I recently treated myself to an extravagant purchase. Like some kind of fabulously wealthy sheik to whom money means nothing, I went on eBay and dropped $50 on an out-of-print DVD.
Why? Because I wanted to see the rest of Star Wars.
We all know about Star Wars: the soon-to-be-nine episode saga of movies about the Empire and the rebellion and the Skywalker family. We all also know about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Disney’s upcoming lineup of additional spinoff movies. And we all probably even know about The Star Wars Holiday Special because we either suffered through it personally one night in a friend’s dorm room or we’ve heard it made fun of on The Big Bang Theory.
And that’s it, right?
Sure, there are a bajillion other Star Wars animated series, and computer games, and comics, and all kinds of other media.
But, as far as live action Star Wars movies, that’s it… right?
Actually, there are two other movies. Well, made-for-TV movies. From the 1980s. About Ewoks. Yes, Ewoks. The cute, cheerful, battle-hardened teddy bears.
These two movies haven’t been officially available since 2004, when a DVD release was made—probably for some kind of copyright or trademark maintenance reasons more than a desire to actually disseminate these to the public.
What you have to ask yourself is… was Leia meeting an Ewok your favorite moment in all of Star Wars? Did the the scene where the Ewoks take Han, Luke, and Chewie to their village leave you hankering to learn more about their complex society? Were you so disgusted that George Lucas added CGI eyelids to Ewoks for the newest special edition Blu-rays that you just want to see any bit of Star Wars that hasn’t subsequently been ruined with incongruous tinkering?
If so, I know just the thing for you.
Caravan of Courage
The first “Ewok Adventure” has a terrible title: Caravan of Courage. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t hear Caravan of Courage without thinking it’s going to be about Stormtroopers forcibly marching Ewoks on an Ewok version of the Trail of Tears. Thankfully, that’s not what it turns out to be. Participation in the titular caravan is entirely voluntary.
I don’t want to spoil the plot in case someday you watch these. Let’s just say, some kids get separated from their parents… and then they meet some Ewoks (including Wicket—the same Ewok who Leia met in Return of the Jedi!).
Are you going to like this movie?
Well, do you want to see a move about a little girl who looks like Shirley Temple and a teenage boy with an attitude reminiscent of whiny-Luke-on-Tatootine-I’m-not-such-a-bad-pilot-myself?
Do you enjoy movies where most of the dialog is in Ewok-ish, except for occasional wildlife documentary style narration by renowned crooner (and voice of Frosty the Snowman) Burl Ives?
Do you want to see something that’s going to have you go “this is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen” in the first ten minutes, before it kind of makes you want to fall asleep, before it then turns into a pretty decent and relatively-exciting mythopoeic story about an epic journey by a band of scrappy heroes carrying ancient talismans in a quest against insurmountable evil?
You could ask a lot of questions if you want. Exactly where were the kids during the first scene of the movie? Why is it called “the forest moon of Endor” if this much of it isn’t actually forested? Why does the giant have such fabulous hair? Is he in a hair band?
Who knows. None of that matters. The point is, don’t get mad at your parents because maybe your star cruiser will crash and you’ll never see them again and you’ll have to live the rest of your life in a hut with ferrets while eating blueberries out of orange peels.
The Battle for Endor
In case you thought the first Ewok Adventure had a terrible name, this one totally redeems itself in that department.
Just kidding. It’s called The Battle for Endor, which makes it sound like it’s about the battle at the end of Return of the Jedi.
Actually, though, the battle at the end of Return of the Jedi is the Battle OF Endor. This is about a totally different Battle FOR Endor. And these two Endor battles have about as much in common as my struggle to button my tight pants does with the actual Battle of the Bulge.
In case you were wondering what happened to the characters at the end of Caravan of Courage, this movie picks up right where that one left off. And then the Ewoks are immediately abducted from their village in a shocking, Trail of Tears type event.
This time, there’s no narration, but we do meet character actor and diabeetus spokesman Wilford Brimley playing a crotchety old hermit who lives in the woods like he’s six of the seven dwarves. Soon our heroes are fending off an evil sorceress (who’s totally not named Malificent) and infiltrating an ominous castle filled with basically, like, all of the least scary Deadites from Army of Darkness.
Again, you could ask a lot of questions. How is that spaceship going to fly in space if the gun turrets have open windows? What is the deal with that witch lady… is she yet another human who crash landed here? Does anything else come up if you Google “Wilford Brimley fight scene”?
I actually think I liked this one better than the first. The pacing is faster. There’s more action. The budget appears to have been higher (Wicket’s mouth moves!). It even manages to build genuine tension and then skillfully break it with clever, laugh out loud comedic moments.
My wife claims to like Ewoks but she didn’t like these movies. I said, “I’m sorry these aren’t the serious, mature, sophisticated films about Ewoks that you’ve apparently been wanting to see.”
I, on the other hand, loved them. I love the stop motion animation of the creatures, and the not-quite-John Williams theme music, and how the Ewoks always, always work together.
Do not expect anything remotely like the rest of Star Wars. These are not 1930s serial and science fiction inspired adventures. They are fantasy and fairy tale inspired stories targeted at children—in the same vein as other 1980s films like Labyrinth and The NeverEnding Story. There’s no mention of the Force or the Jedi or the Empire or anything else.
But if you’re tired of the space age and you just want to turn back the clock and spend some time hanging out with these little fuzzballs in the stick age, these could be the movies for you. Someday. When the rights are about to expire and they’re released again.