Don’t let this title fool you. Although this movie does take place on Endor, and it does feature Wicket, played by Warwick Davis, this doesn’t take place during Return of the Jedi. That battle was called Battle of Endor. This is the Battle For Endor.
This movie is a direct sequel to Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure. According to its Wikipedia page, it takes place after the Ewoks animated series and before Return of the Jedi. That’s right, there was also a short lived Ewoks animated series. Say what you will about George Lucas’s perceived declining movie quality, but he knows how to run an entertainment business. He knows how to make money. Taking place six months after the first Ewoks movie, the Towani family is preparing to finally leave the forest moon of Endor. They’re almost done fixing up their ship. In the meantime, Cindel, the young girl from the first movie, has become close friends with Wicket.
Wicket is also starting to learn English, or Basic as they call it in the Star Wars Universe. In fact he speaks it better here than in Return of the Jedi. Right away, we’ve got a continuity problem. Ignoring that minor gripe, the village is attacked early on by raiders. These raiders are led by the warlord Terak and his witch-like assistant, Caral. In other words, this movie has left the sci-fi influenced fantasy from the first movie and gone straight into fairy tale territory. The raiders even look kind of like orcs from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, just with less skin boils and more hair.
Along with many of the ewoks, Cindrel’s entire family is killed. That includes Mace, who gave a very good performance in the first movie, while Cindrel was portrayed by an actress who was just too young to give a nuanced performance. And this is what we’re left with to carry this movie. Thankfully actress Aubree Miller is noticeably better this time round, but she still gives the occasional blank stare, and her voice often sounds like she’s reading lines more than she’s acting. It’s a good performance for someone so young (she was 7 or 8 at the time of filming).
Apart from the lead performance, this movie is better than the first one. The story moves faster, there’s a lot more action, and the final battle scene is actually kind of awesome. In fact it’s almost good enough for a smaller fight in a Star Wars movie. Replace the weird Orc-like creatures with Stormtroopers and you’ve got a Battle of Endor fight that’s both almost as intense as the movie and easier to take seriously. It’s also fun when you see several ewoks holding blasters and firing, or when they get a crashed ship working and start shooting the turrets at the raiders.
The friendship between Cindrel and Wicket is also kind of charming. Despite Wicket learning English, and Cindrel understanding more of his culture, there’s still just the right level of difficulty in their communication. There’s also Noa, played by veteran actor Wilford Brimley, who expertly portrays a grumpy old man who is also trapped on Endor. He grows to care for Cindrel like a daughter, and he also proves himself a good leader during the Battle For Endor.
“Lucas guided the creation of the story over the course of two four-hour sessions we had with him. He’d just watched Heidi with his daughter the weekend before these took place, and the story idea he pushed was having the little girl from the first Ewok TV movie become an orphan who ends up living with a grumpy old hermit in the woods.
“We’d been thinking about the adventure films we’d liked as kids, like Swiss Family Robinson and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, so we suggested having space marauders, which was fine with George – as long as they were 7 feet tall, of course.”
Like the first Ewoks movie, I wouldn’t call this anything special. With that said, there’s enough creativity in this movie that with a higher budget and a better lead actress, it could have been awesome. The main villain’s ending is hardcore, in an Indiana Jones sort of way. And the visual effects are impressive for TV at the time – enough so that it even won an Emmy for its special effects.
But because of the mediocre performance from the lead actress (good for an 8-year-old, but not good enough to carry a movie), this movie doesn’t really carry much emotional weight. It’s enjoyable enough if you’re in the mood for a story like this, but unless you’re planning to write about it afterwards like me, you’ll forget about it quickly and move on with your day. So like the first movie, I’m not sure whether to recommend this one or not.
Next up is the Prequel Trilogy, followed by the animated Clone Wars movie that enjoyed a theatrical release … for some reason. I’ve got two posts planned between that and The Force Awakens, but I won’t spoil what those are until we’re closer to those posts. Until then, yub dub!