Everyone loved Isabeau, or at least lusted after her, including the Bishop
of Aquila. But her heart
belonged to the captain of the guard
, Etienne Navarre. They began to see each other in secret
; the only ones who knew were themselves and the priest
they both went to for confession
. That was Imperius the monk
, who told the Bishop about their relationship
, unaware of the trouble it would cause.
The Bishop was furious. He decided that if he couldn't have her, then no one would. He made a deal with the devil that cast a curse on the lovers: by day she would be a hawk, and by night he would be a wolf, "for as long as there is day and night, as long as they both shall live." In their animal forms, each had the mind of the animal, knowing only that a paricular human was special to them. For but a moment at sunrise and sunset, they can see each other in human form, not even long enough to touch.
And this is where our story begins.
Actually, it begins first with our third main character, Mouse, who is escaping from the dungeon. His insane call mate tells the guards exactly where he went, but they don't believe him, because Mouse went down a tiny drain in the floor of the cell.
Mouse swims through the sewers and comes up just outside of town. All through his escape, he is talking to God, and at one point he promises never to pick another pocket if God will let him get out safely. Having done so, he then cuts a purse and says that God of course knew what a weak-willed person he is and therefore didn't actually expect him to keep the promise.
With the help of Navarre, Mouse narrowly avoids being recaptured. Navarre makes him stay and travel together, stating his request for Mouse's help sneaking back into Aquila. The first night, they sleep in a barn, and Mouse sees Isabeau, whom he later calls Ladyhawke, and a large black wolf. It is much later that he finally understands what the situation is, and that's when his role becomes more than the comic relief that keeps this movie from being a typically annoying tragic love story. He begins to pass messages between the lovers, only he elaborates on them. It is his intervention (and lying!) that gives them the hope to go on.
During a fight with the guard, Isabeau is felled by a crossbow bolt, and Navarre sends Mouse to Imperius (who is now living in a ruined building in the middle of nowhere) to take care of her. Imperius tries to convince them that there will soon be a time that there is no day or night, during which Navarre and Isabeau can go before the bishop as man and woman and thus break the curse. Mouse believes him, but Navarre does not - he just wants to kill the bishop, although Imperius insists the curse can never be broken then.
To convince him to try, they set a trap during the night, so that Isabeau and the wolf will be together at sunrise, and Navarre will be willing to take the chance that Imperius is right. It works, and they enter the city at night with Navarre in a cage, supposedly to give him to the bishop, who has set a bounty on black wolves in the hopes of killing Navarre and getting Isabeau for himself.
After a stirring swordfight in the church, Navarre looks up to see that the sun is going dark. But he thinks they have already lost, and so he is about to kill the bishop anyway when Isabeau appears in the doorway and calls his name. She comes forward, and they force the bishop to look at them together.
As they are embracing in joy, Imperius tells Mouse that he wants to see him in Heaven, to which Mouse replies that he will be there, "even if I have to pick the lock."
The effects are fantastic for mid-1980's, and in fact, I think the movie on the whole benefits from the lack of easy CGI. Instead of showing Navarre morphing into a wolf, we see him running, frantically trying to remove his armor as the sun sets, then he disappears behind a hill, and the black wolf bounds over the crest. Instead of watching Isabeau's entire body turn into a hawk, we see her hand against the sun, rays streaming between her fingers, and then aflapping wing. They focus in on the eyes, changing from human to wolf or hawk, or back again. The scream of a falling woman shifts just a little to become the cry of a soaring hawk. It is in a way much more artistic, and better suits the mood of the piece, mystical and mysterious.