Home > Reviews > REVIEW – Ewoks: The Battle for Endor

REVIEW – Ewoks: The Battle for Endor

Directed by: Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat
Produced by: Thomas G. Smith, Ian Bryce
Screenplay by: Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat
Story by: George Lucas
Edited by: Eric Jenkins
Cinematography by: Isidore Mankofsky
Music by: Peter Bernstein, John Williams (themes)
Starring: Wilford Brimley, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller, Siân Phillips, Paul Gleason, Carel Struycken, Niki Botelho, Eric Walker, Daniel Frishman, Tony Cox, Pam Grizz, Roger Johnson
Year: 1985

 

Well, they talk now… Or, at least, Wicket does. And by “talk,” I of course mean “speaks English” – or, if you will, “speaks Galactic basic” – rather than just Ewokese. Released a year after the first Ewok-starring Star Wars spinoff, Caravan of Courage, and set months after the events of that film, The Battle for Endor sees the friendship between Cindel Towani and Wicket the Ewok blossoming, to the point where Cindel’s lessons from the first film have apparently paid off. But, sadly, the Towanis have also made progress in repairing their star cruiser since being rescued from the Gorax by Cindel, her brother Mace, and the Ewoks, and so it’s almost time for them to go back home and say good-bye to their furry friends.

 

If you’re anything like me, you probably thought that Caravan of Courage was dull and far too childish. Apparently, so did the makers of The Battle of Endor. Though sharing much of the cast and crew from the first movie and still aiming for a much younger audience than the theatrical films they spun off from, the second Ewok movie is notably bolder in its storytelling – primarily through the way in which it keeps the Towanis on Endor. You know… as corpses. Yep! The sequel renders the adventure from the first as all for naught by introducing a band of marauders led by a man called Terak and his witch companion Charal. They lay siege to the Ewok village and, in the process, kill Cindel’s mother, father, and even her older brother Mace, who you may recall as pretty much the main character and audience surrogate from the first film. Cindel and the Ewoks eventually escape the marauders, but are faced with the prospect of staying alive now that they’ve been separated from their families and are on the run from vicious killers, who have also taken off with the power source for the Towanis’ star cruiser.

Hope springs from an unlikely source, however, in a new fuzzy friend called Teek – a mischievous and unusually fast-footed creature – and his elderly human friend Noa Briqualon. Noa has been on Endor ever since he also crashed on the moon as a young man and has been alone and without hope. The decades have left him aloof and jaded, and he’s gotten used to it, too. However, while he at first rejects the new young friends Teek has brought home, he can’t help but feel compelled to help them on their journey to save the only family they have left, so it’s off they go to the marauders’ castle – to save not just the Ewoks, but Endor itself from the murderous knaves.

 

The Battle for Endor is a notable improvement over its predecessor in both story, action, and acting – though I’d hardly qualify it as necessarily good, either. Aubree Miller, just a little older here, gets far more to do and while she’s not a great actress, even for her age, she’s at least passable and not obnoxious or whiny. Cindel and Wicket have an undeniably cute relationship, and, dammit, I found it endearing, at the very least. There’s also a certain charm in seeing Wilford Brimley as the cantankerous Noa, who alternates between berating his young companions and suddenly taking grandfatherly interest in their wellbeing a moment later. The sets and effects are a lot more interesting and impressive this time around compared to the comparatively sparse settings of Caravan. Most importantly, the villains are a lot more of a threat and are present throughout the story, tangibly more dangerous than the nearly mythical Gorax was.

That being said, the filmmakers do have it backwards in terms of who should be in charge of those villains. While Terak is the leader of the marauders and the villain who gets to participate in the film’s final battle, he is a weak villain, not doing much else but order people around until said climax. Charal is a far more interesting and even theoretically much more powerful character, given her magic powers. She can even shapeshift, for crying out loud! Even her design is so much cooler and much more striking than Terak, who wouldn’t look too out of place in the original Planet of the Apes movies. Why is she not in charge or more actively seeking to manipulate Terak out of his place of power? Why isn’t she the one who gets in on the final battle? She even has a cooler design than the nearly identical creatures that surround her. Why is she relegated to a mere supporting player when she is clearly the much more interesting one?

 

The film also suffers from rushed character development. Cindel just barely reacts to the loss of her family, getting over it as soon as the film makes it clear to more savvy audience members that this was a pragmatic decision by the filmmakers to ensure the maximum cuteness levels and also fit in a well-known actor in Brimley. (Though the recasting of Cindel’s shortlived father with Paul Gleason is also an odd, notable exception.)  Noa’s turnaround towards his new friends also doesn’t happen very organically so much as come out in fits and bursts without notice or reason. Suddenly, later on, the film just decides he’s going to be nice now because the film needs to have him go and save everyone – until a random action by Wicket causes the whole battle to just come to an end. I mean, you can figure out what happens, but it’s more of a happy mistake on his part than it is a well-earned victory.

The Battle for Endor is at once an admirable and notable improvement over its predecessor and yet also not a very good film, all the same. While many of the problems from the first film are resolved – likable protagonists, interesting villains, and better overall storytelling – it’s still just not compelling enough to warrant calling it a worthwhile experience. This is intended for very little children with little discernible taste and Star Wars fans looking for an odd footnote in the history of this gargantuan franchise that most people don’t even remember existed. It’s a wasted opportunity, but you gotta admire the effort, all the same. I didn’t hate it, but “like” is too strong a word, too. Let’s just say that, of all the feature length spinoffs from the pre-Disney era, The Battle for Endor is hardly the worst of them you could commit an hour and a half of your life to.

The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 1.5 / 5

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