So once again we have survived.

Ewoks: Caravan of Courage / The Battle For Endor

tn_ewoksYou may not pick up on it, but I sense a strong anti-Ewok sentiment in our culture, even to this day. It might seem like an insignificant hatred compared to that of Gungans and Prequels, but it exists. I think it’s mostly people who were in their teens or early twenties when RETURN OF THE JEDI came out, and had to prove they were big boys by rejecting what they thought the kids liked. To this day they call this proud people who helped defeat the Empire “teddy bears” and other slurs. The Ewoks were just product placement to sell dolls and they ruined Star Wars by being too furry and cute, they say bitterly, before clicking “favorite” on an adorable cat video.

As I’ve argued before, this viewpoint is ludicrous. The cuteness is a deliberate juxtaposition – they’re cuddly, but they try to roast Han on a spit, they bludgeon Stormtroopers to death with rocks and use their helmets as drums. Saying they shouldn’t be cute is like saying Rocket Raccoon shouldn’t be a dumb little raccoon, he should be a big muscular tiger man. It’s missing the point. Furthermore, it’s not the first time this trick was used in the Star Warses. The Jawas were cute little dudes who make adorable squeaky noises, but also they were sleazy Droid-poaching pricks. It’s a Star Wars thing.

So I am staunchly pro-Ewok, but I can’t really defend CARAVAN OF COURAGE (or THE EWOK ADVENTURE as I seem to remember it being called when it was a TV movie in November, 1984). Still, I thought it would be worth revisiting before Disney’s Star Wars Episode 7 The Force Awakens rewrites history so that the war never ended, robbing the Ewoks of their signature victory.

mp_ewoks1This is a lower budget, lower excitement Star Wars spin-off with a story by George Lucas, teleplay by Bob Carrau (Ewoks cartoon, Alvin & the Chipmunks cartoon), directed by John Korty, who had done famous TV movies like GO ASK ALICE and WHO ARE THE DEBOLTS? [AND WHERE DID THEY GET 19 KIDS?], as well as the Lucas-produced animated feature TWICE UPON A TIME. I’m not sure if this is considered canon anymore because it doesn’t have R2-D2 and C3PO in it as official endorsers, and there is no opening crawl. Instead there’s narration by Burl Ives (WHITE DOG). It might actually be part of the Rankin-Bass Frostyverse.

The narrator’s actually a good idea. Since the Ewoks don’t speak English (or “Basic Space English,” as we hardcore Star Wars Trekkies know it’s officially called), he’s able to explain what they’re doing sometimes, and it kind of seems like some old Wonderful World of Disney documentary. The production designer is STAR WARS vet Joe Johnston, art director is Harley Jessup, who had done TWICE UPON A TIME and is now a Pixar guy. The music is not John Williams, but Peter Bernstein (SILENT RAGE, PUPPETMASTER VS. DEMONIC TOYS) does a decent job of following somewhat in the vein of his Ewok themes.

We see the familiar treehouse matte paintings of the Ewok Village, but they must’ve torn down the sets, because we mostly see the Ewoks in other huts built on the ground. According to Wikipedia this takes place between STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE, so I am surprised to learn that Princess Leia is not the first human that Wicket (Warwick Davis) hung out and ate snacks with. The adventure happens when a hang-gliding Ewok (Wicket’s dad I think?) finds two human kids who survived the crash of their family’s “star cruiser” and have been separated from their parents.

If you think any version of Anakin Skywalker was whiny just wait til you meet Mace (Eric Walker). This kid’s a total douchepod. He threatens the Ewoks and shoots at them with a laser gun blaster and still keeps pushing them around and yelling at them even after they provide shelter, food and medical care. The second his ailing sister Cindel (Aubree Miller) eats up all the naturopathic medicine he starts yelling at them for being out of it. Throw this brat to the Sarlaac. He’s worse than a damn Goonie.

The girl is not nearly as much of an asshole, and wears a cool headband like she could be the little sister in a BREAKIN’ movie, but she repeats that she’s sick and that she wants her mom so many times you start hoping for a coma. When Mace points at his mouth and asks the Ewoks “Food? Do you have food?” you hope the response in Ewokese translates to “Yes, yes we are going to eat you.” Actually, when they first found the kids they held up their spears and almost skewered them, which was not a bad instinct.

We learn a little bit about the Ewok culture. When they set out to find the kids’ parents, Logray gives them each a sacred totem representing different Ewok warrior traditions. Mace of course complains that his is “just a stupid rock.”

The highlights are the occasional matte paintings, puppet bits and Phil Tippet stop motion animation. Also the bad guy is a giant Orc type guy called the Gorax:

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He’s pretty cool looking but all he does is keep the parents in a bird cage type thing in a mountain castle until the Ewoks come and fight him with axes. I don’t really know what his deal is. He’s just some kind of brainless fee-fi-fo-fum type of individual, I suppose.

Also on their way there they have to climb across a spider web and get attacked by very chintzy giant spiders, which was the inspiration for the Punky Brewster episode that one of the HOBBIT movies was adapted from.

Unfortunately because the budget is low, the forest moon of Endor has an awful lot of the same animals we see on boring old Earth: lamas, goats, a ferret, chickens, a rabbit. At least some of the ponies are miniature, so the Ewoks look cute on them. (Sorry, there are cute parts.)

Wait a minute, that's not Wilford Brimley!
Wait a minute, that’s not Wilford Brimley!

The second Ewok TV movie was EWOKS: THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR, which aired a year later and is such an enormous improvement that I kinda liked it. I’m not saying it’s STAR WARS good, or that there is any sort of battle for Endor in it, but it has way more of the kind of stuff I want to see in a movie like this. More creatures and special effects, less regular humans, except for Wilford Brimley living in a Yoda type house. And way more stuff happens. It’s pretty cool.

This one was written and directed by Jim and Ken Wheat, the brothers who wrote THE SILENT SCREAM, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4, THE FLY II and PITCH BLACK. They also wrote the unfinished 1987 version of APT PUPIL that was gonna star Ricky Schroder as the kid and Nicol Williamson as the Nazi. Actually, these Wheat brothers probly have not gotten enough credit over the years for an interesting body of work. Somebody should look into these guys.

Their installment seems to be trying a little more for a traditional fantasy type of feel. There’s an evil sorceress lady named Charal (Sian Phillips, CLASH OF THE TITANS, DUNE) who turns into a raven. That’s kinda strange to see in a star war. There’s a journey and a castle. They talk about magic power alot, but not The Force. I think the idea is that this is Endor and/or a moon of the planet Endor, and it is a primitive moon, so the shit that goes on here is less spacey and more hobbity. Or more Willowy. I definitely think Lucas was going through a hobbity phase and was trying to get that out in these movies but then he still had some left so he made WILLOW.

There’s one major thing I should warn you about though. It happens right at the beginning and it’s kind of a shock. Let me show you what I’m talking about:

still_ewoks12
Yeah, Wicket speaks some English now. He’s been hanging out with Cindel for a year, so it rubbed off on him. And maybe Burl Ives wasn’t available.

Also, Cindel’s whole family who she rescued in the last one get murdered right at the beginning like it’s ALIEN 3 and then she and the Ewoks get abducted and taken away in a cage. But #1 I was really happy to be rid of that horrible brother, and #2 you’re still reeling from Wicket speaking English, you’re not gonna be upset about people getting shot to death and stuff.

I mean, this adds further confusion. If this is before RETURN OF THE then why didn’t Wicket use any English with Leia? This doesn’t seem to fit. I hope this will be explained in THE FORCE AWAKENS. Otherwise I just don’t know what we’ll do.

Since Wicket talks he’s a little more expressive, more mouth movements (though his eyes always look crazy). Davis has some good acting moments, getting across gestures from inside that furry suit. Also there’s a part where he does this excellent HOME ALONE impression:

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At the beginning of the movie Wicket and Cindel skip around together having a lovely time when suddenly the village gets attacked by savage alien dudes. There’s a pretty cool battle between the arrow-shooting Ewok tribe and the blaster-using marauders:

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Their leader is the gigantic Therak, played by Carel Struycken (THE ADDAMS FAMILY, TARZANA), who is trying to get his creepy hands on some kind of power that he keeps asking Cindel’s dad about threateningly, but he really has no idea what the dude is talking about.

Right away this is a clear improvement over CARAVAN because you have this whole army of these guys battling the Ewoks and, although in many ways they are the bad guys, they cannot be praised enough for murdering her brother Mace. Obviously they care about making this a watchable movie, and deserve credit. The filmatists also went through the trouble of replacing her original father with Paul Gleason, only to kill him off right at the beginning. She doesn’t see it, she’s been kidnapped with some Ewoks in a wagon made out of a ribcage, and she has this Fitbit type bracelet thing with lights on it that she’s been wearing since the first movie, and we find out when the lights go out that its purpose was to tell her which of her family members were still alive. She tells Wicket that her whole family is dead. But don’t worry:

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It’s every child’s dream! Wicket is her best friend and the Ewoks are her family. Kinda creepy though, I think some of those Ewoks forgot to put their eyeballs in that day.

Luckily Cindel and Wicket are able to slip out of the wagon and escape. They find a weird creature named Teek who zips around in fast speed like The Flash and leads them to an adorable little cottage in the woods and brings them food. It turns out an ornery castaway named Noa (Wilford Brimley, HARD TARGET) lives there. He acts like Cindel and Wicket are pests, but quickly warms to them and practically adopts them as his kids or his kid and his dog or something.

I was wondering why we seem to run into so many humans on Endor. It seems like maybe it’s just an easy place to crash. Cindel’s family crashed there, and Noah crashed there. Noa actually has been stuck here for years because he needed the same engine part that Cindel’s dad had just found that was gonna get them off the planet. Unfortunately that asshole Terak took it because he thinks it’s some kind of magic crystal or some shit.

Eventually Noa and Teek decide to help Wicket and Cindel go up to Terak’s castle and get their god damn Ewoks back. They go on a journey together and it’s very LORD OF THE RINGS as they travel through the previously unmentioned rocky area of the forest moon of Endor. Don’t these remind you of Peter Jackson shit right here:

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Obviously this TV movie from the ’80s is where Jackson got the idea to create the fantastical world and characters of LORD OF THE RINGS. Even more incredibly, Wilford Brimley’s character Noa…

still_ewoks7

…is quite clearly the basis for George Roger Rabbit Martin, author of the Beauty and the Beast TV show as well as the Game of Thrones books.

This not only has way more makeup effects than the first one, it also has more stop motion. There were a few bits in the first one, but this one is almost like a Ray Harryhausen movie. Some of the marauders ride on upright animated lizards, and Wicket has to fight a dragon thing in a cave that snatches Cindel and flies away with her. Stuff like that.

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This one also has a little kernel of truth in the story, because it’s all about how the bad guys steal the power source that Cindel’s dad needed to fix their spaceship to get them off this damn planet. They think it’s some kind of magic, and they demand that he and then Cindel show them how to use it. They don’t understand that it’s technology. So what we have here is superstitious people fucking things up for everybody. When I watched this it made me think about our own country and people who stand in the way of scientific progress, whether it’s global warming or stem cells or what have you. But then a horrendous terrorist attack happened overseas, based on a particularly medieval interpretation of a religion, so I had to think of that too. I don’t mean to undermine the seriousness of these atrocities by comparing them to the damn Ewok movie, but my point is that the kind of things that happen in the world today are already in these old stories because this shit has been happening forever. Superstitious assholes fuckin it up for everybody else.

Dude, if you choose to believe in magic because it’s too hard to read a book about space ship engine repair that’s fine. But don’t push your ignorant ways on me. I got places to go.

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I did wonder why they didn’t understand this technology but had blasters. I decided maybe they just found some crates of them somewhere and didn’t really understand how they work. Or some scoundrels somewhere sold them to them and fucked up Endor. Bad enough having to worry about getting snatched by a Gorax or crashed into by some dumb human’s falling spaceship, now the marauders got lasers.

I got a kick out of a couple moments during the prison escape sequence that seemed overly harsh for such a whimsical fantasy adventure. First there are guards playing a card game, and Teek slips a card in one of their sleeves to make it look like he’s cheating. They pull out their blasters and kill each other. Nobody seems surprised or upset about this. Then they find that sorceress Charal in a cell next to the Ewoks, because Terak turned on her. Normally in a story with this tone they would let her out and she would have learned her lesson and return the favor by helping them. In this one Wicket is about to let her out until Cindel yells “NO! SHE’S EVIL!” and throws the keys down a drain.

The ending is great. Noa gets his ship working after all these years and, though he has made a home and friends here, decides to leave. Cindel, though Wicket and the Ewoks are her family now, decides to go with him. So Wicket and Teek have to say goodbye and watch them fly away.

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You see! It’s a double E.T. ending! The girl was Wicket’s E.T. and the Wilford Brimley was Teek’s E.T. But they have to let their E.T.s go home, and be good and I’ll be right here and all that, and hopefully now they feel better about the divorce or whatever.

According to once-canonical, now-heretical Star Wars reference materials, Cindel grew up to become a journalist on Coruscant. I’m sure her experiences on war-torn Endor informed her work.

It’s worth checking out the double feature Ewoks DVD just for the second one. The bad news is that it’s out of print and expensive to buy, and I don’t know what kind of chances there are of Disney ever re-releasing it. Fortunately I still have a video store to rent it from. So there are some cases where being behind on the technology is actually better. I would compare this more to the Ewoks being good with spears and gliders and less to the marauders preventing people from using their space ships. Some day physical media may help topple the Empire.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 1st, 2015 at 12:45 pm and is filed under Fantasy/Swords, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

67 Responses to “Ewoks: Caravan of Courage / The Battle For Endor”

  1. I was planning to rewatch these soon (I bought the DVD set when it came out) but Vern beat me to it.

    I am also pro-Ewok, though I controversially prefer the choral piece that has replaced the “Yub nub” Ewok song in the modern versions of RETURN OF THE JEDI.

  2. I remember both of these but in my mind I combined them into one movie. Maybe I taped them back to back? I agree about the Ewoks, sure they were cute but they were also feral little things. And these movies inspired my first fan-fic. I wrote 5 or 6 stories starring Cindel and Wicket. thanks for the reminder about these movies. I may have to find the video store you use and rewatch them with my kids.

  3. Is it weird that I think BATTLE FOR ENDOR is probably the movie which feels most legitimately like STAR WARS since RETURN OF THE JEDI? I defend the prequels, and I’m sure I’ll find things to like in the new ones, but ENDOR just feels so perfectly in line with the tone of the originals. It’s sort of silly and ridiculous, but very earnest and committed to its world. It has a lot of fun characters, a simple storyline which is augmented by bizarre and whimsical flights of fancy, and rich production details which really make the universe it sets up come alive and feel vital and lived-in. It’s enough to REALLY make me wish the future STAR WARS movies would be more like this, little side tales set in the same universe. Not big-budget epics, but little explorations of the delightful minutiae of all these wonderfully-imagined worlds.

    If there’s anything truly special about STAR WARS, it has to be that the universe Lucas created feels so expansive and inviting that you will always be able to just enjoy the experience of being in it, of meeting its oddball inhabitants. This is a TV movie made for peanuts, but honestly it’s every bit as engrossing and delightful as most huge budget epics these days, just for the sense of fun the way the gleefully imaginative weirdness packed into scene after scene still feels grounded and believable. Of course stuff like this is happening in the STAR WARS universe; yeah, there are rebels and emperors and stuff, but there’s also lots of guys like Wilford Brimely here, just small-timers trying to get by in a big, crazy universe.

    I like that.

  4. The Ewok movies were set before Return of The Jedi!? Right now my childhood is going through the rape scene in Irreversible because George Lucas had talking Ewoks that wouldn’t speak to Princess Leia etc etc.

    Seriously though, I loved these films as a kid and have forgotten about them until now. I had them rented out for me as a kid but could never figure out who the Peter Pan dude was on the cover of The Battle For Endor. Was that the kids dad who got wasted at the beginning?

  5. Wikipedia says they take place before Return of the Jedi, but I don’t know if there’s any way to prove this.

    Yeah, I think that’s supposed to be Paul Gleason, made to look more badass. It’s funny that they make a guy who’s in two scenes look like the main character and leave off Wilford Brimley altogether. Even one of the lizards they ride on is treated as an important character on there.

  6. WTH the Punky Brewster clip, HAHAHAHAHA!!!!

  7. I saw both of these movies, in the wrong order, when I was a little kid. I forgot almost all of it except that I thought Battle for Endor was a bit better.

    This was a very entertaining and hilarious review, and I’m sure reading it beats rewatching these movies. Thanks, Vern.

  8. The Original Paul

    December 1st, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    If I was stuck on Endor and had to choose a companion, pretty sure Wilford Brimley would be high on my list. (Alyson Hannigan may be higher though, and for very different reasons.)

  9. I’ve never seen any of these. I used to see them at the video store everytime and just asked myself: “why did they even make these?”. They could’ve spent the resources on straight to TV WILLOW sequels or spin offs instead.

  10. Sidenote: I’m really gonna miss not shooting the shit with you guys about SW in a couple of weeks. Especially since we always have awesome and rational dialogue about the series unlike the rest of the net. But I have to stand by my convictions. No Abrams movie gets my boxoffice or concession stand money. I’m sure it’ll be on Spike TV soon enough anyway.

  11. Official Cast and Plot Details for HARD TARGET 2.

    Rhona Mitra is in it!

  12. As a kid, I was actually a fan of the EWOKS cartoon before I even knew that STAR WARS existed. It was also before I knew that the EWOKS cartoon itself existed because, initially, I was only given the cassette tapes featuring the show’s audio with added narration. The lack of the sub-par animation actually improved the content no end and allowed me to come up with my own imagery. I loved those things. Then I saw ROTJ and was majorly bummed that Wicket, Teebo and the others here basically had no personalities to speak of AND looked like they’d been resurrected after a run-in with a more than unqualified taxidermist long after they’d died.

    I taped the TV movies at some later point but could never get into them because, obviously, the Ewoks looked even worse for wear than they’d done in ROTJ and I HATED Cindel with a passion. I also forgot what happened to the Marauders in the end – did they survive? Where the fuck were they when the Empire started to build its base? Wouldn’t that be something that would’ve pissed them off in a major way? Are you telling me the Empire managed to shut them down, but then lost to the Ewoks?

  13. I hereby grant this review the “Best Thing I’ve Read Lately” award. Congrats, Vern!

  14. Oh yeah, on the subject of the marauders and their curious use of blasters despite their lack of technology otherwise… I like that their blasters all look ragged and primitive. They look like they’re old and falling apart, but they don’t really know how to fix them. You can well imagine that they found them somewhere, maybe from another crashed ship on Endor, and simply started using them without really understanding how or why they work. They get that it has something to do with power cells, so when they see a huge one for the spaceship, they figure it must be an ultimate weapon of some type. Just another example of the little details which really sell this universe.

  15. The Ewoks never bothered me, but you gotta admit it’s a shame they didn’t go with the idea of having them be Wookies instead and take place on the Wookie homeworld instead of Endor, that would have been 1000 times cooler, but Lucas’ laziness and cheapness nixed it, which is too bad.

  16. I have to challenge that, Griff. How is inventing a different culture, played by little people, lazy or cheap compared to if he did a planet of Chewbaccas? It seems to me it has to be of greater or equal difficulty and expense. More importantly, the Ewoks being physically small and low-tech is crucial to the theme of the movie of humble, unimportant people overcoming the vast, technologically superior Empire (an echo of the first movie, when Luke defeated the Death Star by turning off his equipment). If it had been Wookiees, which are larger and stronger than humans and know how to fly Millennium Falcons, it would erase the entire meaning and underdog appeal of that battle.

    Furthermore, you say “Lucas’ laziness and cheapness” as if this is a known thing, but how can you possibly argue, based on his extravagant productions, that he is known for laziness or cheapness? I don’t think Anakin having corny dialogue is strong enough evidence for that.

    I know you didn’t mean anything by it and I’m not trying to start an argument, but this is the kind of kneejerk smugness that everybody does on the internet because if it’s anti-Lucas everybody’s supposed to agree with you. But sometimes it simply is not true. No matter how much you hate the prequel trilogy, to claim that the person who made them is cheap or lazy just does not make sense.

    p.s. Ewoks

  17. Look at me not talking about Star Wars, even when inflammatory, reactionary, and brazenly incorrect taunts are made! My will is mighty! Now I just have to stay strong for a couple more weeks and it’ll all be over! if only there were some Star Wars-related motto that could give me fortitude in these troubled times!

  18. Crushinator Jones

    December 3rd, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Lucas isn’t lazy and never has been. As much as I don’t like his stance on releasing original version of Star Wars and Empire and Jedi he’s a good filmmaker who puts a lot of effort into shit, particularly on the technology and business side of filmmaking.

  19. Ok, guess it’s time to clarify things, the whole reason, Vern, the Wookie idea was scrapped was because Lucas thought it would be too expensive and difficult to construct a whole bunch of Wookie suits and hire a bunch of actors tall enough and thought “what if we made suits for little people instead?”

    I’m not saying Lucas is ALWAYS cheap and lazy, just sometimes, it happened again on much larger scale later on with the prequels, the reason so much of them were filmed on giant green screens is because Lucas hated shooting on location during the original trilogy and wanted to minimize the amount for the prequels so he could sit back and relax in his chair and drink coffee while filming.

    Look, I know we’re all pretty sensitive when it comes to Lucas criticism here and just to clarify things further, I agree that a lot of these fanboys take Lucas bashing way too far, they just take it so damn personal that they didn’t like the prequels, the whole “Lucas raped my childhood” thing is of course ridiculous and offensive.

    But at the same time, let’s not go in the opposite direction and make Lucas beyond criticism, nor pretend that the prequels are without any flaws.

  20. Where did you read that, Griff? I thought the reason it was changed to Ewoks was because Lucas’ idea of a primitive race of stone age Wookiees didn’t really gel with what we’d seen of Chewbacca as a pilot/spaceship mechanic. I think the prequels are terrible, but “lazy” and “cheap” aren’t adjectives I’d ever use to describe Lucas.

  21. I read that somewhere on the net, but I can’t remember where exactly.

  22. Griff is right about the Wookies. See #9 here and in many other ROTJ behind the scenes pieces:

    30 Things You Didn’t Know About Return of the Jedi

    Tomorrow sees the 30th anniversary of the release of Return of The Jedi. To celebrate, here are 30 things you might not have known about the movie.

    However, lots of films change from the initial idea. You can’t get too hung up on what was “supposed to be.” Some of the best decisions in movies came out of necessity. Case in point, original concept for Han Solo was a green scaled alien. I’m sure we all agree that wouldn’t have been better than badass Harrison Ford.

    t recall also hearing that there just weren’t enough tall actors who could stand alongside Peter Mayhew, but I can’t find that tidbit sourced.

  23. Here are some facts:

    @FranchiseFred, Griff is wrong. Read Griff’s statement, then read #9 on your list. CrustaceanLove is actually correct.

    After abandoning the idea of Wookies, Lucas and his team in fact developed two creatures, one who would become the diminutive Ewoks, the other were these tall, long-legged things called Yussem(?) which the Ewoks occasionally used as mounts, and which got tossed out during preproduction because they decided it would be too hard to film the tall and short creatures at the same time in any given shot.

    MANY cast & crew disliked the Ewoks and expressed confusion/dismay at George’s insistence that they remain in the movie. Kasdan argued that they not fight the Imperials, simply that they give aid to the rebels. One of Lucas’s assistant directors got stuck filming Ewok celebration pickups and hated it, begging Lucas to take him off it. Mark Hamill thought they should have been more rat-like, with more “sinewy” limbs. And Harrison Ford has famously referred to them as “teddy Bears.” If you read Rinzler’s huge coffee-table MAKING OF books you will learn these stories and see that I am right.

    I think the concept of the Ewoks is Fine, and I loved the movie as a 5-year-old. To this day, I do not hate the ewoks, and even though I don’t consider JEDI my favorite, I don’t honestly pin this on their inclusion. I like the forest environment, I like that they are primitive and savage, I like the scene where Threepio tells them the STAR WARS story in their language (complete with sound effects) and I have always preferred the original YUBNUB ending.

    As for Lucas being Lazy…

    He wasn’t at all during the original trilogy. He worked his ass off for ten years. He changed cinema, changed special effects, became a retail tycoon, and his marriage fell apart.

    Fast Forward 15 years and you have a different man. He had become insulated, and YES, lazy. I don’t want to get into it now, Vern, but I know what I’m talking about. This fact has been hammered into me for the last 15 years. From experience. From wanting to know and finding out. The prequels fail on almost every level. And that’s fine. He owes me nothing, and the rape didn’t really feel that bad.

    Also, he sold it for 4 billion, not 5.

  24. I still think if Lucas would have been lazy, he would have never bothered to put out the Special Editions. And Special Editions of the Special Editions, with even more tweaks and changes. He would have just sit lazily on his pile of money and watch it grow from the version of the movies, that he delivered in the late 70s/early 80s. He also would have made the prequels as re-hashs of the original trilogy, to make sure that the fans love them. (I mean, they spent a shitload of money on them anyway, so the gamble paid off.) Not to mention that he wouldn’t have shot them in mostly green screen environments, using special effect technology that was often created for these certain movies, in a time when “This movie was only shot in front of green screens” was still something abnormal!

    You may not agree with his choices, but my textbook definition of “lazy” is a different one than yours.

  25. Lucas changed his incredibly successful, record-breaking, universally-beloved trilogy because of insecurity. It’s weird and ironic, but it’s true.

    He refused to release the original versions after the fact because he’s childish.

    I know this because I have made things (yes, including movies), have appreciated them for what they are (flaws included) have been proud of the work I’ve done, and have been able to let it go and move on to other things.

    True, Lucas wasn’t as lazy as the 20-something sponge asking for money on the sidewalk outside of my work, or as lazy as the worthless fat uncle of mine who has lifestyled himself into a wheelchair – but how much “HARD WORK” goes into telling CGI artists how a robot should move, where to put it, and telling someone else what it should sound like, all so he can make 2 seconds of his already successful film into a “Truer Vision?”

    Lucas stopped being a genius a long, long time ago.

  26. And as far as the prequels are concerned, the LAZINESS I refer to is mainly:

    1) The development of and scrutiny paid to the screenplay/characters

    …and…

    2) The energy he exudes while directing and filming (and sitting in his chair while drinking coffee).

    Watch the behind the scenes footage. You will see.

  27. But can we all agree that a small, primitive people overthrowing the Empire is one of the main themes of the movie as is and that it is weird to want to dump that out of the movie just because at one point they hadn’t planned it that way? I mean, to me it is clearly better.

  28. The Original Paul

    December 4th, 2015 at 2:04 am

    On the “Lucas is lazy” question… just consider this.

    Think about all of the fantastic things they could’ve done with the prequels. All the directions they could’ve gone in. Then think about the actual result. Think about the directions they chose to go in.

    Lazy? I’d say so! Whether or not this is Lucas’ fault of course, I don’t know. But he’s the “face” of them, so he’s the person that people who disliked the prequels blame for them.

  29. The Original Paul

    December 4th, 2015 at 2:12 am

    Vern – as far as the Ewoks go, I’m right there with you in principle. In practice… I think that whole section of RETURN OF THE JEDI drags. But I don’t think it’s the fault of the Ewoks. I really could’ve done without the “misunderstanding” between Han and Leia that really drags as well. Honestly I’d be happy with a version of ROTJ that has Luke’s rescue of Leia, then the finale, and skips the whole midsection altogether. It’s a film where the good parts are really, really good, whereas the not-so-good parts feel completely disposible.

  30. I will confess though the Ewoks are just on the cusp though for me, Star Wars was never as “cutesy” before them and they do stick out like a sore thumb as a bit of an too obvious attempt to appeal to really little kids, what saves them though is that they are actually pretty cute (especially the baby ones) and they don’t speak human language, unlike a certain Jamaican accented alien.

    They don’t come close to ruining ROTJ for me though because I’ve always had a soft spot for ROTJ, it’s got an early 80’s look and feel to it that I just love, ANH and EMPIRE are very much late 70’s movies, but ROTJ has got some of that post RAIDERS, post E.T. movie magic to it, I especially love the dark, dank environment of Jabba’s palace, it almost feels like a Star Wars version of an Indiana Jones location.

  31. It has become increasingly annoying hearing STAR WARS-fans complaining that their beloved series is too kid friendly. May I be slightly condescending in suggesting try watching movies made for adults. And I don´t mean pornos.

  32. There’s a difference between kid friendly and cutesy, kid friendly only means “this movie has no graphic violence, foul language or explicit sexual content” it’s in no way indicative of something’s quality or even necessarily it’s target audience.

    Something can be kid friendly and still an excellent piece of work, hell something can be “kid friendly” and still be scary as hell, you ever seen RETURN TO OZ? That movie will scare the shit out of you no matter how old you are, STAR WARS was always meant to be something anyone could watch and enjoy, kids included.

    Cutesy to me means pandering, too on the nose, throwing something in your movie that is solely meant to amuse the really little ones at the cost of the rest of the audience’s enjoyment is not the way to go and the Ewoks are just on the cusp of that.

  33. I like STAR WARS just fine. But more for lightweight fun entertainment. Nothing more. I have no problem with JarJar or the Ewoks. they are there for the kids, so that is fine. Even though I prefer the Ewoks for the same reason Vern and other have mentioned.

    And if you have a problem with other people enjoying something that you don´t like, I am sure the shit goes two lane. It´s for everyone, as you said, so deal with the cutesy stuff and enjoy the rest.

    I just don´t get why some people gets so worked up about it and every goddamn time the discussion starts to sound like a broken record and it is tiresome.

  34. I don’t get worked up over the Ewoks, I don’t hate the Ewoks, but I just think Wookies would have been a lot cooler.

    I mean you have to take “the rule of cool” into account, which I feel was a pretty big emphasis in the first two, the first two movies were all about stuff that was cool, even Yoda was a cool little guy.

    And what’s cooler, little teddy bear dudes fighting the Empire, or a big fucking Wookie jumping out of the woods, yelling “ARRRRRROWEEEEGGGGGH” and tearing a Stormtrooper’s Goddamned arms off and then beating him to death with them.

    I just really like Wookies you guys.

  35. Ewoks are awesome and Return Of The Jedi is awesome and the prequels are all right sometimes terrible but enough times awesome too. Ewoks Rule.

  36. WWE wrestlers are cooler than hobbits, too, but replacing the small person who no one took seriously with The Undertaker would change the meaning of the story pretty drastically and not necessarily for the better.

    (although I would watch it. Maybe that’s a bad example.)

  37. And I’d also say that those calling the prequels “lazy” on Lucas’s part… he didn’t have to write and direct them himself, you know. If he wanted to just be lazy, he could have hired safe, predictable studio guns to crank out sequels and spinoffs until the franchise was run into the ground, like Disney is doing. He decided to do it himself.

    Now, there are definitely aspects of the prequels which aren’t that good, and even things which Lucas openly admits he didn’t really care about. I mean, he openly says that he pretty much improvised the plot as he went along. But not caring is not the same thing as being lazy. Alfred Hitchcock openly admitted he didn’t really care at all about the process of filming and working with actors — was he lazy? No, he was just interested in other aspects of the process. In Lucas’s case, he’s manifestly much more interested in the tech and the worldbuilding of the series, and he put enormous personal effort and resources into it.

  38. Griff if you want more Wookie action I’m pretty sure they got their moment in the Star Wars Christmas Special. My kid memory recalls they actually visited Planet Wookie, where we met Mrs Chewie and little rugrat Chewies.

  39. Crushinator Jones

    December 4th, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Anyone remember Lucas’s disastrous attempt to make a Star Wars Film Noir: “Here’s Wookin’ at you, Kid”?

  40. The Original Paul

    December 4th, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Shoot:

    “It has become increasingly annoying hearing STAR WARS-fans complaining that their beloved series is too kid friendly.”

    Most of the “Star Wars fans” you speak of are probably about twelve years old and got introduced to it by their SW-loving parents.

  41. Apologies for my confusion. I thought the debate was whether the Ewoks were supposed to be Wookies originally, so I meant to confirm that they were. I should have read more carefully.

  42. “But can we all agree that a small, primitive people overthrowing the Empire is one of the main themes of the movie as is and that it is weird to want to dump that out of the movie just because at one point they hadn’t planned it that way?”

    The issue here is that an interesting theme alone is not enough to make a movie a classic.

    For example Rocky is not just memorable because it talks about “going the distance”, but because we LIKE Rocky, and because his journey is believable withing the rules of its universe.

    Having some little bears defeat the Empire with sticks and stones is a very forced way to convey the theme of ROTJ. It’s also unnecesary because the Rebellion had already been stablished as the underdog before this movie. And I’m not saying they should have used Wookies instead, but even if they had, it would have still worked because no matter how tall they are and how well they can pilot Millenium Falcons, they are still underpowered in relation to an Empire that can destroy a whole planet in a second.

  43. Wookies can just use blasters and war machines against the Empire’s blasters and war machines, that’s not necessarily an interesting battle. Is there anything memorable about the battle that involves wookies in the prequels? I don’t remember anything about it. Ewoks don’t have blasters or war machines, it makes for a way more memorable battle.

  44. @Mr. Subtlety that’s a fair point about not caring vs. being lazy. I think the energy level he displays is telling, but it’s not causal, and he’s always been that way now that I think on it. So you’re basically right.

    Here’s a fun fact:

    Besides playing Artoo, Kenny Baker also played “Paploo” the ewok, the one who hops onto the speeder bike in JEDI. His character was originally named “Wicket” and was slated to perform the scenes with Fisher later on. But Baker got sick (or was injured, I can’t remember) and meanwhile the behavior of this 12-year-old kid, Warwick Davis, caught their attention. They liked his mannerisms, so they decided to let him try the scenes, and it worked. Sorta makes you wonder if they’d have made these movies later on, because little Wicket really became the face of the Ewoks – being the cutest one.

  45. my sisters and i practically wore out a vhs of battle for endor before we even knew caravan of courage existed, which lent an air of nihilism to the the whole thing being about her family, since we knew they were going to be instantly slaughtered in the next movie. this, along with the fact that as vern pointed out, battle is just way better and has more creatures and stuff, meant that we just kind of ignored caravan and kept rewatching battle.

  46. There seems to have been some debate here regarding what the word “lazy” actually means.

    Lazy means doing less work. It definitely doesn’t mean putting more and more work into something most people thought was already finished (as Lucas did with the SEs). That might be insecure, misguided, whatever, but it is not “lazy”.

    Lucas has made mistakes both big and small, but it’s funny to think that a director-producer who has managed companies and invented new technologies was some sort of slacker. (Especially when compared to the people hurling the insult.) In fact, history tells us it’s the opposite – Lucas’ workaholic habits were what ended his marriage with Marcia Lucas following the completion of RETURN OF THE JEDI.

    As for “cheapness” … Lucas has put a lot of his own money into his movies. People who are cheap tend to get other people to foot the bill.

  47. grimgrinningchris

    December 7th, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    Also…I am certain that there are more little people actors in Hollywood than there are 7 foot tall actors in Hollywood. Populating and entire Wookie village at the time (based on the template created by Mayhew/Chewie) would have been REALLY tough at a time before CG.

  48. The Original Paul

    December 8th, 2015 at 4:57 am

    Maybe it’s not laziness, it’s just a question of priorities. To use an example picked completely at random:

    When making a film, it’s a good idea to prioritise creating a believable world filled with relatable characters and exciting stories to tell.

    It’s a bad idea to prioritise making sure that the CGI sand, and Natalie Portman’s torso, are as shiny as possible.

    In related news, a filmmaker’s priorities can always change from film to film; although in Lucas’ defence, in “Attack of the Clones” Natalie’s torso is very shiny.

  49. I want to apologize for calling George Lucas “lazy” and “cheap”, it was a poor choice of words and too harsh, harsher than I really meant.

    What I meant is simply that I think it’s a shame the original idea of the Wookie homeworld didn’t come to fruition, maybe it simply wasn’t feasible to construct that many suits and find enough actors tall enough to play the parts, I don’t know, but while I don’t hate the Ewoks it’s too obvious a compromise of Lucas’ original vision to me and I think that’s too bad, that’s all.

    In my mind’s eye I can see a more epic, badass version of JEDI where the Wookies, though they may be able to wield weapons, are still a guerrilla force fighting the Empire in a dank, misty forest, sort of like Vietnam in outer space.

    Can’t we agree that’s a cool idea? After all it was Lucas originally conceived.

  50. I got an idea, what if one of these spinoff STAR WARS movie ideas is about just that? A fight between Wookies and the Empire on their homeworld?

  51. The Empire built their shield generator on Endor because they assumed the Ewoks were harmless, and then obviously they couldn’t just bomb Endor to get rid of the Ewoks since their own generator was there.
    Now, since everybody knows Wookies are dangerous, the Empire would obviously never build anything on their planet, and if for whatever reason they absolutely needed to get rid of the Wookies they could just destroy their planet without having to send ground troops. And I guess the Wookies could retaliate by flying spaceships to go destroy the fleet that’s bombing them, and obviously we all love a good space battle but would a space battle be automatically better just because half the pilots involved are Wookies?
    I don’t know, to me the whole “give us a battle with Wookies” thing seems like one of those “internet good ideas”, like “let’s put bacon in everything”, “Benedict Cumberbatch!” or “Snakes… on a plane? Take my money already”.

  52. The Original Paul

    December 9th, 2015 at 5:22 am

    Well sounds interesting to me. But then I’m the guy who hates Yoda (fucking condescending little sock-puppet) so my opinion doesn’t count.

  53. The Original Paul

    December 9th, 2015 at 5:24 am

    Toxic – I had pancakes with syrup and bacon the other day. And it was delicious! Thank you Internet.

    What I’m saying is, don’t throw out everything the Internet says just because “Snakes on a Plane” was a bit of a dud.

  54. I like bacon and Benedict Cumberbatch alright, what I’m saying is they don’t automatically make ANYTHING better. You’ve probably heard of bacon toothpaste, or Star Trek into Darkness, or those “funny” posters and t-shirts they sell online with “Keep calm and bacon” or “Keep calm and Benedict Cumberbatch”.

    Chewbacca is a cool character, I’m glad he’s back for the sequels, but I don’t remember anything particularly cool about the “battle of the many chewbaccas” in Revenge of the Sith, so maybe we can agree that, even though “big internet boner” doesn’t automatically mean “bad idea”, more often that not it means “really not as cool as it may seem on paper”.

  55. The Original Paul

    December 9th, 2015 at 11:35 am

    I gotta be honest… I have not heard of bacon toothpaste.

    I don’t remember a Chewbacca battle in ROtS either, but I think my memory deleted most of that film as an act of mercy around about the time Ewan MacGregor and Hayden Christiansen started surfing on rocks in the middle of a giant CGI lava pool. (When just breaking immersion isn’t enough, you want to smash immersion to bits and then use those bits to smash it into smaller bits, use lava-surfing! Or – to use a more contemporary example – just have Tom Cruise dive headfirst into a giant stone arse. That works too.)

    Any of you Americans actually seen this new STAR WARS movie yet? We get it in a couple of days’ time, which normally means you guys would’ve seen it three months ago; but apparently (given what Vern’s wrote) this isn’t the case now. I’d like to know if anybody’s caught a preview or anything though.

  56. Paul, it officially comes out Friday here in the U.S., though technically it seems to be in theaters on Thursday as well.

    However, I have already seen it because I am a time-traveller from the future, and I can confirm that Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon do indeed appear in it. And you have no way to prove that I’m lying.

    Seriously though, I think big events like a new Star Wars are happening simultaneously around the world in order to cut down on spoilers and piracy. In the reverse direction, this is why new Doctor Who episodes now air in the U.S. on the same day as they do in the U.K., when there used to be lag of at least a week or two…

  57. (Thursday/Friday of next week that is – sorry for the confusion)

  58. Regarding boners and coolness, TOXIC is one hundred percent correct.

    A Wookie War just wouldn’t have fit the theme. Bear in mind that George Lucas had LOTS of ideas and concepts that he toyed with, most of which existed since before STAR WARS even began preproduction. Putting aside all other truths and theories, I believe the moment he made Chewbacca a supporting character was the moment the wookie idea died. When JEDI came around it was time to invent a new creature, with a new language and everything.

    So I’m glad the idea got tossed out, and didn’t give enough of a shit about REVENGE OF THE SITH to care by then. What the hell even happened in the Revenge Kashyk (?) battle? I remember Yoda fleeing with his new BFF Chewbacca (sans Han Solo, and fatter). Was the point of showing the Wookie battle just to tell us where Yoda was? I hated that movie.

  59. Christof, your theory is confirmed by Lucas’ own words. See the 1983 documentary FROM STAR WARS TO JEDI, 53:27-54:36

    From Star Wars to Jedi

    From Star Wars to Jedi

    “In the original screenplay it was a society of Wookiees who had this giant ground battle with the Empire at the end of the film. And also space battle, they were trained to fly ships, and they were able to take over the Empire. Well, in the evolution of the script I realized I couldn’t do this giant battle.

    “When I came to the third film, and the battle was back in again, and I could actually do the battle, I couldn’t use Wookiees, because I’d established Chewbacca as being a relatively sophisticated creature. He flies spaceships, runs around, he’s not the primitive that he was in the original screenplay. So I had to develop a new kind of Wookiee – or a new kind of creature that was primitive, and a new primitive society. So what I decided to do was, since they were the underdog, so to speak, what I’d do is instead of making them incredibly tall the way Wookiees are, I’d make them incredibly short. And at the same time, to make them look different from Wookiees I’d give them short fur instead of long fur. That’s really where the Ewok evolved.”

    P.S. I spent my childhood reading or watching anything I could find about Lucas and Star Wars, and I’m always surprised that the rest of my Star Wars-obsessed generation didn’t. They have watched these films a zillion times and yet they don’t have the most basic knowledge of these films’ themes or origins, even though such information was very widely disseminated – at the time, and in the years since – in numerous interviews and articles and documentaries.

  60. I knew that story, Curt. But I’m not talking about Star Wars right now or for the foreseeable future. You can see me not talking about Star Wars right here on this very websight, in fact. It’s very impressive if I do say so myself.

  61. Remember when Caravan first aired, it was just called The Ewol Adventure? Once there was another Ewok adventure they had to give it a different name.

  62. The silence is deafening. Stay strong Mr. M! Just one more week and then you can let it all out!

  63. Talking about Star Wars right in the middle of everyone’s post-midnight showing sugar rush is the last thing I want to do. The tentative plan is to maybe quietly see a matinee in the middle of January when nobody cares anymore, then sit with my feelings for a bit until I’m sure I’m not being an asshole. I’m hoping my thoughts at that time will be sonewhere in the neighborhood of “It was okay, for what it is. I liked the part with the lightsabers.”

  64. Yeah, reading reviews, first impressions, talkbacks, basically anything on the internet will be a goddam overload after seeing THE FORCE AWAKENS. The threads are going to be more epic than the movie.

  65. My God, words really cannot express how bad Caravan of Courage is. I don’t want to pick on kids but HOLY SHIT their acting is so bad here, I can’t understand how these two passed an audition, much less beat out other actors. People make fun of Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher all the time but this is not the same thing. This is next-level “I don’t get why there aren’t Troll 2-style memes/gifs featuring these two performances.” The girl literally doesn’t seem to be sentient, it’s like she speaks all her dialogue phonetically. And Vern is absolutely not exaggerating how horrible the brother Mace is (yes, I guess Mace is a common name in the Star Wars Universe). People want to call Luke whiny?? They have no idea that Mace is Anakin at his worst x 10. (Is Rey the first non-whiny protagonist in a Star Wars movie?!? Holy shit I take back every word I’ve ever said about her being overpowered. She’s a gem and I love her now.)

    Every second Mace and his punchable face is onscreen lasts an eternity- this movie is agonizingly slow, boring, and has a story that can be told in under 30 minutes. The FX are hilariously shoddy (you figure coming out 1 year after ROTJ they’d get any budget they asked for) and the whole thing feels like a student film where they kept the first take on every single shot. I was supposed to watch Battle for Endor next but I’m contemplating shooting myself in the head now just to get the taste out of my mouth.

  66. I still don’t get the “Rey is overpowered” thing. Yeah, she’s good at action movie stuff, so was Luke, so is every action movie protagonist ever, big deal.

  67. Battle for Endor is like freaking Star Wars compared to Caravan of Courage. It’s nothing to get excited over, but it’s coherent and seems to have a budget higher than $20 and the camera actually moves and there’s more than like 4 people on the screen at the same time. Sure, it seems like a dry run for Willow with castles and moats and doesn’t feel like Star Wars at all (even though I guess some EU stuff says the witch here was actually a Sith, etc..) but whatever, it’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

    Plus Wilford Brimley actually classes up the proceedings – the idea of him challenging the villain to a big staff fight at the end seems ridiculous, but that’s what makes it work – this old man knows he doesn’t have a chance in hell of beating this guy, but he’s gonna try even if it costs him. That kind of good-natured heroism was pretty much absent from the prequels and I’m glad it seems to be back in fashion with the new trilogy.

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