A Case for Ewoks
This time of year always gets me thinking of Star Wars, and I have no god-damn idea why. Probably because of how many people talk about the Star Wars Christmas Special and how bad it is, but who knows? Anyway, if you haven’t seen this 70-minute critique of The Phantom Menace, you should. Maybe this is also what has me thinking about it. I think an extensive criticism of this nature is valid because it’s rare that history has given us a literally complete reversal in a film-maker’s work. Not only was The Phantom Menace a pretty lousy movie, but it’s as though it was antithetically lousy to Star Wars–as though George Lucas said, “Here’s all the things that made Star Wars great. Let’s see if I can make a great movie by doing the opposite of every single one of them.” This is a good learning experience.
But, I digress. Today, I’m here to talk to you about Ewoks. Ewoks get a lot of shit among Star Wars fans, and there’s a suggestion that they are the worst part of the Star Wars series, that they ruined Return of the Jedi, blah blah blah. I am going to attempt to make a case for them.
There are three basic reasons that people hate Ewoks, they are as follows and I quote:
1. They don’t add anything to the movie.
2. Imperial Stormtroopers should mop the fucking floor with some primitive bear-monsters from the planet ass-end of who-gives-a-fuck.
3. They’re stupid cutesy teddy bears meant to appeal to children.
So. First things first.
1. They don’t add anything to the movie. This is not a valid criticism, you can say that about any of the elements of any of the Star Wars movies. Why did the Death Star need to be able to destroy planets? Why couldn’t it have been a huge space station? Why did it need to be in space at all? Couldn’t it have just been a giant, secret fortress on a planet? What were the lightsabers for? Wouldn’t regular swords have done the same thing? Why did we need laser guns and robots and aliens? Wouldn’t this movie have worked just as well if you’d set it in Feudal Japan? Well, yes. Of course it would. Could you have made Return of the Jedi without any Ewoks in it at all, and not changed the plot? Sure. But just because something’s not intrinsic to the plot doesn’t mean it’s not good.
And there actually is a thematic undercurrent that supports the Ewoks. I mean, we know that the Empire is evil, right? Right? Sure. Because they had that giant space station that destroyed a planet. Proof positive. And also, the Emperor is a scary motherfucker. Proof positive. We know they’re evil, but they’re also a bad empire. Why? Because of their disregard for everything that doesn’t appear to have immediate use for them — like little bear guys on some shit-hole moon somewhere. Because of how they push around the little guy. See?
2. Imperial Stormtroopers should have kicked the shit out of the Ewoks. No. WRONG. An Imperial Stormtrooper is 99% fancy uniform and 1% fucking stupid. This is true, and necessary, and I can explain why.
First of all: The Empire’s primary interest is in controlling space trade. That’s why they have those giant god-damn spaceships. When do they ever need to crash down and invade a planet on foot? What are the circumstances under which, instead of sending a STAR DESTROYER to mess some fuckers up, you’d just send some guys? Rare, probably, which is why Stormtroopers aren’t especially well-trained. They probably aren’t especially experienced, either, because the Empire has about a thousand troopers for every one it needs. They haven’t had to conquer another planet in generations, so the only practice any Stormtroopers get at Stormtrooping is SHOOTING JAWAS and KILLING UNCLE OWEN. Seriously, that’s the most action these guys have seen in forever. Remember how they kept not being able to shoot R2D2, even though he was right god-damn there and they had lasers?
Second of all, “But aren’t these the best Stormtroopers in town? If you’re going to guard the Death Star, right, you must be the best Stormtrooper?” Yes, that’s true, which is why all the best Stormtroopers in the Empire are already dead, from when they were blown up on the Death Star the first time. These are the second-stringers, and they’re brought in in small numbers, because the Emperor is trying to lure the rebels into a trap. He can’t super-fortify his fortress, because then the rebels don’t attack at all, and just continue hiding out and harrying the crap out of him.
Third of all, “But they have lasers and force fields, how are they messed up by a tree and some little bears with sticks?” Well, shit–the Empire probably gets its Stormtroopers from the places with the largest populations, which means that 90% of them probably come from Coruscant, the city-planet. This is the first time these guys have SEEN A TREE. They’re trained to use lasers and nuclear sensors and force-field disruptors and how to repair the antigravity repellors on a speeder bike — how much time do you think the Empire spends teaching these guys how to avoid getting some fucking logs dropped on their heads? Answer: no time.
Fourth of all, the more advanced the Empire gets, the higher its benchmark for advancement. The Stormtroopers on the forest moon probably didn’t even know the Ewoks were there because, as far as the Empire was concerned, Endor’s forest moon WAS uninhabited. “Oh, those monkey-bear fuckheads with the rocks? Oh, yeah, I guess there might be some of them. There’s probably some sharks or something, too. Why?”
What you have on the Forest Moon is a handful of poorly-trained, inexperienced soldiers — brought AS A RUSE to a completely alien planet that they were told was uninhabited — being attacked by an army of local native experts employing weapons that no one has used in TEN THOUSAND YEARS. Yeah, especially in the first fight, the Stormtroopers are going to get their asses handed to them.
3. They’re stupid cutesy teddy bears meant to appeal to children. Listen: they were going to EAT HAN SOLO. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, that’s fucking awesome.