“We came on a star cruiser and we crashed . . . Don’t you have a star cruiser?” – Cindel Towani
Well, I committed to reviewing the rest of the Star Wars spin-off movies, so here goes. The thing I never realize when I decide to do something like this, is that reviewing them means that I have to actually watch them! I haven’t seen this movie in a very long time, and I wasn’t particularly excited to sit down and watch it again.
Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure came out in 1984, just one year after Return of the Jedi. It was a made-for-TV movie that was aimed at children, though it was eventually released on home video as well (however the last time it was released was in 2004 on DVD, so there is no blu-ray version available).
The story takes place a few years before Return of the Jedi. Wookieepedia places the movie in the year “3 ABY” so I’m just gonna go with that. This means it takes place around the same time as The Empire Strikes Back. This is all pointless information though, because there is no real connection between this movie and the main-saga Star Wars movies other than the shared setting of the Forest Moon of Endor, and a few Ewok characters who appeared both in this and Return of the Jedi.
The movie starts up with no opening crawl, just like every other Star Wars spin-off movie, apparently including the soon-to-be-released Rogue One. This movie is interesting though because it is narrated by the snowman from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Burl Ives). A narrator in a Star Wars movie seemed like a weird choice at first, until I realized that this is a movie about Ewoks, who don’t speak English, and nobody wants a repeat of The Star Wars Holiday Special where you just have to sit through scenes of unintelligible Wookiee noises for ten minutes.
The Towani family star cruiser has crash-landed on the moon of Endor. A boy named Mace and his much younger sister, Cindel, end up alone when their parents go missing after the crash. These two kids are the main characters in the movie. It gives me some serious Anakin Skywalker Phantom Menace flashbacks. At first, the kids really annoyed me, especially Cindel, who is about five years old. The bad acting stopped bothering me as much when I just sat back and took this movie for what it is: a made-for-TV kids movie. (Sorry, that exact same realization was still not enough to save the Holiday Special.)
The two kids are found by a group of Ewoks. Warwick Davis reprises his role of Wicket, the little Ewok who finds Leia in Return of the Jedi. The kids follow the ewoks to their village, which is on the ground instead of in the trees. These Ewoks raise animals, including horses, goats, rabbits, chickens, llamas, and more, so it kind of makes sense for them to live on the ground. Seeing all of these animals in a Star Wars movie was a little bit jarring, but Obi-wan talks about ducks in the novelization of A New Hope, so who cares! (“What’s a duck?” – Luke Skywalker)
The kids are eventually able to explain to the Ewoks that their parents are missing, and the Ewoks decide to help the kids find them. Though the Ewoks don’t speak English, they eventually learn some English words from the children, including “star cruiser,” “crash,” “dad,” and a more. Why didn’t the Ewoks know any English words in Return of the Jedi then? Especially since these are the same Ewoks. Apparently when the crew was making this movie, they assumed that it took place 150 years after Return of the Jedi. Sometime after that, they changed the date, because it didn’t really make sense to have Wicket the Ewok still so young 150 years after we first met him.
There is some pretty cool (albeit, very fake-looking) stop-motion animation in this movie. The group gets chased through this forest by this pretty terrifying creature who makes really creepy noises. I feel like this would have seriously scared me as a kid. Even today, there’s something about stop-motion that just kind of creeps me out. Take the stop-motion Terminator at the end of the first Terminator movie, and compare it to the CGI Terminators from the later movies. The original stop-motion one is waaayyy creepier. It is truly a thing of nightmares. The CGI ones? Not so much. Am I the only one who thinks that? Okay, I’m getting off-topic.
The group eventually does go to an Ewok village up in the trees, just like what we remember from Return of the Jedi. Here, the group receives some magic items that are supposed to help them on their quest. Oh yeah, there’s magic in this movie. My first reaction to this is “that’s stupid,” until I remember that Star Wars isn’t actually science-fiction, and is really much more of a fantasy story. Plus, there are a lot of other instances of magic in Star Wars, including very prominent uses of magic in The Clone Wars TV series. It doesn’t make that much sense to complain about magic in a universe that has things like The Force, which is, you know, basically magic.
Though, this does leave me with one question. If the Ewoks are able to use magic, why are they so amazed by a flying C-3PO in Return of the Jedi? And why don’t they use magic in the battle against the Empire? Am I overthinking this? I don’t care!
Another interesting thing is that apparently the Forest Moon of Endor isn’t just a forest. Our group of Ewoks travels across plains, deserts, and mountains in this movie. “Forest Moon” is a bit of a misleading description I guess.
Eventually the group makes it to the cave of the evil Gorax, a giant Wookiee-like creature who trapped the childrens’ parents in a cage that is hanging from the ceiling. With the help of the Ewoks, Mace is able to jump up to the cage and climb inside it. Well, great, now isn’t he stuck in there too? Apparently not, because I guess there was a super-long rope in there! So Mace and his parents climb out of the cage with the rope. Why couldn’t his parents have climbed down on their own if they had a rope in there the whole time?? I actually rewatched this part of the movie just to make sure that Mace didn’t bring the rope up there with him. He didn’t. It was already in the cage. I DON’T GET IT.
The kids are eventually reunited with their parents and everyone seems happy and then the movie just ends. They never fix their ship and they never get off the moon of Endor.
Apparently this movie was successful enough for a sequel to be made, so one year later, Ewoks: The Battle of Endor was released. I have seen it before, but I really don’t remember what happens. Something about a witch who can turn into a crow or whatever. Sounds weird to me. But I’ll review the sequel next time!
This movie isn’t that bad. I mean, it’s not good, but for a kids movie it’s pretty decent. I honestly think I enjoyed this more than The Clone Wars movie. Maybe it’s my nostalgia for ’80s movies (almost all of my favorite movies are from the ’80s), but there is a certain charm to this movie. This is definitely something that young children would enjoy, and that adults can at least tolerate. This is a movie I would recommend to parents of young children. Other than that, I think most people wouldn’t get much out of this, as it doesn’t have much to offer, and it really has nothing at all to do with Star Wars.