Monday, March 11, 2013

A More Sensible Sequel, Ewoks: The Battle For Endor Is Still Pretty Bad!

The Good: Decent plot progression, Moments of performance, Production values
The Bad: Low on character development, Predictable plot, Hard to understand characters (audio issues)
The Basics: Ewoks: The Battle For Endor continues the story of Cindel and Wicket after the human girl on Endor’s parents are killed!

Not long ago, I had the displeasure of watching and reviewing the Star Wars made-for-tv movie Caravan Of Courage – An Ewok Adventure (reviewed here!) which is, admittedly, pretty terrible. So, it was with very low expectations that I went into watching the sequel, Ewoks: The Battle For Endor. Fortunately, this is one of the rare occasions where the sequel is better than the original, though it is not better by much at all.

Ewoks: The Battle For Endor is a bit darker than the first Ewok adventure and given the number of people shot on screen and who have guns shoved in their faces to menace them, it is hard to see how this was ever considered children’s programming. Perhaps by defining it as a movie for children, Lucasfilm hoped to escape with the cheesy special effects and mediocre performances. Indeed, while there is a better story in Ewoks: The Battle For Endor, the stop-motion animation for the creatures in the movie are substantially worse, which is an odd turn to be sure. That said, the story of the human Cindel, a little girl stranded on the forest moon of Endor is continued well-enough in Ewoks: The Battle For Endor as part of a larger story involving the Ewoks fighting for their little planet.

When Cindel says good-bye to Wicket as she and her family prepare to leave Endor for home, the Ewok Village is attacked by marauders. They burn much of the village to the ground and kill the girl’s family, along with many Ewoks. The Ewoks are captured, but Wicket and Cindel escape the convoy and they set out to help the rest of the Ewoks. En route, they encounter little pterodactyl-like creatures and a super-fast furry being. The furry creature leads them back to its home where they meet the human, Noa.

Gruff and inhospitable, Noa nevertheless becomes invested in Wicket and Cindel the longer they stay (and bake him pie). When they follow him to his ship, he tells them the story of how he crashed years prior and became a hermit. Knowing that the alien marauders have stolen the power core to her parent’s shuttle, Cindel begins a quest with Noa, Wicket and Teek to recover it. But soon, Cindel is kidnapped by the villainous Charal, who has the ability to change forms and the others must rescue her from the invading aliens!

The main two problems with Ewoks: The Battle For Endor are that most of the characters are in heavy masks and speaking awkward variations on English. As a result, they are frequently incomprehensible and that makes Ewoks: The Battle For Endor a much harder to watch film than it ought to be. Not being able to understand what most of the Ewoks and marauders are saying is a severe detriment, though something tells me that if the sound was off entirely, the film would probably play about as well!

The second problem is that the characters are utterly unempathetic and are only portrayed with mediocre competence. Wilford Brimley plays Noa and he is basically a generic surly old hermit in the role, with one or two lines stolen (interestingly enough) from Han Solo. He does not bring anything special to the role. Actress Aubree Miller returns again as Cindel and she is competent as a little girl because that is exactly what she is. But, after her family is slaughtered, she does not emote sufficiently enough to make the viewer care.

For all the moments that might seem imaginative, Ewoks: The Battle For Endor is exceptionally derivative. The film has an end sequence that could have been b-roll for Return Of The Jedi and the fundamental problem with it is that with all of the chaos and explosions, there are really no characters that the viewer cares about and invested in. So, will Noa and Cindell escape the villainous King Terak and his forces? Given the nature of the type of film, it is pretty easy to guess, but does the viewer watching it actually care? Not so much.

The make-up for the marauders and Terak is good; the creatures look a lot like the skiff guards on Tatoonine seen early in Return Of The Jedi. The stop-animation lizard/piranha creatures that substitute for the Imperial AT-STs in Ewoks: The Battle For Endor are very poorly rendered, though, and they stick out in a painfully awkward fashion here.

If the first Ewoks film was painful to watch, at least Ewoks: The Battle For Endor steps up from that; it is not a loathsome film, just an unimpressive one, lacking in deeper themes, interesting characters or performances to make it worth watching.

For other works in the Star Wars franchise, please check out my reviews of:
Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Star Wars - Episode II: Attack Of The Clones
The Clone Wars
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Volume 1
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Volume 2
Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith
Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars - Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars - Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi


For other film reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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