REVIEW: EWOKS – THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR

Check out the above poster. See that mean-looking human dude in the middle brandishing a blaster? I have absolutely no idea who that is, and I only watched this film last night. He is literally NOT IN THIS MOVIE, and yet he has pride of place on the poster. But why?

One possible explanation for this glaring anomaly is that the producers (ie Lucasfilm) wanted to send out a signal that Battle for Endor was going to be a far livelier affair than its predecessor Caravan of Courage, and I am happy to report that it is.

This Ewok sequel, released in 1985, is less magic and whimsey and more action and adventure. Gone is the dreary Burl Ives narration from the first film, thankfully. Also, it’s goodbye magic stones, cursed ponds and fairies. The only concession to fairytale is the presence of an actual wicked witch, called Charal. However, it’s not all bad as she’s played by Siân Phillips who is all kinds of wonderful in everything she’s in (including the original movie version of Dune which came out the previous year).

Battle for Endor sets out its stall early with the deaths of three fourths of the Towani family (who we saw shipwrecked in the first film) at the hands of a pack of horrid Marauders. These Marauders take sole survivor Cindel, along with all her Ewok buddies, prisoner. However, Cindel and Wicket escape and flee into the forest where they meet grouchy old hermit Noa (played by Wilford Brimley) and his little friend Teek, who is a small, cute furry creature with big ears who can run extremely fast. I’m talking Quicksilver from the X-Men fast here.

It’s quite possible that Wilford Brimley was method acting on this production as he apparently remained grouchy even after the cameras had stopped rolling. I remember reading that things got so bad that George himself had to be called in to have a quiet word in his ear.

Anyway. after eating porridge and muffins and picking flowers, our fantastic foursome head off to the Marauders’ castle to rescue the imprisoned Ewoks where all kinds of Mayhem ensue. So as I say, there’s a lot more going on here than in the first one.

The chief of the Marauders is Terak (played by Carel Struycken) who makes for a fantastic baddie. He and his cohorts are all suitably grotesque, loads of fun to watch and add a level of threat that was missing from Caravan of Courage. Also of interest are the beasts of burden they use, called Blurrgs. They were apparently based on one of the unused tauntaun designs from The Empire Strikes Back and later turned up in The Mandalorian.

The climactic showdown is enjoyable and exciting and rivals the one seen in Return of the Jedi. Actually, that was a complete lie, but it really is enjoyable and exciting, and we do get to see something we didn’t in ROTJ: Ewoks going into battle armed with blasters!

In addition to the nifty old-school stop-motion FX there is plenty of gorgeous matte work to admire. There are some very impressive sets too, especially in the Marauders’ castle and Noa’s crashed spaceship, which lend the film a bigger feel than its predecessor. Also, crucially, it has a good dose of humour. Oh, and a dragon!

It was cowritten and directed by brothers Ken and Jim Wheat who went on to make sci-fi horror classic Pitch Black. Like Battle for Endor, that movie also featured a band of crash survivors fighting for their lives on an alien planet, but featured far less fur.

Warwick Davis, who returns as Ewok favourite Wicket, said there was a treatment in the offing for a third Ewok movie, but sadly it never came to pass. That’s a shame, because I enjoyed this one so much that when it was over I found myself feeling hungry for more – and I suppose there’s no greater compliment than that.

Published by Richard E. Rock

I write - you fright.

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