We’ve got a strange one here.
In-between the two Star Wars trilogies, George Lucas’s filmography gets a bit weird. He took a long break from directing, but he involved himself with a number of strange projects to varying degrees of involvement and success. Probably his most successful project during that time period was Indiana Jones (directed by Steven Spielberg). He produced movies like The Land Before Time (great movie), Howard the Duck (not so great of a move). He even made a few cameos, like in Men In Black and Beverly Hills Cop III.
Among his many works, he came up with the story for a series of TV movies based on the ewoks from Return of the Jedi. He originally came up with the story for a one hour special, although the writer and director stretched it to a 2-hour special. Enter Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure. Taking place on the forest moon of Endor, this movie stars two children in a family of four, who some time ago crash landed on the planet. It also stars a group of ewoks who help them find their missing parents. In case you feel like seeing this movie, I won’t say anything else about the main plot, not that the spoilers would be huge or unexpected.
Having witnessed the disaster that became of the Star Wars Holiday Special, George Lucas wanted a lot more control over the Ewok special. Although the movie was directed by John Korty and written by Bob Carrau, Lucas stayed involved through the entire creative process. Korty had known Lucas for a while before working on the project. A brief look at his experience as a director shows that he mostly focused on TV, but he made the odd film here and there, moving in and out of mainstream filmmaking and independent work. One of his films, 1964’s Breaking the Habit, received an Academy Award nomination for Documentary Short Subject. He’s done other work that’s been well received by those who know about it. Sounds like a decent choice to direct an Ewok special.
Most of the movie was filmed in the northern California redwood forests. The movie features the last intensive stop motion animation that Lucasfilm ever used, with superior go-motion on the rise, yet it was too expensive for a TV project at the time. They also used a technique to photograph matte paintings that was also used in 2001: A Space Odyssey, to help with some of the specific backgrounds.
Along with Warwick Davis portraying Wicket from Return of the Jedi and a couple other ewok cast members returning, you’ve got the human cast. The most notable member is Eric Walker as Mace Towani. He’s a boy who sounds like he’s very early on in puberty. Walker was surprisingly complex and talented as a young, showing a wide range of emotions. He grows from a skeptical, hot headed boy who doesn’t trust the ewoks, to a bit of a leader. He learns to trust and rely on the ewoks to not only help rescue his parents, but for some of them to protect his sister while they wait behind. His performance is probably the best part of this movie.
The other kid though … she’s very young. She spends most of the movie staring at things and looking cute. Thankfully she’s not an obnoxious character or anything. There’s just not much there to talk about.
I remember seeing and enjoying this as a kid, but now, it’s slow and boring. It takes place in an expanded Star Wars universe, but taking on a bit more of a fairy tale story. The forest moon is enchanted here, with ewok priests using strange magic, a pond that traps the boy underneath when he merely touches it, and strange creatures not existing in the movie.
There’s also a narrator who keeps explaining things that even kids can figure out just by watching the movie. The narrator tells us that the father ewok is searching for two of his sons with a glider, and then you see him do it. The narrator says that after finding his sons, he decides to check out a shiny object he noticed, and then you see them do it. At the same time, there’s this bizarre moment where the ewok priestess holds out a crystal, and when the boy touches it, it turns into a lizard. When the girl picks up the lizard, it turns into a mouse. Apparently that was some sort of test, but the narrator doesn’t explain what any of that means.
He’s completely pointless.
With all that criticism though, there is some decent action in this movie. And the ewoks are taken more seriously than in Return of the Jedi, showing that they can be capable warriors despite their size, and they do have some sort of culture beyond living in tree huts. It is a neat look at the kind of culture they may have, and expanding on their religion, even if the narrator doesn’t explain what’s going on.
I’m not sure whether to recommend this or not. I mean, it’s a decent kids movie, so if you have children who like Star Wars, they might also enjoy this. For adults though, it’s a tough call. Whether this interests you or not though, there is a short making of documentary made by Eric Walker that he posted on his own personal YouTube channel a few years ago. They encouraged him and Davis to work on the project as a form of education while filming. It’s actually worth a watch, and it’s only about 12 minutes.
Walker hasn’t been acting for years, but he’s still a part of the entertainment business, working as a music producer and composing the occasional audio tracks themed on the Star Wars universe. He’s campaigned to get an official Blu-ray release for the Ewok movies, showing that if anything, he’s at least somewhat proud of his involvement. I don’t know anything about the girl though – her only appearances on IMDB are the two Ewok movies, and as an assistant editor for 2012’s The Message.
Next up is the second ewok movie, Battle For Endor, followed by the Prequel Trilogy, and then the animated Clone Wars movie. Although I won’t have a post dedicated to the Clone Wars TV show, I’ll be talking about it in my post for the movie. And apparently my math was off – I said that The Phantom Menace would be the 7th film I talk about. It’s actually going to be number 8. Until then, uh … yub dub?