Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Ewok Adventure

Here we are again on Fishing in the Discount, where I watch one of the movies I own and blog about it.  With an itch to watch some Star Wars, I decided to go off the beaten path and watch The Ewok Adventure.  This is in my notes at May 5, 2015.

Well, Star Wars Day wasn't too long ago, and that put me in the mood to watch some Star Wars.  But I wasn't in the mood to watch Star Wars, ya know?  Sometimes, it feels like an investment.  If I watch Star Wars, then I gotta watch Empire Strikes Back, and since I've gone this far, may as well watch Return of the Jedi and finish off the trilogy.  Same with the prequels.  I remember being in a similar situation back in college, with Episode I a few short months away, but I didn't want to watch the trilogy again.  So what did I do?  I went down to the corner video store and rented The Ewok Adventure.

Ah, yes.  The Ewok TV movies.  The precedent for the upcoming Star Wars Anthology spin-off films.  As those who remember the early 1980s and the release of Return of the Jedi, the Ewoks were front and centre on all the merchandise.  According to Wikipedia, George Lucas considered doing a 1-hour TV special expanding on the lives of the Ewoks, and it soon expanded into a 2-hour TV movie.  Still hurting from the fiasco that was The Star Wars Holiday Special, George Lucas insisted on complete creative control, which is why he wrote it, produced it, and it's a Lucasfilm production.  Directing it was legendary TV director John Korty. 

The Ewok Adventure hit TV screens in November of 1984, and was a ratings hit.  I think that was around the time my parents had purchased their first VCR, and we taped it.  I remember watching it on TV as a kid and loving it.  I mean, I was just getting into Star Wars, so of course I was hungry for more adventures.  But even though I remember watching it on TV and loving it, and we taped it off TV, I don't remember watching it again until renting it on VHS in college.  It was released on DVD in the early 2000s, in the wake of Star Wars' much-hyped first DVD release.  On DVD, the name is changed to its overseas theatrical release title, Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure

Our heroes are the Towani family, whose star cruiser crash landed on the forest moon of Endor.  The family is separated though, and the younglings, Mace and Cindel, are taken in by Wicket and his family.  A visit to the Ewok village, and thanks to some magic from Logray, our heroes discover that the Towani parents have been captured by en evil giant being known as the Gorax.  So, Mace, Cindel, and the Ewoks soon band together to form a fellowship caravan and head off to rescue Mace and Cindel's parents. 

That's the thing...this film is a lot more fantasy-based than the sci-fi of Star Wars.  Granted, Star Wars has all been accused of being fantasy with sci-fi window dressing, but The Ewok Adventure doesn't bother.  The Ewoks use magic.  There's a magic pool.  We encounter fairies.  Granted, it could be argued that the use of magic is just manipulation of the Force, and since the Ewoks are primitives who probably don't know of the Force, they just write it off as magic. 

The special effects are above average for a TV movie, no doubt because, since it was Lucasfilm all the way, it was handled by ILM.  The only gripe I have about the special effects have to be when our caravan has to battle with a giant spider.  It is such a cheezy looking puppet that you can't help but snicker.  But other than that, the matte paintings are easily on par with the rest of ILM's mid-1980s work.

The score is pretty good, too, from composer from Peter Bernstein.  It's interesting.  Rather than try to mimic John Williams' work on the Star Wars trilogy, he seems to be mimicking Williams' score for E.T..  But it works.  And since the youngest, Cindel, forms a strong friendship with Wicket, an Elliot/E.T. vibe is appropriate.  That being said, a few bars of Williams' Ewoks theme is slipped in for a few scenes. 

Perhaps one of the strangest things is that it's narrated by Burl Ives.  Yes, if you're a fan of Christmas specials, you'll recognize him as the narrator for Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  I guess ol' Sam the Snowman had to get with the times and tell a new story about these Star Wars that all the kids were talking about.  But a narrator is almost a necessity in this film.  The two kids are pretty much the only human characters for 90% of the film, and the Ewoks are speaking Ewokeese for most of it, so a narrator sure helps explain what's going on. 

When all's said and done, The Ewok Adventure isn't too bad. It's a fun little tale that helps flesh out the Star Wars universe a little more.

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