The Daily Stream: Caravan Of Courage Is A Reminder For Star Wars Fans To Complain Less

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure"

Where You Can Stream It: Disney+

The Pitch: "Star Wars" wrapped up its initial run with "Return of the Jedi" back in 1983. Many likely assumed that was the last movie we would see in the saga, which turned out to be not the case in a big way. But commercialism and exploitation of successful things were arguably just as bad back in the '80s as they are now, albeit in radically different ways. As such, in 1984, fans were treated (?) to "Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure." This made-for-TV movie aired on ABC and was produced for a tiny $3 million budget, quite unlike the theatrically released "Star Wars" movies.

The movie, directed by John Korty, brought us back to Endor for a simple family adventure filled with alien beasts, dead-eyed Ewoks, and some truly stiff acting. While it is worth watching for the nostalgia trip, it is also a sore reminder of what version of the franchise we could be left with, had things gone another way.

Just so we're all on the same page before we dig in too deep, here is the synopsis for "Caravan of Courage":

When a family's spacecraft crashes on the forest moon of planet Endor, teenage son Mace (Eric Walker) and his little sister, Cindel (Aubree Miller), find themselves separated from their parents. Soon these lost children encounter the Ewoks, the small and furry warriors who call the moon home. With the help of these adorable yet fearless natives, brother and sister set out on a quest to rescue their parents from the grip of a vicious monster known as the Gorax.

Why It's Essential Viewing

I love "Star Wars" more than I love most things. It's probably as close as I get to religion. The good, the bad, I'm here for it. More specifically, as it relates to this conversation, I really like Ewoks. I know quite a few fans don't, but I fall on the #MurderBearsYes side of the fence. It's all about the subtext, which is perhaps a conversation for another time. In any event, I say this to make a point that I do not like to be negative about movies in general, but especially "Star Wars."

The problem for me is, in recent years under the Disney regime, so much of the conversation surrounding the franchise has become negative and toxic. People warring over whether or not "The Last Jedi" was good, actually. Getting angry about "The Rise of Skywalker" for a myriad of different reasons. Getting mad at Disney for turning the franchise into a cash cow at the center of a massive media empire. The list goes on. This complaining can get in the way of my enjoyment, at times, as much as I would like it not to. It is in this way that "Caravan of Courage" can teach fans its greatest lesson.

"Star Wars" was a groundbreaking, engrossing spectacle when it was released in 1977. Just talk to my mom who saw it 17 times in the theater that summer to understand just how radical it was. "Caravan of Courage," just seven years removed, manages to be perhaps the most unfortunate kind of commercialism, with zero innovation. If the Ewoks were not present it would merely feel like a cheap imitation of "Star Wars." One of the most amazing things about "Star Wars" is that it looks as good as it does despite the constraints. This movie looks like it was made for a dime, for the most part.

And that's exactly what the other side of the coin could be. We could have a "zero love for the franchise" future. A future for "Star Wars" that was nothing but the occasional made-for-TV movie or dispassionate Saturday morning cartoon. Instead, we get "The Clone Wars" and "the Mandalorian." We get movies like "Rogue One." We get great comics like Charles Soule's "Darth Vader." We get a version of Lucasfilm that is attempting, though not always succeeding, to use this franchise as a platform to explore this galaxy through great entertainment. Not merely cheap entertainment to keep children interested enough to beg their parents for more toys at Christmas. In this timeline, we also get cool new "Star Wars" toys at Christmas, it's worth mentioning.

Caravan of Courage Shows How Good We Have It Now

Flat out, "Caravan of Courage" is not a good movie. Upon revisiting it recently, it's just as "good" as you would suspect a made-for-TV sci-fi movie from the '80s with a relatively low budget would be. I'm taking nothing away from people who enjoyed it as a child. I wore my VHS copy out. Nostalgia is a powerful thing and fans would do well to get this nostalgia bomb out of their system. That having been said, my argument as to why this is "essential" viewing is really aimed at your hardcore "Star Wars" fans. This isn't necessarily a wholesale recommendation, like when I gushed about "Star Wars Rebels."

Rather, I view "Caravan of Courage" as an essential lesson for "Star Wars" fans. Yes, Disney is trying to make money with "Star Wars." That is what studios and corporations do. It's just how things work. That is exactly why a pair of movies about Ewoks were made in the '80s in the first place. While the media landscape was radically different, the notion of turning entertainment and art into cash was all the same. Has the Disney era of "Star Wars" been perfect? God no. Far from it. But this movie serves as a reminder that, in different hands, and treated a different way, things could be so much worse.

The fact of the matter is, as evidenced by the brilliance of "The Mandalorian," and even video games like "Jedi Fallen Order," Disney and Lucasfilm want to make good "Star Wars" stuff just as much as they want to make money. They're not content with churning out cheap TV movies to keep toys flying off the shelves. Never forget, we could have it so much worse. May the Force be with you, dear reader.