The most harrowing scene in Star Wars history is almost here. If you think Anakin’s antics in Revenge of the Sith were disturbing, then you were not a child of the ‘80s, traumatized by the utter carnage that launches this forgotten film in the Star Wars pantheon — but it won’t be forgotten for long, as it’s about to land on Disney+.
You wouldn’t think the Ewoks of Endor would be at the heart of the most hardcore Star Wars movie moment of all time, would you? Well, you would be wrong. The seemingly sweet and cuddly Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, streaming April 2 on Disney+, is anything but sweet and cuddly.
Shortly after Return of the Jedi, George Lucas crafted the made-for-TV movie Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, about a family that crash-lands on Endor sometime before the events of Return of the Jedi. It’s a pretty straightforward, if watered down Star Wars story. There’s Mace Towani, a Luke Skywalker type with no relation to Mace Windu. His little sister is Cindel. They team together with a bunch of local Ewoks to save their parents, who have been kidnapped by monsters. The mission is a success, Mace and Cindel and their parents are indoctrinated into Ewok society, and everyone lives happily ever after.
Until they don’t.
Apparently unsatisfied with the tragedy of the Skywalker family, George Lucas decided that the Towani family needed to suffer even worse. Enter: Battle for Endor, the Caravan of Courage sequel that delivers one of the most shocking displays of carnage in a family-movie franchise, let alone a Star Wars movie.
In a positively bleak Alien 3 move, Lucas decides it’s time to kill-off literally every single member of this family, except for the little girl. Other than maybe Luke losing his hand in The Empire Strikes Back, there’s actually not any moment in any Star Wars thing, ever, that betrays the audience’s trust more than the first act deaths of Catarine, Jeremitt, and Mace Towani in Battle for Endor. Cindel is helpless to watch as her entire family — the ones she rescued in the first movie, the characters the Ewok movie fans (such as they are) came to know — are all systematically killed off in unequivocal fashion.
“My family, they're all dead,” the five-year-old Cindel says at one point. “What happens to me now, Wicket? I'm all alone.”
Let’s unpack this for a second.
Little kids in the 80s were expected to watch the faux-Luke Skywalker character (Mace), and his parents get murdered in the first 15-minutes of the movie. I know a lot of people still talk about the trauma of Optimus Prime dying in the 1986 animated Transformers movie, but the imagery in The Battle for Endor is way more hardcore. And it’s not like things get way better for Cindel after her family dies.
In A New Hope, after the death of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, Luke is then allowed to have the rest of the story happen to him. Battle for Endor doesn’t give Cindel any kind of Hero’s Adventure status. After her parents and older brother are killed, she’s forced to rely on a bunch of teddy bears to save her from an evil witch, with an assist from Wilford Brimley for good measure.
For years, various authors of the Star Wars expanded universe attempted to retcon the events of The Battle for Endor into the book and comic book canon. Charal, the evil witch torturing the traumatically orphaned Cindel, was “revealed” to actually be one of the Force-witches of Dathomir, which, if she were canon would mean she was related to Darth Maul.
Meanwhile, poor Cindel reappeared in the novel Tyrant's Test, the final installment in a book trilogy by Michael P. Kube-McDowell called The Black Fleet Crisis. In Tyrant's Test, Cindel is now a journalist working on Courscant, a hilarious job in the world of Star Wars, in which people never have any idea what is going on, and frequently are bamboozled about basic news events that happened less than a decade prior.
Other than the name “Mace” getting reused for Mace Windu in the prequels (Lucas was kicking that name around for a while), one thing from Battle for Endor did survive into the contemporary canon. Did you love those Blurrgs that Mando and Kuill rode in The Mandalorian? Those critters are pretty all that remains in the Star Wars canon of the dark legacy of the Towani family. But, now that Disney+ is releasing the Ewok movies again, maybe that’s going to change.
We totally saw Wicket in the final moments of The Rise of Skywalker, remember? Does he still remember Cindel? Could she have her own comeback movie, or better yet, crash The Book of Boba Fett? Cindel’s story had only begun in The Battle for Endor. What does her life look like after leaving Endor behind? How does she move forward in light of the tragic Battle for Endor? With any luck, she’s faring better than those of us who watched this movie when we were kids of the 80s.
And on that note ... if you’re a parent of young children now? Maybe think twice before you select the Ewok movies streaming on Disney+ for your kids. You may not realize it, but this is no Star Wars teddy bear picnic; it’s the most hardcore Star Wars movie ever.
Both Ewok movies, along with the 2003 Clone Wars, are hitting Disney+ on April 2, 2021.