Film Review: The Ewok Film Series (1984-1985)

I really liked the Ewok films when I was a kid. I didn’t even care that there weren’t lightsabers and Star Destroyers.

So how would I feel about it as a 38 year-old adult? And right after watching the six theatrical Star Wars films again? Review on those, coming shortly.

Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984):

Release Date: November 25th, 1984
Directed by: John Korty
Written by: George Lucas, Bob Carrau
Music by: Peter Bernstein
Cast: Eric Walker, Warwick Davis, Fionnula Flanagan, Guy Boyd, Aubree Miller

Lucasfilm Ltd., Korty Films, Walt Disney, 97 Minutes

Review:

“A rock? These little bears are nuts!” – Mace

These were television movies and they were unlike all the other Star Wars films before them. These took place entirely on the Forest Moon of Endor and were about the Ewoks who live there. According to various sources, they take place just before the events of Return of the Jedi. Which is strange, considering the Ewoks meet humans and Wicket can speak basic (or English) and then in Return of the Jedi, they try to barbecue humans and then can’t speak a lick of basic. Also, there is no Imperial presence or half-built Death Star in the sky. Let’s ignore those details however.

These movies didn’t hold up in regards to special effects. There is a lot of really outdated stop motion. This is mostly used while the heroes are fighting big creatures but it is a definite step down in quality from the theatrical films. I can’t hold that against these movies though, as they were made for television and had a very limited budget compared to the bigger films before them.

Caravan of Courage is still pretty easy to watch and it is entertaining. It makes the Ewoks more relatable and it delves into their culture more than their limited presence in Return of the Jedi. It also expands everything you think you know about Endor. It is more vast than what you can take away from Return of the Jedi. And these films’ existence, is probably why I don’t dislike the Ewoks in Jedi when so many other fans do. Caravan of Courage succeeded in making the Ewoks more than just space teddy bears.

In this film, the story follows Mace and Cindil, who are shipwrecked on Endor. They meet the Ewoks and enlist their help in trying to track down their missing parents. There are challenges every step of the way. There is also a lot of use of magic, which makes these films feel more like Tolkien than Lucas but in a galaxy with the Force, is it really that implausible? Besides, I don’t think that these are considered canon anymore, after Disney bought the franchise.

Caravan of Courage is a heartwarming movie, it plays pretty quickly at 94 minutes and is full of enough adventure to keep you engaged.

Ewoks: The Battle For Endor (1985):

Release Date: November 24th, 1985
Directed by: Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat
Written by: George Lucas, Jim Wheat, Kim Wheat
Music by: Peter Bernstein
Cast: Wilford Brimley, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller, Paul Gleason, Carel Struycken, Niki Botelho, Eric Walker, Sian Phillips

Lucasfilm Ltd., Walt Disney, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Star cruiser… crash, crash!” – Wicket

The second movie is the better of the two. It also brings in more characters and is lead by Wilford Brimley, most known for Cocoon, The Thing, Our House and commercials about oatmeal and “DIABEETUS!”

Where the first film relied on narration to talk about the Ewoks, this chapter quickly pulls the other Ewoks out and focuses on Wicket, who can speak basic very well. It makes the interractions between Cindil and Wicket more direct.

In this movie, Cindil’s entire family is killed by barbaric marauders and the Ewoks are captured. Wicket and Cindil escape, meet Teek (a speedy alien) and a grumpy old man named Noa. Together they go on to rescue the Ewoks and save the day, conquering the evil space barbarians and a witch that can turn into a bird.

Okay, the summary sounds ridiculous but it works for the film.

This movie is just better than the first in that it starts off treading some dark territory but evolves into a film about friendship, love and compassion. It brings together strangers and shows just how broad “family” can be.

Also, Wicket isn’t just a child Ewok in this movie, he is actually pretty bad ass.

The direction was good, the acting improved, the sets were better, the world was bigger and the score was really good for not being done by John Williams.

Yes, these films feel dated but who cares? Both are still pretty watchable and one could argue that they are better than the Prequel Trilogy. I’m not the one to argue that, I’m just saying one could.

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