Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
So Disney+ has been dropping some vintage Star Wars content of late. First we had the animated series Star Wars: Droids and then they put up the two 1980s Ewok television films Caravan of Courage and The Battle for Endor.
As a longtime Star Wars fan I had heard about these films but I had never seen them. And what I had heard did not make them sound all that great. But I like to judge things for myself and as a completionist I like to check out as much content as I can of my favourite franchises. Heck, I even subjected myself to the torture of the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, and if I can watch that, I can watch ANYTHING. So with a starcruiser-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s check out both Ewok films and see if either or both are worth revisiting:
Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984)
The plot of Caravan of Courage is a simple one. The Towani family (mother Catarine, father Jeremitt, teen son Mace <not Windu> and young daughter Cindel <not Sindel from Mortal Kombat>) have crashed their starcruiser on the forest moon of Endor (the planet of the Ewoks we see in Return of the Jedi). We meet them sometime after the crash and the parents are looking for the siblings. Before they can find them they are captured by the giant, troll-like Gorax and Mace and Cindel have to team up with the Ewoks to rescue them.
I’ll just come out and say that Caravan of Courage is not good. At all. Firstly, the Ewok costumes look much cheaper and less believable than the ones we saw in Return of the Jedi. And the Ewoks only speak Ewokese so we only understand what they are saying by excessive voice over narration. Warrick Davis is back as Wicket but his eyes look super creepy now. And it is hard to suspend one’s disbelief that you are looking at Endor and not an earth location when you see a goat, a llama, a ferret, a chicken and an owl. When we do see actual creatures it’s not much better as we are “treated” to a rat dinosaur thing with cheesy stop motion effects, a skunk Muppet-looking thing and one super fake-looking giant spider. Moving from the organic to the mechanical, the model for the starcruiser is relatively small but when they go inside the interior is huge. Is this a TARDIS?
The story was written by George Lucas but it is your usual kids’ fantasy nonsense complete with a tickling fairy-like creature and an ogre-like monster to defeat (the above-mentioned Gorax). But the film’s biggest problem is Eric Walker as Mace. Aubree Miller is not that bad as the sweet, cherub-faced, space Shirley Temple-looking Cindel but Walker’s Mace is just terrible. His robotic line delivery and awful dialogue combine for an ear-burning experience. Lines like “I will be mom and dad” and “That’s dad. Where is dad? Where is it? It looks like a monster” will make you want to stuff your ears with bantha fodder. And his flight suit looking very similar to Luke’s flight suit in The Empire Strikes Back was likely a visual way to evoke the same emotions connected to the franchise’s iconic hero, but Luke this is not. Definitely not.
Caravan of Courage was a long dreary journey into boredom and I spent half the time looking at the time. This one is not worth revisiting unless you are a diehard completionist.
Editor Jules’s Score: 3 out of 10
Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985)
First things first, I have to talk about the movie poster pictured above. You see the Han Solo-looking dude in the middle? I have no idea who that is. It could be Jeremitt or Mace though it looks like neither of them. And any way, they are both killed early in the film (more on that soon) so it would make no sense to advertise them on the movie poster. Well, I guess it would make sense if you wanted to fool audiences into believing there was a Han Solo-like heroic character in the film rather than the hero being the pudgy and avuncular Wilford Brimely (more on him soon too). But misleading posters aside, this film is thankfully much, much better than the dreary Caravan of Courage. And it is also much darker and violent than the first one. And I dug that.
We pick up almost six months after the events of Caravan and Wicket and the other Ewoks are now relatively fluent in Galactic Basic Standard (what we hear as English). They also added some articulation to their mouths to make their speaking look more realistic. After an idyllic scene of Cindel and Wicket strolling through the forest picking flowers the Ewok village and the Towanis are attacked by alien marauders led by the vicious Terak (played by the extremely tall Carel Struycken aka Lurch from The Addams Family films) and the witch-like Charal (played with scenery-chewing glee by Siân Phillips of the original Clash of the Titans and 1984’s Dune).
The Marauders capture the Ewoks and blow up Mace and his injured mother in front of Cindel.
Cindel escapes with her wounded father Jeremitt (now played by The Breakfast Club’s Paul Gleason) but he sacrifices himself so she can get away. And it’s all for naught though as she eventually gets captured and is placed in a wagon with the Ewoks. If the creatures the Marauders are riding look familiar that’s because the Blaargs show up again in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and The Mandalorian. I do enjoy some inter-film continuity. On a side note, if you’re wondering if the films are canon, they are not. Feel free to add them to your head canon though. Now let’s move on.
Cindel and Wicket manage to escape through a hole in the wagon. They are then befriended by a small, mischievous, super-fast creature called Teek (one of the few whimsical and child-friendly aspects of the film) and meet his outwardly gruff but really kindhearted master Noa (the late Wilford Brimley of The Thing and Cocoon), a pilot who got stranded on the planet years prior.
The second act is a little slow but the relationship between Noa and Cindel is very sweet so I didn’t mind too much. When Cindel is kidnapped by the Marauders as part of Terak’s search for a way to activate a mysterious “power” (actually a ship’s energy cell) the action picks up again. And the third act is really what makes up the film worth watching.
After Noa, Wicket and Teek rescue Cindel from Terak’s stronghold we get to see the titular battle for Endor as Noa and the Ewoks battle the Marauders. And it is surprisingly quite action-packed. While not on the scale of what we see in Return of the Jedi, we still get to see Marauders taken out with arrows, spears and a catapult. And you know what Return of the Jedi didn’t have? Blaster-wielding Ewoks blasting away fools. It’s as cool as it sounds. And speaking of blasting, we also get to see Noa blasting away at Marauders with his ship’s cannons. That was fun too.
After Noa saves Cindel from Terak and defeats him in single combat the Marauder threat is neutralised. Cindel says a sad goodbye to Wicket and the Ewoks as she and Noa leave on Noa’s ship. A decent end to a surprisingly decent movie which I would recommend.
Editor Jules’s Score: 6 out of 10
So are you a fan of the Ewok films? And you can check out more articles from a galaxy far, far away below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.
Your eyes may be playing a little trickery on you because I do believe MOST of the Ewok Costumes in Caravan of Courage are the same exact costumes used in Return of the Jedi. I’m about 99 percent certain that Wicketts costume IS the exact one from Jedi. I really don’t see a change in the eyes……what IS different however is the lighting and cinematography, they didn’t use the same people or put in the extra care as the theatrical films did. So, that takes away the overall effectiveness of the costumes. This film in particular was lit terribly, it looks fake…..hence the “cheap” looking costumes….assure you they are the same costumes
You may be right. I looked it up and the only mention about the costumes is that they had to add eyelids to the masks for the sleeping Ewoks. I’m thinking together with the lighting some of the costumes may have experienced wear and tear as well.