Originally a TV movie for American audiences simply called ‘The Ewok Adventure’ this 1984 Star Wars spinoff was retitled ‘Caravan Of Courage: An Ewok Adventure’ when it was released in cinemas internationally.
I saw it in the UK.
Which is where I lived in 1984.
Indeed it is where I live now.
And I saw it in a cinema.
In fact this film was the first thing I ever saw in a cinema.
I was five years old at the time. I already loved Star Wars, but at that point in my life I had never seen ‘Return of the Jedi’. I knew all about the Ewoks, of course, and by then I may even have had some Ewoks in my collection of Star Wars action figures. But I’d never seen an Ewok on screen.
So I was very excited about seeing this film.
I was also excited about going to the cinema, but I had no idea, really, what a cinema was.
My mind was officially blown by the whole experience.
But before we go on, I must of course, issue a spoiler alert.
Spoiler Alert: In the highly unlikely event that you are someone who has never seen this movie, but would actually like to see this movie, then I probably will be revealing some plot details after this point. But don’t worry, the plot is so derivative and predictable that it’s highly unlikely that a prior knowledge of the story will ruin this movie for you. What may, of course, ruin it is not being five years old…
Of course I loved this film when I first saw it. I was five and I’d never been to the cinema before. If nothing else, I fell in love with the big screen. I’m still in love with the big screen but we have a somewhat fractious relationship these days (or we would if it weren’t for that whole pandemic thing that’s going on at the moment) because I would prefer ‘the big screen’ and I to be alone for the cinematic experience, but ‘the big screen’ seems to enjoy large gatherings of people, many of whom fail to observe even the tiniest bit of etiquette when the movie is playing. So I tend to spend more time with the small screen these days.
But I really did think that seeing a movie about Ewoks on the big screen was the best thing ever when I was five.
Until recently, I hadn’t seen ‘Caravan of Courage’ since I was a small child. I’m certain that first time in the cinema wasn’t the only time I saw this, I think I probably watched a rented VHS copy at some point too, some years later.
But I would still have been very young even on that second viewing.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as an adult.
It’s not the most appealing of concepts – a film about Ewoks but without any of the rest of Star Wars…
But I did actually quite like this even as an adult. It helped having low expectations to begin with and the added bonus of nostalgia certainly didn’t hurt, but it’s really not that bad.
OK, it is quite bad, but in the most inoffensive of ways.
The story centres around a family of space travellers who crash on the forest moon of Endor, some time before the Galactic Empire decided to settle there to construct the second Death Star.
A giant creature called the Gorax kidnaps the parents for some unknown reason. Maybe he wants to eat them, or maybe he thinks they’re cute (they are very small from his perspective) and he wants them as his pets. His motivation is never clear really. He doesn’t eat them, he just keeps them in a cage. Maybe he’s going to eat them later, but, although the exact amount of time he keeps them imprisoned isn’t clear, it’s at least a few days and could well be weeks or months. I’m not sure if he feeds them during this time but they seem relatively well looked after when they’re rescued at the end of the movie. Because of course, in this most conventional of stories, they are rescued.
The Gorax is massive. He’s exactly the kind of creature that you would notice if you were the Galactic Empire and looking for a suitable moon on which to build a shield generator to protect your Death Star and I’d imagine that gigantic carnivorous monsters (assuming he was carnivorous) would be the kind of thing you’d want to avoid. Then again, the Gorax does die at the end of this, and maybe there are no other goraxes around. Maybe he was the only one of his kind. Which might mean he kidnapped the parents because he was lonely. Although I do have some questions about how, biologically speaking, the Gorax came to exist in the first place if he was genuinely the only one.
But lets suspend our disbelief regarding our friend the Gorax. Because the sequel to ‘Caravan of Courage’ is going to raise lots more questions regarding the many inhabitants of Endor that would seem inconceivable to anyone who’s seen ‘Return of the Jedi’. So we don’t want to get hung up on those questions today, because we’ll be dealing with those tomorrow.
Anyway, the parents are kidnapped by the Gorax, leaving the two children to fend for themselves. One of these is Mace, who is a teenage Luke Skywalker wannabe, (he dresses in the orange jumpsuit of rebel x-wing pilot, but I’m pretty sure he’s not got any military credentials). The other is Cindel who is a very small child. Given that the actress is only three months older than me, then she was definitely no older than five when this was made and maybe even younger. So you’d imagine she would be really irritating. But she’s not too bad. Way less irritating than Anakin in ‘The Phantom Menace’ for a start.
But it’s Mace who does all the heavy lifting, dialogue-wise. And aside from a very small child, the only other characters he gets to speak to for the vast majority of the movie are Ewoks. And a ‘wistie’ called Izrina, who seems to be a kind of fairy, made of light or something. But she doesn’t speak and the Ewoks obviously don’t speak English, so poor Mace doesn’t have many coherent conversations.
Indeed the dialogue would be highly problematic from a narrative perspective, so we also have an omniscient narrator to guide us through the action. Although he doesn’t seem to be aware of the Gorax’s motivations either.
Mace and Cindel hook up with a family of Ewoks, and not just any family but Wicket’s family. Wicket does get top-billing for this movie, although he doesn’t really do much. But he’s there and he’s the one we remember from ‘Return of the Jedi’ so I suppose it’s fair enough really.
Anyway, the Ewoks help the children to track down their parents and save them. And they have a few minor adventures on the way, but essentially that’s it in a nutshell.
It all ends well. Except for the Gorax. Who dies. And one Ewok, who also dies.
The family are reunited and there is absolutely no reason to believe that they won’t all live happily ever after.
Until you watch the sequel…
Best character – Mace
To be fair he was fairly close to being a candidate for ‘worst character’ early on in the movie, because he is a bit of a whinger and he makes some perplexingly stupid choices, which put him and his sister in unnecessary danger more than once. But he gets his act together in the second half of the movie and it’s a pretty cool-headed hurling of an axe by Mace, which finally dispatches the Gorax.
Worst Character – Both of the parents
They’re just a bit rubbish really. I mean who gets themselves kidnapped by a Gorax?
Usung Hero – Chukha-Trok
He’s the Ewok who dies. He single-handedly takes on the Gorax in a fight. Even though the Gorax is huge and Chukha-Trok is the size of…well…an Ewok. Plus his dying act is to give his axe to Mace. And it’s this same axe that Mace subsequently uses to send the Gorax to its death.
And that just about sums up the first of the spin-off Ewok movies. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll probably be writing about the second one.