingly enough, the scene on the scrap is seen on what remains of the Abbey-tapestry in other scenes). Matthias grows angry, then notices Cornflower having trouble bandaging Warbeak's wing and he laughs at her. She tells him that if he thinks it's so funny, he can do it himself and she walks off with Methuselah.

There is a scene of Methuselah reading more about the Sparra. About their language, specifically. The scene is short, though, and switches to Matthias and Warbeak beginning their climb. When they reach the top, Matthias' sandle falls to the ground and Warbeak pecks through the rope binding her to him. The second it's cut the Sparra flood out of the roof and grab Matthias as Dunwing voices her indignation over Warbeak having a rope around her. The Sparra lift Matthias up, drop him, then catch him before he hits the ground. Dunwing tells them to take Matthias to Bull Sparra.

Later, Cornflower is walking and finds the arrow with the tapestry piece on it. She asks Constance and Basil if they've seen Matthias. Constance shakes her head, so Cornflower shows them the arrow. Basil observes that it's psychological warfare and tells them to pay no heed. Constance says to not tell Matthias and she and Basil walk off. Cornflower is about to continue on her way when she notices Matthias' sandle. She looks up at the Abbey roof and shakes her head, saying, "Matthias, you can't have." She runs after Constance and Basil for help.


CHANGES FROM BOOK

- Constance, Matthias, Cornflower, and Methuselah (carried by two Infirmary-mice on a stretcher) go straight above the Gatehouse to place the shield in the groove. The riddle-solving has been completely removed. They just know that this is what to do, now.

- Matthias immediately figures out that the sword must be on the weathervane. Cornflower tells him he's afraid of heights (huh?). The following morning, Matthias tries climbing the Abbey by himself. In the book, they went straight to Jess Squirrel for help.

- While Matthias is climbing the Abbey, Methuselah is in his study poring over archives. He finally finds the reference to the Sparra stealing an Abbey treasure here. He looks out the window and sees Matthias' ascent.

- Warbeak threatens Matthias with Bull Sparra's sword as he attempts to bandage her wing. In the book, Methuselah and Matthias came back later and had to prod her a bit.

- Warbeak and Matthias climb to the top of the Abbey from the outside. Up the corner of the building, this time. The scenes of their developing friendship and the scene where Warbeak hops back and forth between the colors produced by the stained-glass have been omitted.

- Matthias offers Bull Sparra the candied chestnuts rather than Bull Sparra finding them.

- All of the careful plotting Dunwing, Warbeak, and Matthias did was removed. Getting Matthias out of the Sparra Kingdom seems improvised.

- All of the Sparra seem to know that Bull Sparra lost the sword to Asmodeus. It's not a secret.

- The armored mice return as Conflower, Constance, Mortimer, Methuselah, and Basil gather to "rescue" Matthias. Jess begins climbing the Abbey again, but this time she uses climbing spikes and rope.

- Matthias hears Martin speak once again when he picks up the scabbard.

- As Cornflower sees Matthias on the roof, she begins climbing after Jess, but is pulled down by Basil.

- Everyone sees Matthias fall into the pond. He's trapped under a log, surviving on the air caught in Cornflower's kerchief (that is tied to his arm). There is no futile search and Matthias is rescued immediately, though.

- When Matthias wakes up, he tells everyone that Asmodeus has the sword. He looks at the piece of the tapestry and vows to Martin that he'll never give up. As he lowers his hand, the Sparra are flying in formation above and Matthias says they've got new friends to help them and the episode ends.

- The tapestry-ending scenes for this episode are of the shield reflecting the moonlight, of Matthias bowing to Bull Sparra, and of Asmodeus coiled around the sword.


VOICE CRITIQUES

Warbeak - Warbeak sounds like the voice-actress of Tommy Pickles (from Rugrats) doing Sparra-talk. A step above Tommy, actually, but the similarity definitely struck me. Ultimately, it's not that bad of a voice for Warbeak and the Sparra-talk makes it very convincing. However, like Cornflower before her, I was a fan of the Radio Play Warbeak, so I had a very high standard. While that standard was not met (for me), Warbeak's voice is not, by any means whatsoever, bad.

Dunwing - Dunwing, through both the script and the voice, came off as far more manipulative and contemptuous of mice than she actually was in the book. It was a solid performance, though, so aside from the character change, which is a script problem, I can't fault the actress.

Bull Sparra - To draw another cartoon comparison, Bull Sparra sounded like Mojo Jojo (from Powerpuff Girls) at times. The rest of the time he sounded pompous, arrogant, and exactly like our Sparra king should. A respectable performance by the actor.

Jess - While Jess didn't have a large speaking part, it was enough to gauge the voice. Overall, not too shabby. Nothing to make the role stand out, like Richard Binsley does with Basil, but not a bad choice for her. I look forward to seeing her do some more acting in the future.


CRITIQUE

Well, the pressure is on. After last week's declaration of tolerance, I have to now temper my nitpicks with said tolerance. ;)

The storyline fared rather well this week. It was condensed, but not to the point of being unrecognizable. I think it's unfortunate that the riddle solving between Matthias and Methuselah was cut out. I think kids would have had a lot of fun following along at home. Given how far into the book they are at episode FOUR, they certainly had enough time to feature it. And, given what I've heard of episode five, (you'll all love this next week, trust me ;) they could have delayed certain events by an episode to fit in the riddle solving. Instead, the riddle part of the book is over. Methuselah should be dying any time now and we go for the straightforward part of the quest for the sword: getting it from Asmodeus.

While I'm on Asmodeus, let me once more applaud the tapestry ending for the episode. As always, the music and visuals combine to create some of.... no, come to think of it, THE best scenes out of the series. The final shot of Asmodeus coiled around Martin's sword was dramatic and a great foreshadowing of what is to come.

I'd be remiss if I did not mention the raingutters. If you've visited the LP Forum at all, you know that the movie clip (downloadable from Nelvana's site) with Matthias and the raingutter caused quite a few fans to groan. Raingutters in Redwall? Unheard of. Especially since they seemed to be an addition simply to have an extra scene that was not in the book (Matthias' attempted ascent). I agree with that assessment, by the way. Raingutters don't fit with Redwall, in my mind. However, they do fit with the architecture of the series-Abbey, making their existence seem totally natural. While I would have preferred their absence, their addition isn't that big of an issue. It all works in the progression of the series.

I should also comment on the Sparra Kingdom itself. First, it's absolutely nothing like the books. At least the vision I got from the books. In the series, the Kingdom is just one large room. In the very center, where the rafters intersect, Bull Sparra has his nest. A few pieces of wood are set up as a barrier-- a "door". It's the only nest in the entire kingdom and in that nest is Martin's scabbard. There's no overstuffed chair, no enclosed room, nothing. Just one large room and Bull Sparra's nest. While disappointing, the brevity of the Sparra scene doesn't make this a major change. We see it for less than ten minutes and it shouldn't be revisited again in the series. I have no problems with giving the animators a mild break in detail, after doing so well in other areas. (Keep up those tapestry shots, guys!)

Last thing before closing-- in the extra footage, BJ referred to Redwall's Father Abbot as MORDALFUS! As any Redwall fan knows, the Abbot in Redwall was Mortimer. Mordalfus became Abbot for Mattimeo. Could this be a TV change? Not a chance, as Brother Alf, who is Mordalfus, has been featured walking right alongside Mortimer. Shame shame, Mr. Jacques. ;)

And so the experience continues. I'm still enjoying every half-hour I spend watching this interpretation of Redwall and I can't wait to see the rest. It will be a fun ride and I have to say I'm more than curious to see how they'll drag out what remains of the book for nine more episodes. ;) And, of course, there are more tapestry endings to see. Keep 'em coming.

See you next week.




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Matthias