After the unquenchable thirst for more Star Wars content birthed the impressively ropey Caravan Of Courage back in 1984, it appeared that viewing figures would allow for yet another lower budgeted, Star Wars adjacent adventures starring the fuzzy marmite we commonly know as the Ewoks.
Thus Ewoks: The Battle For Endor was born barely a year later and thankfully a couple of arguably controversial tweaks and revisions made it play noticably better than it’s painfully dodgy predecessor.
Still more reminiscent of the creaky sword and sorcery movies produced by Charles Band than anything that’s emerged from a galaxy far, far away before or since, Ewoks: The Battle For Endor is a fun, cheesy watch despite the fact it doesn’t even have an accurate title – it’s not even set on the titular planet for a start and the battle isn’t “for” anything.
It’s been six months since the Towani family crash landed on the surprisingly popular moon of Endor and they’ve been chilling with the native Ewoks ever since. However, since repairs on their ship are nearly finished, it’ll soon be time to leave this peaceful life of endlessly combing ticks out of bear fur and eating whatever the fuck Ewoks live on (Stormtrooper leftovers, I’m guessing) behind, but their celebrations – and lives – are cut short when a beastial group of creatures called the Marauders descend on the village and do what marauders do best. Stealing the ship’s power core and making youngest Towami Cindel, the latest orphan in Star Wars’ parade of parentless wonders, they want the power the core contains and takes the little girl and a bunch of Ewoks hostage for no other reason than they obviously have no idea what they’re doing.
After being broke out by Wicket, the leading man of the Ewok species, both he and Cindel vow to find and rescue his captured brethren, but not before hanging out with Teek, a native, super-fast creature that resembles a mutant rabbit with disturbingly pronounced crow’s feet in a seemingly deserted hovel carved into a tree. The real estate belongs to a human hermit by the name of Noa who seems primed to take the gold in the Belligerent Olympics and has been also stranded on the forrest moon long enough to become a curmudgeonly hoarder who still yearns to go home. After being captured by the Sorceress Charal and delivered to the Marauder leader Terak, the villians unreasonably seem to think that if they yell at a pre-teen girl loudly enough she’ll suddenly knows how a fucking spaceship works, so this buys Wicket, Noa and Teek enough time to storm the Marauder’s castle and break everybody out. Again, not exactly a battle for Endor; but then calling the movie Battle For A Bunch Of Ewok Captives And A Little Girl wasn’t going to do anyone any favours…
While the previous budget restrictions are still in full effect (stop motion effects that’ll cause a brain hemorrhage, halloween level rubber masks), the makers of this second punt at Ewok supremacy ends up being far more enjoyable than the first thanks to the film making some hugely seismic changes to the first movie’s status quo that are as surprisingly ballsy as they are weirdly successful.
Firstly, in an attempt to avoid having the audience attempt to decipher ninety more minutes of alien, teddy bear gibberish, the movie simply makes Wicket fluent in english having learnt it off Cindel. It’s change that’s as genius as it is lazy (why couldn’t Wicket get a solid grasp of English in six months) and not only does it save us the need for a clumsy narration but it actually enhances the relationship between him and Cindel which leads to her being about 25% less annoying than before.
Speaking of diluting annoying child characters down, the alarmingly dark first fifteen minutes straight up ELIMINATES 75% of the original human characters who shuffle off to become one with the Force in a child friendly version of the opening village attack in Conan The Barbarian. It’s yet another lazy/genius move from the script that seems dead set on callously removing as much of the irritating shit of the first film as it can – which means that the immolation of terminally annoying older brother Mace equates to a mercy killing in my book. It seems that Cindel agrees with me considering she seems to bounce back from her family’s annihilation impressively quick.
The final piece of this misshapen puzzle arrives in the form of none other than Wilford “Diabetes” Brimley who plays the Noa, the grump with a heart of gold, and watching Blair from The Thing constantly scream at an adorable little moppet and a glassy-eyed teddy bear because they’ve made a mess or lit a fire proves to be oddly watchable. In fact Brimley admirably takes this crap seriously and even gets down to being a honest-to-God action hero a good few years before he played Jean Claude Van Damme’s Cajun, mountain-man uncle in John Woo’s Hard Target. Don’t believe me? Watch his damn face when he’s fighting Terak during the climax – I think he’s legitimately trying to fucking kill that guy!
Like the very best movies that offer a sizable wedge of cheese to the audience, Ewoks: The Battle For Endor actually gets better the more holes you decide to poke in it: How does Noa manage to update the prescriptions on his glasses if he lives on a world where the nearest opticians is obviously light years away? If he’s been so desperate to return to civilisation, why didn’t he reveal himself to the Rebels or even the Empire during their respective occupations? And if the answer to the above question is that The Battle For Endor is actually set before Return Of The Jedi then why doesn’t Wicket speak english when attempting to pick up Leia?
It’s all goofy stuff and maybe the loving (yet definitively separating) subtitle of Star Wars Vintage that Disney+ has bestowed on it hits the nail on the head more than you initially realized. This isn’t cannon (even though the featured Blurrgs previously seen in the Holiday Special have since been resurrected in The Mandalorian), this isn’t lore (even though Cindel apparently grows up to be a journalist on Coruscant), and this certainly isn’t supposed to be taken seriously, but in the pre-prequel days of the saga, this was the best you could get that wasn’t a book or a comic.
So spare a thought for Wicket as Ewoks your world…