Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985, Jim Wheat and Ken Wheat)

Terak_battleforendor

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

When the Ewok village is attacked and Cindel’s family are killed, she and best mate Wicket must go on the run…

WHICH VERSION? This TV movie was first broadcast on ABC on 24 November 1985. It got a UK cinema release in April 1986.

GOOD GUYS

* Wicket (Warwick Davis) can now speak fractured English, which presents something of a problem when dating these films. He clearly can’t talk like a human in Return of the Jedi, yet everything else – including Lucasfilm’s official publicity – places this film as a prequel to Jedi. Maybe he forgot what he’d learnt by the time Han Solo and co turn up? Anyway, captured by the bad guys, Wicket and Cindel escape to a cave. He then knocks up a skin-glider, A-Team-style, from some discarded bones. It comes in handy when Cindel is snatched by a dragon-type monster and Wicket has to give chase. When Cindel is later captured by the bad guys (again), Wicket and new pal Noa sneak into a castle to save her. The plan involves the old standing-on-someone’s-shoulders-and-using-a-long-coat-to-disguise-the-fact-there-are-two-of-you trick. Our heroes then retreat to Noa’s starship, where there’s a rerun of Return of the Jedi’s improvised-weaponry battle.

* Cindel Towani (Aubrey Miller) and her family are preparing to leave Endor as the movie begins – it seems to have been a while since the events of Caravan of Courage. However, her parents and brother are murdered by, and Cindel needs rescuing from, the evil Sanyassan Marauders. She and Wicket then encounter a grumpy old man called Noa, but Cindel is soon captured again. Miller is just as rubbish as she was in the first movie.

* Jermitt Towani (Paul Gleeson) has been recast with a more famous actor, but he’s quickly killed off when the marauders attack and steal his ship’s power unit.

* Mace Towani (Eric Walker) also dies in the opening-act attack. So does the family’s mum, but we only see her corpse in order to avoid paying an actress.

* Teek (Niki Botelho) is a bizarre little creature about the size of an Ewok who can run at lightning speed. After bumping into them, he shows Cindel and Wicket an apparently abandoned house in the woods, which they take over as their own.

* Noa (Wilford Brimley) owns the house and isn’t happy when he returns to find it occupied. He chases Cindel and Wicket away, but soon mellows. He has a secret: he’s hiding a star cruiser in the forest. He crashed on Endor years earlier, but his ship is now powerless and his co-pilot, Salak, went missing. When Cindel is kidnapped, Noa and Wicket mount a rescue. Afterwards, Noa’s able to restart his space ship (thanks, MacGuffin!) and he leaves Endor with Cindel in tow.

BAD GUYS

* The Sanyassan Marauders are a group of post-apocalyptic thugs who torch the Ewok village. They look like medieval knights kitted out as Mad Max-style vigilantes. Assuming the knights were ape-like aliens, that is.

* Charel (Sian Phillips) is the (human) leader of the marauders. She can transmogrify into a crow, but is terrified of her boss, Terak.

* Terak (Carel Struycken) is the marauders’ king. He has a faded blueprint of a starship and is obsessed with learning the secrets of technological power. After Cindel – who he assumes can teach him about technology – escapes, he gives chase and ends up fighting Noa mano-a-weirdo. (Noa wins.)

BEST ACTION SEQUENCE: The Marauders attack the village.

BEST COMEDY MOMENT: The shot of Salak – a cutaway to his manacled skeleton in a dungeon – made me laugh out loud, though it wasn’t meant to.

MUSIC: The score is by Peter Bernstein and is decent enough.

PERSONAL CONNECTION: I saw this when it came out on video in the mid-80s. In 2004, I bought both Ewok films on DVD, but doing these reviews was the first time I’d put the disc in the player.

REVIEW: The first Ewok special had a twee, Disney vibe, but this is more in keeping with macabre 80s kids’ films such as Return to Oz or The Dark Crystal. Cindel’s family are killed off violently in the first 10 minutes, for example, while there’s plenty of old-school stop-motion monsters. There’s basically a general sense of *strangeness*, which works really well. The production designer was Joe Johnston – who went on to direct the fun Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, the stylish The Rocketeer and the terrific Captain America: The First Avenger – and he really went to town on the brutal, twisted, scary look of the bad guys and their trappings. Thankfully, there’s also more of a robust plot than Caravan of Courage had. It’s both darker and more engaging than that first one.

Five power things out of 10

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