Starcruiser, WHOOSH!! Starcruiser, CRASH!!

Does anyone else fondly remember that pair of Ewoks TV-movies that aired on ABC back in the mid '80s? For some reason, silly as they were (but not nearly as painful to watch as the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special), I videotaped them when they aired and watched them repeatedly over the ensuing years ... and yes, I even bought the double-feature DVD -- containing the original 1984 movie Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, and its 1985 sequel Ewoks: The Battle For Endor -- after it was finally released in 2004.

For the unfamiliar, the first movie involves a family whose spaceship has crash-landed on Endor. The parents are abducted by a five-storey-tall baboon, and it's up to the kids -- teenage boy Mace (not Windu, rather a white one with hair) and his little sister Cindel -- to rescue them ... with the help of their new friends the Ewoks, natch. Fionnula Flanagan (How the West Was Won, Lost, and an occasional Star Trek guest) and Guy Boyd (Black Scorpion, Hyperion Bay ... aw hell, just look him up) play the hapless parents, and Mr. "Holly Jolly Christmas" himself, Burl Ives, is there to narrate the story and drive home the obligatory moral lesson in courage, perseverence, and the power of a loving family ... eesh. But at least Eric Walker was there for me to crush on ... not that I knew it was a crush at the time, mind you.

But wait, the sequel is even better! Presumably in a move to counterbalance the revolting cuddliness of the first movie, this one turns way darker. A gang of oafish, quasi-frat-guy lizard-dudes invades the Ewok village, taking all the Ewoks prisoner and flat-out killing off Mace and his parents -- so much for that "power of a loving family" crap. Anyway, Wicket and Cindel narrowly escape their vicious captors and soon happen upon an old curmudgeon (played by Wilford Brimley -- what a stretch for him) named Noa, a space pilot marooned on Endor many years ago. After Cindel is kidnapped by the lizard-dudes' inexplicably non-lizard-looking sorceress (played by Siân Phillips) -- hey, they couldn't be allowed to whack a little moppet like her, it's a broadcast network for cripe's sake -- Noa, Wicket, and Noa's pet whatever-it-is Teek, set out to open up a can of Quaker Oats and whoop-ass -- and Noa's fresh out of Quaker Oats! -- on the castle full of lizard-dudes. Hey, he's got a harpoon gun, so I sure wouldn't mess with him.

Despite how nauseatingly cloying little Cindel was -- can you picture an '80s effort at reincarnating a young Shirley Temple? -- the movies had their moments. The music, by Peter Bernstein, was particularly memorable, and I even have the soundtrack album (I think it was only ever issued on vinyl). The stories were okay -- in the second movie, the power source for the family's spaceship kind-of ties the plot together, in case you might have been wondering (since I left it out of the last paragraph). As much as he has become a kind of caricature of himself, I've always liked Wilford Brimley, so the interest in the second movie I might have lost with the early offing of Eric Walker's character was made up for by the entertaining presence of "grandpa Witherspoon" (and no, I've most definitely never crushed on him, so don't worry). But by far the most unintentionally funny moment was during the buildup to the jailbreak in the lizard-dudes' castle, when two of the guards were playing cards. I swear to you, if you listen closely, you can hear one of them say "chicken shit" ... in a family movie!!

Sure those movies were silly, the general disdain for the Ewoks notwithstanding ... but then, they were made for the kids out there rather than the teens and twenty-somethings who dug the Classic Trilogy during its theatrical run. And there are the obvious questions that these movies bring up -- What happened to the lizard-dudes between that movie and Return of the Jedi? Wouldn't the Empire or the Rebels have at least stumbled upon them or their remains? To say nothing of Teek's race, who could have joined the Ewoks in the Rebels' fight against the Empire... -- but of course we're not supposed to think about that ... although you'd have thought that with all the screwing around Lucas did with the Classic Trilogy, the whim would have struck him to insert a new scene or two to retcon all that junk. Oh well ... at least I'm not disturbingly preoccupied by the whole Endor thing like this guy....

So anyway, if you're a Star Wars completist, or even if you're not so much and just want some silly entertainment, you might want to pick it up -- oh, that is, if you can. (It's out-of-print? Oh, the humanity!!!) And while you're scooting about on the web, I just found out that Eric Walker is all grown up and has his own website. Go, Mace!

1 comment:

Mimi said...

I was in love with the ewoks movies. Still kinda am actually. When I saw a Wicket keychain in the Lego shop, I had to buy it. Starcruiser woosh.