A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 73 – Ewoks: The Battle for Endor

Ewoks: The Battle for Endor – May 12th, 2010

Boy do I love having background dirt on a movie, and oh, we have dirt on this one. How? Well, Andy’s uncles wrote and directed it, which is awesome. So we emailed them and asked if they’d mind giving us some comments. They both emailed us back and gave us some great information. Like how the original script came in and was totally unworkable, so they scrapped it and rewrote it with a week to go before casting. And then there was the basketball game between the actors playing the marauders and the actors playing the Ewoks (pretty sure the Ewoks won). But despite stuff like the script problem and some editing worries and only having the minor actors and actresses (including three of the four leads) for half the day and Michael Jackson visiting the set it seems they had a great deal of fun making the movie. Andy’s posted their emails in separate entries and I highly recommend going and reading them here (Ken Wheat) and here (Jim Wheat).

Now, one departure this movie has from the first one is that while the parents are gone, they’re not just missing. They’re dead. As is big brother Mace. See, no one making the movie (Lucas included, apparently) really had any specific attachment to the majority of the family (not surprising, given their almost complete absence from the first movie and Mace’s unfortunate jerk tendencies), so they decided to kill them all off! It’s a pretty common trope in children’s fiction – get rid of the parents – but killing them is a pretty solid way to get right of them. So, keep Wicket and Cindel (who’s practically an Ewok anyway with all that hair) and give them their own adventure.

Given what I’ve already said, it’s probably pretty obvious how the basic story goes: Parents get killed, kid goes off to try and find a way to survive, she meets a grumpy old man who learns how to smile again thanks to her adorable antics. Add in a sorceress and her orc-like horde, who were responsible for Cindel’s family all dying in the first 15 minutes, and a quest to save Wicket’s family and retrieve a part the sorceress and her minions stole from Cindel’s family’s ship, and you’ve got this movie. Sure, it’s a simple plot, but I think the complicated morass of the three Star Wars prequels is more than enough to prove that a complicated plot does not a good movie make. Sure, you know there’s no way Cindel or Wicket are going to die, and sure, you know the baddies will probably bite it by the end, and the crotchety old man will either sacrifice himself for Cindel’s safety or take her in as her now-kindly foster grandpa, but come on. It’s a kids movie and as kids movies go, it’s fairly well plotted and well written and it’s got Wilford Brimley as the crotchety old man, Noa. I wasn’t even annoyed with Cindel, though Andy pointed out yesterday that I do work with kids, and so perhaps my tolerance for Cindel has grown over the years.

I’m going to take a moment here and share the praise one of Andy’s uncles had for the actress playing Teek. See, Teek is a little not-Ewok who lives with the crotchety old man as sort of a pet/servant/companion and it was originally supposed to be a puppet. But the puppet didn’t work out, so they had a costume made for one of the Ewok actresses and then an animatronic mask that would be controlled remotely. I spent much of the movie paying attention to the body movements and actions from Teek and I’ve got to agree. The actress in the costume didn’t get to show any of her own facial expressions (though neither did the actors playing the Ewoks, since their faces are barely articulated at all) and looking at the costume, I’m sure it was a pain to do the exaggerated physical movements that convey so much of the only semi-verbal character’s reactions. And Teek really is a fun part of the movie, especially interacting with Noa as he’s being grumpy and crotchety and Teek is so obviously used to having to prod him along.

Granted, I’m partial to it. My brother rented this I don’t know how many times when we were kids. There’s one line in particular, Wicket saying “Starcruiser woosh! Starcruiser crash!” that stuck with me enough that it entered my regular obscure reference parlance. I said it once to Andy when we were dating and he was dumbfounded. “How do you know that?” he asked. “It’s from this movie about Ewoks,” I informed him. Yeah, he knew that. It was one of the many things that we bonded over when we were dating. But even if I wasn’t partial to it for that reason, I actually really do like it. I hadn’t seen it in years and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it tonight. Heck, I liked last night’s and tonight’s was definitely a lot better.

And there ends the official Star Wars Week+. We did the prequels, we did the originals, we did the Ewoks, and we enjoyed 5/8! But unofficially, there’s one more movie. What sort of Star Wars Week+ would it be without Spaceballs?

May 12, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. My favorite stories about the making of this movie have to do with time-tested tricks used to minimize costs.

    Need to have a huge hoard of bad guys rush down a hill toward the camera? Mask half the frame, and have a small hoard of baddies rush down the hill. Then rewind the film, mask the other side of the frame (while the actors trudge back up the hill), and have the same hoard rush down slightly to the side of where they rushed down before. Voila.

    After escaping from castle, interior, night, which is shot in a studio, you don’t want to have to shoot exterior, night, which is expensive. So the night is short and to explain it you have Wilfred Brimly saying, as he breaks through the wall to see sunlight, “By golly, it’s morning already”.

    Noa’s house doesn’t look right to George . . . too far from the trees? Get a front-end loader or something and push the whole set closer to the trees.

    That’s how movies are (or were) made.

    Comment by David | May 13, 2010 | Reply

  2. Out of nowhere, there’s a list on Cracked today that shows the Ghana movie poster for this:
    http://www.cracked.com/article_18542_15-grossly-misleading-movie-posters_p2.html

    Comment by JP | May 27, 2010 | Reply


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