Monday, May 4, 2015

Review: Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984)

It's May the Fourth, which as many of you know is Star Wars Day. It's hard to forget this too, as you can't go anywhere on the internet without being pelted with something Star Wars related. Don't get me wrong, I love Star Wars (even though it does rip off a lot of much better films) and do enjoy seeing good things come out of everyone's love for it. I don't even get resentful of the fact that no one celebrates Masters of the Universe Day in much the same manner, as I do understand that He-Man and Luke Skywalker exist in most people's minds in very different ways.

One mostly exists in people's minds while covering a song from a bygone era.
Star Wars isn't just a series of movies though, it's a cultural phenomenon that took root many years ago and has on;y gotten stronger over time. It's bigger than the man who created it and will long outlive him and even all of us. But, as with most things that hold a cultural significance, not everything related to it is remembered fondly (or even at all). Among the things that often get hate from fans, the Ewoks were probably one of the earliest examples of fan backlash as relates to this franchise. People didn't really like the idea of cuddly teddy bears who came in to help fight off the Imperial Forces in the final film. Some have even said that the Ewoks were a slippery slope that led all the way to something even more despised.

To those people I say this: the Ewoks were cute and mildly entertaining. This was none of those things.
But there was something that George Lucas figured out back then that leads us to today's film: kids dig the Ewoks. Sure, many jaded bitter adults hate on them on a near constant basis, but I remember being a kid. I remember loving the idea of a tribe of warrior teddy bears out for Imperial blood. And I loved fantasy stories, which is likely due to my mother giving me all of her old Conan comics to cut my reading teeth on. I also grew up in the 1980s, a time period which truly loved making movies about groups of fantasy heroes going on adventures to vanquish great evil. It's honestly a wonder I didn't try out Dungeons & Dragons until I was a fully grown adult. But yeah, this movie is like the perfect storm of all of those things. It's a fantasy film masquerading as a Star Wars spin-off. Yeah, this is a real thing.

This is also a real thing, but that's something for another day.
The story takes place on Endor, the forest moon that we all know fairly well from Return of the Jedi. But, as we only saw a small bit of the place, the filmmakers decided to explore a bit with this movie. You'll see what I mean shortly, but for now let's focus on our main characters, the Towani family (Catarine, Jeremitt, Mace, and Cindel). They're here because clearly we need humans in here because apparently Ewoks aren't allowed to have subtitles. Anyway, this family has been stranded on Endor after a crash and the kids (Mace and Cindel) have run off on their own. While searching for the kids, the parents run afoul of a giant creature called the Gorax. Now, normally you'd assume it would either crush them or just outright eat them, but apparently not, as it captures the tiny humans because it likes the idea of having pets, I guess.

Pet birds the world over cried out "JUSTICE" when this happened.
We then go to the Ewok village, where we see the furry warriors living their lives rather happily. Deej, father of Wicket, is worried about his other two sons who wandered off into the woods. He takes off in his glider to look for the little bastards, because kids never make things easy on their parents. After a bit of slapstick involving a goat (because apparently there are goats on Endor) he flies over the forest and notices a strange object below, choosing to ignore it in favour of finding his idiots. He throws them a rope when he finally finds them stranded on a cliffside, allowing them to climb down. They react as you'd expect given that they've been portrayed as dumbasses thus far.

The Two Idiots is not nearly as funny as The Three Stooges.
Deej shows up, telling them to knock that shit off, then he stops to investigate the strange thing he noticed earlier. It turns out to be the Towani family spaceship and it's not in great shape. Probably due to it crashing. They go inside and discover Cindel coughing while hiding and Deej tries to be nice to the strange hairless child. Her brother Mace on the other hand behaves like a proper douche, taking one of the sons hostage at gunpoint and yelling at them. The Ewoks react in a reasonably appropriate manner.
Bite the pillow, Mace, because they're going in dry.

After dogpiling the kid who desperately wants to be a Skywalker, they bring both kids back to the village. Cindel and Wicket seem to immediately become friends and they even bring Mace in to take a seat. He worries about his sister's well-being, as she keeps coughing, believing that she simply needs to eat. Then she faints, because apparently the plot disagrees with Mace's assessment. Deej's wife gives her some medicine and she wakes up asking for mommy. Mace says they'll find her later when she's well. Understandably though, the kid isn't so certain that their parents are still kicking, what with this being a place with giants wandering about. Cindel isn't getting better though and Mace wants more medicine for her, but the Deej family seems to be out. Deej takes Mace to go fetch some more. While this goes on, Mace decides to stick his hand in a tree in an attempt to catch a little furry thing.

It turns out to be a bad idea. Who could've known?
Deej saves his new adopted idiot son, because you can't just have two stooges, and they return with the medicine. Time goes on, Cindel recovers and we see her bonding some more with Wicket while they play with a ferret. That's weird, they showed a bunny earlier too. I guess goats aren't the only Earth animals on Endor. But then Cindel teaches Wicket the word 'furry' and says she wishes they had creatures like him back where she came from, to which he replies "furries?" and I bring my face down onto my desk with an audible noise not unlike a thud. Dammit, George Lucas, I think she's a bit young to start learning about furries.

Not to offend any of my furry fans. I know the struggle, as my body is covered in a fair bit of fur.
She tells Wicket about spaceships and things are seemingly groovy. But things don't stay good, as a large beast attacks Mace and Cindel when they leave later that night when he leads them out into the forest. Because that's what happens when you leave safe places to go wandering into the dark woods, Mace, you young moron. They get trapped in a tree until the Ewoks show to save them, killing the beast. They happen to find their dad's life-monitor on the big nasty, leading to our main plotline: save their parents from a life as pets. Logray, another of the more well-known Ewoks, points them in the direction of the Gorax.

Something tells me Mace may not be able to handle this thing on his own.

A group is formed, because that title exists for a reason, and they set off to rescue the parents. Along the way they meet some other heroic Ewok warriors who join their group (Izrina and Chukha-Trok). After a harrowing trek across the wilds of Endor (and doing battle with the fakest spider I have ever seen), they arrive at their destination and set about trying to rescue the parents. But it turns out that the Gorax notices this and expresses his issues with them by trying to kill them all. They fight off the creature, ultimately knocking it into a rather large hole, but Chukha-Trok dies in the battle. Not yet through trying to put down the pesky heroes, the Gorax tries desperately to climb out but Mace finally does something useful and takes up Chukha-Trok's axe and finishes off the threat. I guess the kid came through in the end, yes?

He still looks a bit too much like a wannabe Luke Skywalker though.
Thus, they escape back to the Ewok village, where the family decides to live alongside their furry friends while they attempt to fix their ship. Guess that means they get a fairly happy ending and nothing terrible happens to them in any sequel movie involving a creepy lady who can turn into a bird. That was Caravan of Courage, a very different sort of Star Wars tale.

Not that Star Wars is a stranger to "different" sorts of tales.
True, in the franchise it doesn't really have much of any impact, but it's a fun little movie giving the kids an interesting little hybrid of fantasy and sci-fi. As a fan of RPGs, I definitely found myself feeling the whole group dynamic. For what it is, it does have emotional moments. Sure, it's not Empire Strikes Back, but it's quite a bit better than the second trilogy, in my honest opinion. And yeah, there is a sequel that I will probably delve into at a later date.

One of the main characters in that sequel may, in fact, want to talk to you about diabetes.
I've heard people give this movie hate, but in the end it all usually came down to one thing: they thought the Ewoks were lame and didn't really watch the movie. Now, it is true that I hate on a fair number of films, but I only ever do so after the fact. I can assess that something might be awful from looking into it, but I prefer to save final judgements for when I actually watch a movie. Because of this, I have suffered through many awful movies rife with explosions and CGI being used as substitutes for a coherent narrative. This movie isn't bad though. It's the sort of kid's movie I can get behind and I would honestly like to see this idea of giving the Ewoks a story to star in revisited. I mean, why not? Disney could probably work well with it and who knows? Maybe the older fans can let go of their bitter resentment of the teddy bear tribals and let themselves enjoy it for what it really is. So, until Jabba the Hutt returns as a Sith lord out to avenge the loss of his barge, I'll be here reminding people not to most in the Sarlacc pit. Later days, bleeders.

"Stupid Luke, getting all the glory..."

No comments:

Post a Comment