Caravan of Courage:
An Ewok Adventure



1984 | Color | 96 min

Starring: Eric Walker, Warwick Davis, Fionnula Flanagan, Guy Boyd, Aubree Miller, and narrated by Burl Ives.

Directed by: John Korty

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the most divisive topic in realm of Star Wars fandom was some adorable, scrappy little teddy bears known as Ewoks. Obviously, this was long before George Lucas would subject us to such affronts to basic human decency as the CGI-tampered “Special Editions,” Hayden Christensen Vader, and the irredeemable abomination that is Jar Jar Binks. Nonetheless, at one point in time, there was nothing more hated by hardcore Star Wars fanboys than the lowly Ewoks, with many even going so far as to claim that their mere presence in Return of the Jedi ruined not only that film, but the entire saga as a whole. How did Mr. Lucas respond to this fan backlash against his fuzzy little creations? By promptly releasing not one, but TWO, made-for-TV Ewok movies, of course.

George Lucas: Always giving the fans what they want.

The first of these Ewok films, and the subject in question today, Caravan of Courage, opens in, as the helpful narrator, Burl Ives, points out, the “enchanted forest of Endor” where two parents, Catarine and Jeremitt, are desperately searching for their two missing children. The children, Mace, an annoying, whiny, little dipshit who despises Ewoks with a passion (basically your average, middle-aged Star Wars fanboy), and Cindel, an adorable little girl who seemingly possesses only one facial expression–stone cold nothingness–have apparently wandered away from their crashed starcruiser while the couple went looking for help. After a few moments of searching their wrecked spacecraft, the two parents are attacked by an enormous, axe-wielding giant and we fade to black.

“Oh god…My life is in the hands of this guy.”

The next morning, an Ewok in the nearby village named Deej, is also searching for his kids. Seems they have buggered off somewhere and, being young boys, he fears they may have gotten themselves into trouble. Annoyed, Deej, who is apparently the Orville Wright of Ewoks, hops into his “skin glider” (Strangely enough, this is a hang glider and not a brand of personal lubricants) and takes to the skies in search of his missing boys. While flying over the forest he spots a shiny object and, being a small, woodland creature, he is incapable of resisting the allure of a shiny object. Ever the responsible parent though, he decides to ignore the object for now and investigate after he locates his sons and gives them a proper Ewok scolding. Eventually he finds them and together the three furry critters head towards the shiny object Deej noticed earlier. After a short time, they come across Jeremitt and Catarine’s downed starcruiser. The Ewoks cautiously investigate the disabled craft and find little Cindel hiding in a cabinet. A few moments later, Mace barges in and, like the obnoxious little punk he is, he immediately threatens the Ewoks with his blaster. Unimpressed, the Ewoks quickly subdue the snotty little brat, hog-tie him, and head back to the village.

“Prepare to eat adorable, fuzzy death from above, you Empire scum!”

After we explore the village a bit (and notice that Ewoks, in addition speaking without moving their lips, inexplicably raise alpacas, bunnies, ferrets, and the fanciest of chickens), we are treated to a tedious subplot involving the Ewoks finding medicine for the suddenly deathly-ill Cindel, which serves little purpose other than to pad the runtime. That little timewaster out of the way, the Ewoks consult their village mystic, Logray, and discover that the parents of their new human friends are still alive and are being held captive by the evil giant, Gorax, far away in his mountain lair. Resolved to help the kids save their parents, the Ewoks assemble a team of mighty warriors (including young Wicket. Because, Warwick Davis) and gift each member a magical item of power to aide in their quest (In a very Charlie Brown moment, most members of the caravan get something cool, while poor Mace is given a rock). Together they journey to Gorax’s hideout to save the captives and take down the mighty beast once and for all.

Behold, the dreaded Ewokian battle chicken!

It’s no secret that George Lucas lifted much of the framework for the original Star Wars trilogy from Akira Kurosawa’s film, The Hidden Fortress, and borrowed heavily from other sources as well, such as Metropolis and the original Flash Gordon serials. This time around Mr. Lucas seems to have set his sights on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s hard not to make a connection as you watch the Ewoks gather a group of warriors (a fellowship, perhaps?), a pack pony (Bill?), and journey through a dangerous land (Mordor?) towards a faraway mountain (Mt. Doom) where they must uncover a hidden entrance (“Speak ‘friend’ and enter…”) and a defeat a giant spider (Shelob). It’s essentially a low-budget Fellowship of the Ring starring 4-foot tall teddy bears. I’m not saying Tolkien reimagined with anthropomorphic stuffed animals is necessarily a bad thing–far from it. No, the main fault of this film isn’t its lack of originality, it’s the two child leads.

“Do I look silly? You’d tell me if I looked silly, right?”

Now I really don’t want to be too harsh on two young kids for their acting abilities but, to be blunt, they’re not very good. Eric Walker’s performance as Mace is over-emotional, whiny, and downright annoying most of the time. He’s not helped at all by the fact that his character is written as a bullheaded moron, constantly trying to get himself killed with his staggering stupidity. You spend most of the film hoping he gets eaten by a rabid Endorian moose. Then there’s poor, little Aubree Miller who appears as though she was given a double dose of Valium before each take. Occasionally she manages to crack a smile and look adorable, but mostly it’s just lots of staring blankly at the middle distance. Thankfully there’s Warwick Davis as Wicket who somehow manages to come across as warm and loveable despite being hidden under a shabby fur suit and inarticulate bear mask.

“Hey, up yours, you big b-movie nerd!”

If you can look past a few flaws, Caravan of Courage is actually a pretty fun little fantasy film for kids that just happens to be set in the Star Wars universe. The special effects are more than adequate for an 80s TV movie (ILM, even on a shoestring budget, is still ILM) and it’s entertaining enough for what it is. So unless you have an irrational, all-encompassing hatred for adorable little Ewoks, I’d recommend giving it a shot. However, it’s all but guaranteed that regardless of where you stand on Ewoks, you’re going to want to grab a fancy, Ewokian chicken and slap Mace right upside his dim-witted, whiny head.

Ewok door design by Georgia O’Keefe

 

 

Reviewed By Derek “Ewokian Battle Pigeon” Miller
Posted on October 20, 2017

 


Video Clip – Thrill as the Ewoks demonstrate the deadly “Ewokian death roll” to subdue their teenage opponent.


Additional Screenshots (Click an image to view full-size)








 

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