Ewoks: The Battle for Endor is a 1985 made-for-television movie spun off of the huge success of the Star Wars movies of the era. It is the second such spinoff based on the Ewoks, the first being 1984's The Ewok Adventure.
The film stars Wilford Brimley as Noa, a man who lives as a hermit on the forest moon of Endor (where much of the action of Return of the Jedi took place), as well as Warwick Davis reprising his role as Wicket the Ewok from Return of the Jedi. The film was written by George Lucas, directed by the Wheat brothers, produced by Lucasfilm, and distributed by MGM. It runs for 94 minutes. It is still available in VHS format with a rumored re-release on DVD coming in the future.
The plot for this movie is pretty flimsy. The main focus of the story revolves around a young girl named Cindel (played by Aubree Miller, who has quite literally played nothing else, ever) and Wicket. They live together peacefully in the Ewok village when one day the "army of the Marauders" attacks the village for seemingly no reason. The parents and brother of Cindel all die in the attack, but she and Wicket escape. After stumbling around in the woods for a while, the pair meet Teek, who is a mischevious little animal. After some more stumbling around, Teek takes them to a house where an old man named Noa lives; like Cindel, his Starcruiser also crashed on the moon of Endor. Together, these three mount an attack on the army that is much like the fighting in the Ewok scenes in Return of the Jedi.
Other than Wicket, the Ewoks themselves, and the scenery, there is no crossover whatsoever with the rest of the Star Wars universe except for a few spoken hints. It's pretty detached from the Star Wars films as a whole, mostly providing another vehicle to make money off of the Star Wars universe.
That doesn't stop the movie from having its own simple appeal. The story is very simple in itself and the visual effects are very nice (I can't imagine Lucasfilm being involved if they were not). Wilford Brimley is actually quite good as Noa, doing about as well as one could hope given the limited range of the role. It's simply a light, simple adventure; if you look for more than that from this film, you are bound to be disappointed.
That being said, and taking it for the child-oriented movie that it is, it does deal with a number of issues in a very delicate yet pleasant manner. The issues of abandonment, death, grief, and suffering are all covered here very gently, hidden behind the fuzzy cuteness of the Ewoks and the warm, friendly face of Wilford Brimley. The violence is present, but not in your face; it is very well constructed for a children's movie dealing with such topics. In terms of the underlying message, this film is light years better than most of the drivel that children are often fed by the television.
The made-for-television movie was nominated for three Emmy awards in 1986, for Outstanding Children's Program, Outstanding Special Visual Effects, and Outstanding Sound Mixing. The film won one of them, for Outstanding Special Visual Effects.
If you're even remotely a Star Wars fan, this film is an amusing if farcical little adventure. If you go in expecting something great, you'll be disappointed, but if you set your standards a little lower, this film has a simple and enjoyable quality to it. Also, if you find the idea of Wilford Brimley hanging out with a bunch of fuzzy Ewoks to be appealing, this film is definitely for you.
If you liked this film, Return of the Jedi is definitely recommended, as is the first Ewok movie. For a similar children's film that deals with such issues, try The Velveteen Rabbit, which is a film I dearly enjoyed as a child and one that covers much of the same territory as this film.