Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Enthusiast and Writer
In Defense of Ewoks and Return of the Jedi
Journalists, bloggers, and just about any geek with an opinion have vented their perceptions regarding the final chapter of the Star Wars saga as it exists today. Well, here’s mine. You can find a plethora of articles claiming that “Empire was the last good Star Wars film” and that Return of the Jedi was the “...clearest example of Lucas’ willingness to compromise the integrity of his Trilogy (filmthreat.com).” The latter comment was a reference to the comedy present in the film, and yes of course, Ewoks, Ewoks, and Ewoks.
In the end, the bulk of the criticism surrounding Jedi comes down to these small tribal creatures. Seen from the perspective of a 10-year-old (the target audience of the film as it was produced), the Ewoks do not detract from the story, but rather support some of the ideas and themes of the original trilogy.
Teddy Bears In Space!
Some haters may say that the Ewoks were put into the story as a cash-grab: a cute little merchandising item that existed to sell lovable plushes and bedtime companions. Perhaps, but ask any red-blooded Star Wars-loving kid if he would rather have an action figure of Luke Skywalker or Chief Logray. A green lightsaber beats a spear every time.
It's important to note that the Ewoks work. They work as compliments to two main characters developed in the series: Han and Leia. First, New Hope depicts Leia as a tough, fearless action heroine in her escape from the Death Star. She is a leader, and as Carrie Fisher points out, “the only woman in the Galaxy” who doesn’t take any guff from scoundrel smugglers and would-be hero farm boys. Likewise, Empire portrays her as a frigid prude for most of the film, unable to admit her true feelings for fear of showing vulnerability. In Jedi (bikini notwithstanding) Leia, though mostly mute in the first act, is shown strangling the fearsome Jabba the Hut with with her slave chain! Prior to this, Leia has only shown kindness and a demure nature in her consolation of Luke in A New Hope and in only a few lines of dialogue with Han as he breaks down her defenses.
When the Ewoks finally appear in Jedi, they serve to soften the Princess, indicating a more compassionate loving side. Just watch her first interaction with Wicket. Leia’s entire appearance and demeanor changes when we see her in the Ewok village. She is characterized by long, flowing hair and organic clothing, whereas earlier we had only seen her with tightly-bunned hair, braids, and fairly masculine uniforms. The culmination of her willingness to show vulnerability comes towards the end of the film as she asks Han to hold her.
In addition, Ewoks also serve as a good comedic contradiction to Han, softening his presence as well. His initial reaction to the little fur-balls, after getting captured, draws a parallel to the Empire. He instinctively pulls his blaster until Luke coaxes him to do otherwise. The first look on Han’s face upon seeing the Ewoks is a smirk of disbelief and an immediate dismissal of the tribe, until they put their spears in his face. The next thing he knows, he’s being served up as a feast for C3PO! Quite a bit of ironic justice considering Han’s treatment of the helpful droid in the past.
Furthermore, the Empire, just like Han, did not view this tribal society as any type of threat. We have to assume the Emperor was aware of their presence and chose to put his shield generator on the forest moon of Endor anyway. On paper, an uprising from these primitives against the Empire would surely result in a massacre. This shows the Emperor’s clear disdain for the creatures and his opinion of their insignificance.
No Fart Jokes
Return of the Jedi is also hated on for its moments of levity. “In what is probably the film’s single most painful moment, Solo requests Threepio to do a number of chores. After continually tapping him on the shoulder and preventing him from leaving to complete his duties, Solo quips, ‘Hurry up, will ya? I haven’t got all day.’ Har-dee-har-har (filmthreat.com).” There is some classic comedic stuff here, especially the last double-take that Threepio gives Han, implying “are you kidding me?” It still makes me smile. Many jaded adults, who think these movies are made for them, find Jedi‘s humor to be unmoving.
Ultimately, Lucas portrays the Ewoks as spiritual beings that live in harmony with nature. This makes them favored by the light side of the Force. The essence of the creatures embody the overall spirit of the Rebellion. At first glance, the struggling Rebellion appeared insignificant. They looked like a weak, outnumbered, technologically inferior, and underpowered force that dared to stand against the injustices of the mighty, overconfident, and unbeatable Empire. Palpatine viewed the Ewoks in the same way. Aside for some implied murdering and eating of our heroes early on, the Ewoks are pure and good-hearted. Their willingness to help and stand up to evil makes them a tool of the Light. Ultimately, they are a deciding factor in the war as a key ally for the Rebels.
All Is As The Force Wills It
In the end, Luke’s actions on the Death Star are wholly inconsequential. Even if he did turn to the Dark Side, kill his father, and allowed the Emperor to live, the colossal battle station would still, in the end, be destroyed. This was due to the efforts of the underestimated Ewoks.
Truly, Return of the Jedi is the great, culminating chapter in the Saga (so far). From a drama or action perspective, nothing in the Saga beats the confrontation between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor in the throne room. Some may prefer Luke and Vader’s initial fight in Empire, but this Jedi scene has more going for it. Sure, in Empire, it was the first duel between the two, and contained the big reveal, but Vader is clearly toying with Luke and manipulating his feelings.
In Jedi, the odds have evened up between the father and son, and we see the Emperor’s sinister influence on their relationship. It is the pivotal moment of the Saga. We see the redemption of Anakin, the triumph of Luke over the dark side, the fall of the Empire, and the balance of the force prophesy fulfilled. This is all thanks to some help from the Ewoks along the way.
© 2019 Maudo Rodriguez