The Ewok Adventure: Caravan of Courage

Once upon a time, many months ago, I posted a entry about my experience watching Battle for Endor. Since its been so long since my last entry, I thought I’d pick things up and visit the previous chapter to the Ewok saga – sort of the Attack of the Clones to A New Hope, if you will.

The last time I watched a movie for you, was Last Action Hero which featured Arnold Schwarzenegger doing his Arnold Schwarzeneggingist to portray a human actor, which as we all know, he failed on all fronts. This time I around, I watched a film where the majority of the actors are fuzzy bears with spears (and they say there’s no diversity in Hollywood), all displaying more emotion, and more depth of character.

So lets begin…

I’d imagine the pitch for this made for TV epic began with a producer and a network executive in a office somewhere:

Producer: “So our writers have a couple of storylines they’d like to share with you–“
Executives: One of them better be about Ewoks. Kids love ewoks.”
(Producer furiously starts scribbling notes one of the scripts)
Producer: Yep, got one right here. Its about a ewok and definitely not a jedi on a quest.
Executive: You know whats hot right now? That kid from E.T.
Producer: The boy who played Elliot? Don’t remember his name but I guess we could…
Executive: Sure, get him too if you can get the girl.
Producer: Drew Barrymore?
Executive: Is that her name?

And so on from there.  Basically try to imagine if Cindy and Peter Brady got marooned on Endor, and that one Ewok you remember from Return of the Jedi spent the whole movie flailing around and screwing everything up, you basically have a Caravan of Courage…

Which I can say there is a caravan, but there’s very little courage.  Mr. and Mrs Brady get lost while trying to find their kids, leaving their jobs to the figment of George Lucas’ imagination.

The kids wander into the Ewok village where Cindy, sorry “Cyndal” gets sick, blows their cover and throws the whole village in danger of contracting whatever virus she has but is foreign to them.

It should come as no surprise that this little angel is the best actor in the whole production. She cries real tears, she shows concern at the scene she’s in and she speaks her lines as opposed to shouting them like Peter Brady-Kenobi.

Before all this started, we were introduced to Wicket, aka, the only Ewok you remembered distinctively from Return of the Jedi, sets the precedent for what he’ll be doing for the rest of the movie: Flailing his arms like a mutant panda and screwing everything up. Like this scene where he nearly sends his father (? I think. Relationships among Ewoks aren’t clearly outlined) to a free fall of a death.

In a decision that required no deliberation, no planning and no forthought, the Ewoks decide to help the Brady kids find their parents. Probably because no one wants human kids around with free floating viruses that would no doubt be fatal to a fragile immune system.

Regardless, they head out on their “caravan of courage” which really is just 60 minutes of them wandering all over various landscapes, stumbling into dangerous situations either caused by Wicket or Peter Brady.

Awwwww…..

Look, I realize that Star Wars was ahead of its time with its special effects and there are just some things that you can’t do for television in the early ’80s. Which can be the only explanation for why a monster made of Play-doh comes out and tries to kill everyone.

Apparently it was terrifying, even though you could see the fingerprints on the clay.

 For those of you concerned with your childhood being killed at this point, may I remind you that that time has long past and I’m just here cleaning it up.

Most of this movie is narrated by a burly voiced narrator who reads it the same way one might read a childrens book.

“And so the children walked from dense forest to desert, back to dense forest where something jumped out at them and back into desert where Peter Brady complained the whole time.”

“Peter had a lot of unresolved anger issues which led him to threaten forest creatures with firearms at the drop of a hat. But they pressed on, hoping he would snap out of it.”

Lets go back into the forest, where the childrens’ minds are open just long enough to come face to face with this horrible demon possesed dried apple head.

And Peter Brady kind of sort of uses the “force.” Which he only does once and never does again when bigger things happen. Why? you ask. Its a good question, but it seems the movie quickly said, “Hey, what’s that over there!” which we then did and the movie quickly ran out of the room, jumped into its car and we didn’t hear from it again.

“So the children and the Ewoks wandered into this cave, and thought it’d be fun to climb this spiderweb. It was kind of dangerous when a spider was dangled down on a string and victoriously swatted away.

But they pressed on and made it to the other side, which they happened to realize led to where their parents were held hostage. They weren’t expecting that.”

I don’t know what this thing is, all we know that it grabbed Mr. and Mrs Brady, stuck them in a tiny cage. I also know it has a disproportionately small mouth that an Ewok couldn’t fit through. But hey, its George Lucas’ universe, we’re just stuck wondering what on earth he’s doing.

 I’m not defending the actions of kidnapping and terror but you have to admit this thing is probably just really lonely and wanted something to take care of. He lives in a cave that’s really hard to get to and hygiene is not a priority. People don’t come around and he’s not getting invited to any book clubs.

In the end, they rescue Mr. and Mrs. Brady, push the monster off a cliff and get one of their own killed. All three of these events were done with very little excitement, and there was some dull surprise at losing their fellow Ewok brother. Cyndal cried a little, but the important lesson  here is that when someone close to you dies in a horribly tragic way (say, falling to their death by rock slide and/or monster) its best to move on as quickly as possible. According to these Ewoks, they just forgot about the entire incident completely…

…and then they wrote a happy song about it. Because it was indeed a caravan chock full of courage (courage being dull surprise as you wander through one someone dangerous incident after the other)

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Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985)

A long time ago, in a TV far, far away….

If you’re anything like me, and I know I am, Star Wars holds a very deep personal and loving space in your heart (all Jar Jar and JJ Abrams jokes aside). Maybe you also felt a disturbance in the Force when it was announced that the new Star Wars movies would ignore the canon previously established in the number of books and graphic novels that have been released.  True, that may very well spell distaster, but when it comes to Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, perhaps its best if the new canon just pretends this never happened to begin with.

Before we begin, its only fair to point out, that you can either watch this movie through Netflix or on YouTube. However, if you want your own copy, its a little pricey…

When you think about it, YouTube is a real bargain.

So begins our long journey into sci-fi mediocrity…

I watched this – and not entirely sure what the plot was, but I’ll give you my impression. A sweet cherubic child witnesses the brutal murder of her parents by way of demonic extras from the Lord of the Rings set. Since she is all alone in the world, a Ewok takes her along a random trip through danger and pointless travels, all to watch Wilfred Brimley uncomfortably walk through scenes and climb up ladders. Also, there’s a power source that the forces of evil want, although we’re not sure why.

I understand that special effects for TV weren’t quite up to calibur that they are now, but the special effects of this look like a still background setting with pictures of mythical animals taped on it.

In true Lucas-ian style, we are given characters that are meant to be cute and therefore, “funny”. However, as I discovered, there was very little difference in the upsetting scale between those characters and the ones meant to represent the evil side.

Case in point….

Evil. Sure – I get it.

DEAR GOD, DON’T LOOK INTO ITS EYES! Get that kid away from that thing!

Just back away slowly from the Demon Squirrel – he only wants you for your soul….

Sure, she’s evil – but at the same token, she’s far less threatening than anyone else in this movie (the Precious Moments figure of a main character not withstanding) but I also get the feeling she was super helpful that time I shopped the clearance sale at Bath and Body Works.

The only reason I posted this screenshot is because I was secretly hoping this toucan/pteredactyl unholy union would end up being a a more central part of the movie.  It wasn’t. Also disappointing was the fact it didn’t eat the Ewok with its big goofy mouth.

Meanwhile, in a picturesque cabin in the woods….

Wilfred Brimley takes a moment to heft himself out of his chair and not talk about diabetes. He’s curmudgeonly and has no place for others in his life….or his oatmeal infused heart.

Did I say curmudgeonly? Don’t let the whittled flute fool you – there’s a scene where he kicks out the most precious child alive to starve and/or get eaten by a hastily  thrown together special effect.

“Being alone isn’t so bad…I grew a beard just so I’d have someone to talk to.”

Our bland little heroine is tricked by the song of a beautiful princess and a magic white horse.  Maybe our more cynical age would make this an eye rolling moment, but I’ll tell you this.  Had this happened to me, I would have totally fallen for it.

…and it turns out to be the evil witch, who kidnaps the little girl and makes off for a super evil castle that has no light, no plumbing, and no real floor plan.

It should be noted that  no one on Endor is teaching kids the whole “Stranger danger” lesson.

This is what the bad guys are after. After watching this movie, I have just as many answers for what it is, then had I just looked at a picture.

Meanwhile, the Ewok, a Demon Squirrel and Wilfred Brimley go to rescue the kid and use dialogue that narrates everything we’re seeing.

“Oh look, water.”

End scene.

 

Here’s one thing that this movie felt was none of our business: our villains (i.e. Night Manager of Bath and Body Works and the rejects from Lord of the Rings) don’t really have a clear objective.  They have a glowy lantern thing, they don’t know how to work it.  They kidnap a five year old expecting her to know how to work it. So the Manager and the little girl are thrown in prison until they figure what they’re doing.

Remember the trash compactor scene from Episode IV? Its like that but if you take away the action, or the urgency or the motivation, or even the interest to find out what happens next.

Meanwhile Wilfred Brimley lumbers from scene to scene – trust me, they weren’t paying him enough to run.

There’s a weird game of poker being played that’s meant as a “comedy” scene.

I can’t stare at these face and be moved towards laughter.  Its just not going to happen. You didn’t see Peter Jackson pulling this.

And just in case you were concerned that they only shot this movie in someone’s basement or someone’s backyard, here’s a shot of Ewoks running next to a very realistic painting of a castle.

Also a evil horsemen and his evil horse who may not have been informed that they are in a made for TV Ewoks movie and not an actual Star Wars movie.

The villains of this are understandably perturbed that there trip back home was but a small detour and here they are back again battling low rent Teddy Ruxpins.

Also annoyed is Wilfred Brimley, who’s fisherman’s hat says he had a fishing trip lined up, but was called back to set at the last minute.

“I had fish to catch and oatmeal to eat.  They didn’t pull this crap on Cocoon II.”

“I demand to lounge for the rest of the movie. This getting up business is for you young folks.”

KILL THEM WITH FIRE.

The battle ends with the villains being burned to a crisp by a Eddie Bauer camping lantern and Wilfred Brimley and child boarding a spaceship. Where are they going? None of our business.

Perhaps to another galaxy far, far away in a painting a long time ago.

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