Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Monday, November 16, 2015

Recent Watches: Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985)

Even though it was a cheesy kid’s movie, it’s no surprise that “The Ewok Adventure” would be successful enough to warrant a sequel. The first film was obviously created to cash in on both the popularity of “Star Wars” and the high marketability of those fuzzy teddy bear creatures. By all accounts, George Lucas and his team envisioned the ewoks movie as an ongoing series. “Ewoks: The Battle for Endor” premiered on TV nearly a year after the first “Ewoks” movie, shown on Thanksgiving of 1985 as a holiday specials. Despite the ambitions for many more ewok adventures, this would be the last movie in the series. This also makes it, oddly and unexpectedly, the last live action “Star Wars” movie for nearly a decade.

Some time after the events of “Caravan of Courage,” Cindel and her family have acclimated to living among the Ewoks. Cindel has even taught little Wicket how to speak English. Just as the family is about to repair their spaceship, a traveling army of Marauders attack the village. Cindel’s family is killed and the ewoks are captured, only the little girl and Wicket escaping. In the forest of Endor, they meet an old hermit named Noa, who takes them in. Soon, the Marauders captured Cindel, forcing Noa and Wicket to rescue her.

“The Ewok Adventure” was a pretty soft and silly kid’s flick. It had monsters, danger, and even an ewok dying. However, the good guys won, the heroes survived, and the focus remained mostly on the cuddly teddy bear creatures. “The Battle for Endor” is far more violent then its predecessors. Within the opening minutes of the film, Cindel’s mother, brother, and father are all killed. She sees her mom’s dead body, watching the light on the life monitor bracelet blinking off. Considering her big brother Mace was a major character in the first movie, seeing him die within minutes of the sequel is a major surprise. A chase through the bad guys’ lair has one ewok picking up a blaster and taking out several of the villains. The climax of the movie is a full-blown war, as Wilford Brimley blasts Marauders with his ship’s cannon and the ewoks shoot enemies with arrows or spears. It’s no more explicit then “Return of the Jedi” but, considering this is a movie targeting a younger audience, the heavier violence is surprising.

Despite being heavier in tone then “Caravan of Courage,” “The Battle for Endor” is still obviously a kids’ movie at times. From the first scene, Wicket is conversing in English with the little girl. Considering Ewoks had only previously been seen speaking their own languages, it’s a bit startling to hear one having full conversations in English. While in the forest, the two meet Tek, a strange monkey-like creature that can move at super speed. This leads them to Noa’s lodge. Wilford Brimley plays the old man and brings a curmudgeonly edge to the part. As you’d expected, Brimley’s heart almost immediately softens. It’s not long before he’s comforting the little girl after she has a bad dream. Despite featuring more action, there’s still a lot of goofball comic relief in “Battle for Endor.” However, the silliness sometimes jives badly with the action.

Tonal shifts aren’t the only odd switching around the movie does. Despite featuring space wizards and magical psychic powers, “Star Wars” is still a science fiction franchise. The second “Ewoks” movie moves the series more directly into fantasy. Among the Marauders is a witch who, with a magical ring, transforms into a raven or other forms. The Marauders are treated less like an alien race and more like fantasy monsters. They consider Noa’s spaceship magic, having never encountered space travel before. They wield swords, live in a castle, and storm villages in covered wagons. The evil leader of the bad guys, played by future Lurch Carel Struycken, is defeated when his magic crystal is shattered, his body burned to a crisp by magic waves. On paper, combining sci-fi and fantasy troupes is interesting. In execution, it leaves the audience with a bit of whiplash.

The whole movie is honestly a lot like that. The special effects and production designs remain excellent. The Marauder ride around on these weird reptile creatures, which look a little like piranha with feet. The make-up for the Marauders and the Ewoks are both convincing. The movie is definitely fun at times and Wilford Brimley helps a lot. However, the TV flick is definitely not as satisfying as the one that came before. So maybe it’s for the best that no further ewok adventures would be made, even if both of these movies are way better then you’d expect. [6/10]

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