Ewoks: The Battle for Endor

Ewoks - The Battle for EndorSynopsis: In the Battle For Endor, an army of Marauders, led by King Terak and the witch Charal, attack the Ewok village. Cindel and Wicket escape into the forest, where they meet Teek and Noa. They must befriend Noa in order to team up to defeat the Marauders.


Ewoks: The Battle for Endor 7.0

eyelights: its brisk pace. the vistas. the set designs. Peter Bernstein’s score.
eyesores: the actors’ inexpressive masks. the many laser battles.

“I’m going to need you to be strong like that little bird. Now, I want you to run, and find Deej, and the Ewoks will help you.”

‘Ewoks: The Battle for Endor’ is a television movie that was first broadcast on ABC on November 24, 1985. A direct sequel to ‘The Ewok Adventure‘, it finds the Towani family on the verge of repairing their starcruiser and finally leaving Endor when they and their Ewok friends are attacked by alien marauders looking for the Towani ship’s power supply.

During the conflict, the Ewoks are captured and the Towanis are almost all killed, leaving only Cindel and Wicket behind, on the run. On their journey to safety, they find the home of Noah, a grumpy old spacefarer, who grudgingly allows them to stay with him. But even he can’t protect them, and soon Cindel is been kidnapped by the villainous Terak’s men.

Wicket, Noah and his super fast sidekick Teek must find a way to rescue her.

I never saw ‘The Battle for Endor’ back in the day. I’m not sure that I even took notice of its existence. Perhaps it was the disappointment of its predecessor, or maybe I was just at that age when my attention was easily disrupted, so I was focused on something else. Either way, I don’t recall being aware of it until years later, being surprised yet indifferent.

By that point, ‘Star Wars’ had lost some of its lustre. After ‘Return of the Jedi’, Lucas spent years dumbing down the series with the aforementioned ‘The Ewok Adventure’, the bland ‘Star Wars: Ewoks’ animated TV show, and the frankly horrible ‘Droids’ cartoon. The impression that these shows left was of half-hearted, uninspired and mostly unrelated money grabs.

It could only get better. And, you know what, it did.

‘Ewoks: The Battle for Endor’ is a massive improvement over its predecessor. I don’t know what happened in between the two productions, but almost everything that went wrong with the first one was rectified for the second one: they improved the pace, threw in far more excitement (not hard to beat!), had more inspired set and creature designs, …etc.

Heck, even the performances were better. Granted, Mace barely shows up, the father was now played by Paul Gleason, and Burl Ives was completely jettisoned, but even Aubree Miller, who plays Cindel in the two films, improved dramatically, actually holding her own here. And a good thing, too, because she is essentially the star of the show. Along with Wicket.

For some reason, in this teleplay, Wicket can speak English. He couldn’t in the last one (hence the Burl Ives narration to explain the on-screen developments), and he couldn’t in ‘Return of the Jedi’ (which takes place after the events here), but there you have it: Wicket can converse relatively ably with Cindel. Oddly enough, he’s the only Ewok who can.

The advantage here is that at least the events of ‘The Battle for Endor’ aren’t inexplicable: with Wicket’s help, we understand what is being decided, the motivations behind their actions, and the like. So, although it’s totally out of character and it reeks of laziness/convenience on the part of the writers, it really didn’t bother me.

Anyway, ‘The Battle for Endor’ was conceived for younger audiences; its target was hardly the same people who lapped up every moment of ‘Star Wars‘. With a six-year-old protagonist and an Ewok sidekick, it’s quite clear that the focus was now on a less sophisticated public. Knowing this ahead of time  helps one to appreciate this type of production.

Because, from that perspective, this ain’t half bad. Granted, it was far too focused on fighting, which is not a good message to convey to children, especially since there was an overuse of blasters (the aliens used small canons against the Ewoks, and even the Ewoks ended up using blasters by the end). But it was at least far more exciting than the previous one.

The picture even looks better, taking on a quality that is on par with many fantasy adventure epics of the era. Not bad, for a TV movie. Even the set designs (such as Noah’s home, his starcruiser and Terak’s kingdom) look pretty darned good. The creatures are also significantly better, but the masks are totally inexpressive – or, in Wicket’s case, the mouth flapped.

Yes, there’s some cheesiness, like when Wicket builds a glider just in time for Cindel to be caught by a large flying creature, chases after them, manages to maneuver and catch her while she’s plummeting and then crash lands safely. But, again, it’s made for pre-teens. And while I’ll grant you that we shouldn’t dumb it down, it still changes expectations.

At least something was happening, unlike in ‘The Ewok Adventure’. And yes, it neared a frenetic pace, what with one action piece being strung to another and to another and to another like that, but at least it wasn’t dull. I’ll take that any day over the endless doldrums and pathetic goings on that passed for entertainment in its predecessor.

What I didn’t like was that the show is called ‘The Battle for Endor’.

It’s a misnomer: There is no battle for Endor. There is a battle, yes. Two of them, even, if you consider the opening attack on the Ewoks. But Endor was never at stake – not throughout and not in the finale. All they’re fighting over is a power unit, and there’s actually only two factions of a dozen people each! It’s hardly the stuff of a “battle for Endor”

(And don’t get me started on the fight itself, rife as it is with tactics just about as silly as in ‘Return of the Jedi’, or the random way in which they defeat the villain!)

If anything, the picture should have been called ‘Escape from Endor’: from the start the Towanis are trying to leave Endor, as is Noah, and the whole show revolves around a power unit that can allow them to. By the end, Noah and Cindel are trying to get enough distance between them and the marauders so that they may get into his ship and blast off.

It’s an escape.

But I suppose that ‘The Battle for Endor’ sounds more dramatic. it might even have had people tuning in to see it. But these people would have been as disappointed as those who watched ‘The Ewok Adventure’ expecting something akin to ‘Star Wars’. Or as disappointed as the people who expected to see an epic battle in ‘The Battle for the Planet of the Apes‘.

Ultimately, ‘Ewoks: The Battle for Endor’ is decently entertaining and is a vast improvement its predecessor. Can it meet the expectations of ‘Star Wars’ fans? Probably not: this is more of a fantasy adventure story than a sci-fi epic. But I would not be averse to showing this to kids in the hope of holding their attention for 90 minutes. In that sense, it’s a success.

Talking Ewok or not.

Date of viewing: November 22, 2015

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