Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Caravan of Craptastic Courage

I think I watched the Ewok Adventure movie about a thousand times growing up. I loved it! I was 6 or 7 when the Star Wars spinoff movie came out in 1984. I grew up with Cindel and her cute little headband. I thought I identified with Mace and his struggles to want to be better. I loved the cute little Ewoks and I felt like I could be part of their tribe. I got so scared of all the monsters, and I would jump at all the jump scares, every single time. This was probably in my Top 5 favorite movies when I was a kid. I watched it so many times I wore out that VHS tape. In fact, upon rewatching it on Disney+ (just added to their lineup this month), I kept waiting for the wavy VHS lines to distort the Gorax's face, but the digital remastering restored the the film to its original glory.

Ah, glory.

The Ewok Adventure's title was eventually changed to Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure. Okay, fine. So I put on the show with my family and decided to give it a go, the first time I had seen it in about 30 years. Wow, what a blast from the past! It truly felt like I was watching something from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... 

Upon rewatching it, I was struck by a few things:

  • As a kid, Cindel was my favorite. She was cute, sweet, and I really loved her. But no, in 2021, it's just bad acting. I can forgive it though, the girl is like five years old. It's fine.
  • Mace is so bratty. If you thought Luke Skywalker was whiny complaining about power converters, or Anakin Skywalker was a grouch moaning about sand, well Mace is on a whole new level. He complains, he's grating, and he's just kind of a jerk. (Maybe he really is a Skywalker!) He even disgustedly throws away a magic rock, which pretty much dooms the entire group. Talk about selfish!
  • And on the subject of magic, where does this element come into the Star Wars universe? The closest thing there is to magic is The Force, the parameters and mechanics of which are explored in great detail over several movies. But here sits this old made-for-TV-movie about Ewoks, and they suddenly have a magic walking stick, a magic rock, and a magic candle? As an adult watching, it just doesn't feel like Star Wars
  • The writing is poor. It doesn't help that the majority of the movie is "acted" by children, monsters, and creatures who don't speak English. If you thought the first nine abrasive minutes of the Star Wars Holiday Special were bad listening wookiees grunt and growl and gesticulate, just wait for an entire movie of Ewokese "spoken" by characters who aren't as cute as the producers think they are.
  • The story is just ... just not great. All the tools needed to be successful are given to the group early on the in film. There's no question about how the story is going to end. In fact, the biggest surprise is when the Gorax falls down the giant pit, but then hangs on to the side and is still alive! 
  • And speaking of the Gorax, I really felt badly for him! He wasn't evil, he wasn't bad, he was just doing Gorax things. Heck, he didn't even kill Cindel's parents, and it didn't look like he was going to. Watching the show now, I see the Gorax as a big intelligent being who found some helpless "animals" in the woods, and brought them back to his home to take care of them. And then the the animals' family broke into the Gorax's home, destroyed his property, and murdered the big guy. Not cool. 
  • I also watched the sequel Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, which was just as bad. I'm not going to go into details, but my takeaways were: Did they really kill Cindel's entire family? When did Wicket learn English? And isn't Endor the planet, and not the moon where the Ewoks live? (But that's the geek in me coming out.)

However here's the good news: I watched this with my kids, and we really enjoyed it! Yes, we laughed at some of the silliness, and we rolled our eyes at the campiness. But we enjoyed a fun bit of Star Wars spinoff, and we had a good time giggling at the special effects (which yes, one a Emmy back in the day). Sure, Caravan of Courage is no Candle of Pure Light, but it certainly is not some ceremonial rock that should be tossed aside!

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