(Sadly, the videos I used in this post have since been taken down due to copyright infringement. I guess you’ll just have to use your memories).
With a few spectacular exceptions, tribal armies have never gotten on well against colonial powers. The history of empire building in Africa and other places is a history of large native armies getting butchered by smaller, more technologically advanced European powers.
But, it doesn’t always go that way. Islandwana and Adwa spring to mind, clashes where, for a variety of factors, native armies came out on top.
But it is very rare, for good reason. Native victories come about because, usually, of incompetent commanders, immense numerical superiority and geographical advantages being utilised to the full.
So, Endor. Does it pass muster? (We’re talking about the fight on the ground here, if you’re wondering).
The Battle of Endor – Ground Operations
The Set-Up: The battle takes place in a forested area on the moon of Endor. Centred around an Imperial Shield Generator, the area is hilly, with thick, tall trees.
The Armies: The rebels are a mixture. A number of human soldiers, armed with laser weapons, just about double figures. They’re led by Han Solo and Leia Organa, two high ranking members of the Rebel Alliance, very experienced. They also have two droids along.
The rest of the rebel forces consist of a large number of small, furry creatures called Ewoks. A native species, they are armed with primitive weapons and are led by…some Ewok with a hat.
Their opponents are the Empire. A ”Legion of (the Emperor’s) best troops” (hereafter referred as LOMBT) are garrisoned in the area consisting of numerous Stormtroopers, armoured with laser weapons along with some scouts on hover bike things. More intimidating are the four AT-STs or “Chicken Walkers”, large walking vehicles with more powerful laser weapons on the front and a two man crew. They have no recognizable commanders, beyond some anonymous officer types.
The aim of the rebel forces is to destroy the shield generator. The aim of the Empire is to kill them all. Lets’ begin, shall we? (Starting, first vid, 7.00).
We see the Rebel forces begin their approach on the objective and immediately we notice something is wrong. Well, we do, but the rebels don’t seem too. This entrance to the shield generator is guarded by three Imperial scouts who seem to be just milling around, chatting. (7.05)
The rebels see no problem with this. This, the most critical defensive structure in the entire Empire, and its door is guarded by three very lackadaisical scouts. Scouts, not proper Stormtroopers. Hmm.
There’s also the fact that the force of Rebels has gotten this close to the generator without detection. Odd, wouldn’t you say?
I’m going to be coming back to this point a few times, but to be brief: The alarm bells should be ringing inside the rebels heads. It’s too damn easy.
Speaking of the rebels, they’ve got some good camo gear – except for their leader Han, decked out in black and white and their translator droid C-3PO, all gold. They are as conspicuous as the Stormtroopers in those colours. Seriously, they have a flashy golden man shaped things walking towards the generator and somehow, the Imperials don’t see him coming (Alarm Bells!). But still, no need to bring the man shaped “we’re over here” guy this close to the front (7.16).
The guards are all clustered around the door, not even looking out at the surrounding area. Either they’re very stupid or very obvious. Again, no alarm bells ringing in the rebel minds just yet. One of the Ewoks hijacks a hover bike and the Scouts, three of the four, chase after him with gusto. No one tries to shoot him for some reason (7.51).
It’s nice that the primitive Ewok is able to figure out the hover bike controls so quickly by the way.
With just one scout left guarding the back door (no call in for back-up? Very odd…) Han does the classic “tap on the shoulder, run away” trick. The scout follows him round the corner. I’d just like to point out that the guard doesn’t draw a weapon despite the clearly non-Imperial intruder and just decides to chase after him without calling back-up (8.39).
Two possibilities here, both stupid. Either the scout is criminally incompetent, in which case he shouldn’t be guarding a portapotty let alone the shield generator of the Death Star or he’s deliberately not pulling a weapon as part of the Emperor’s ambush plan. Guess what should be ringing in the rebels minds? That’s right. Alarm bells. Loud, clangy alarm bells that seem to ring with the words “Trap. Ambush. Ruse.”
With the entire force guarding the entrance neutralised in a criminally easy fashion, the rebels break into the facility (8.53). It’s eerily quiet inside the thing, considering what a vital facility it is.
You know what isn’t quiet? Alarm bells. It turns out that only a handful of Imperials are inside the thing (2.40 second vid). Insane that the rebels don’t catch on.
Apparently, the Rebels left no-one outside the Generator who could have given them a heads up about the incoming Imperial re-enforcements. Well, they left the Ewoks and 3PO, but didn’t give them the ability to communicate with them. It wouldn’t really have done them much good, I suppose, but there was no need for the entire Rebel force to head into the Generator (2.56).
Actually, it appeared that only sevem or so rebels went into the generator complex. Where did the rest of them go? (Apparently captured very easily, without sending off a warning of any kind). Regardless, the rebels inside the generator, having set up no kind of perimeter themselves, are easily captured. On the basis of this, Han and Leia really are awful officers who have underestimated their enemies in a criminally negligent way (3.12).
The Imperials take the Rebels outside, presenting them to the entire “Legion”. Impressive force, though they are all squashed a little tightly together. Not much room for manoeuvre. An artillery strike or grenade could play havoc here (1.43, third vid).
But all is not lost, because here come the Ewoks! And man, those little furballs must be deceptively heavy considering how easily they force the LOMBT to their knees by just jumping on them (2.29).
And it’s been said before, but that Stormtrooper armour is just awful. Not stopping lasers is one thing, but they don’t seem capable of withstanding some pointy sticks (2.34).
Also, man, those Ewoks took out a good four Stormtroopers with their initial surprise attack. Good thinking, reserving the element of surprise for around 1% of the enemy force.
But holy God, an absolute tonne of Ewoks have managed to get incredibly close to the Imperials positions without detection (2.44). We’re talking well into the fifties here. The LOMBT, despite having tactical mastery of the area for the last while, has failed to spot them.
I mean they literally emerge meters from the Imperials. It’s mind boggling. Also, the small thin arrows of the Ewok are also able to breach Stormtrooper armour (2.50). Who made this stuff?
For what is going on here – a sudden surprise attack by a surrounding force, the interior prisoners trying to escape – there is surprisingly little shooting going on (2.55 on). We’ve got a huge amount of Stormtroopers here, and plenty of enemy for them to shoot, but very little firing is going on. Why not? Some of the Stormtroopers rush into the forest to take the Ewoks on at close range, for no clear reason (3.05).
In fact, the LOMBT is scattering big time, pursuing the Ewoks into the forest. And without any kind of covering or suppressing fire. They seem to have lost all of their cohesion. Best troops? Seriously?
The Ewok start carrying out little ambushes on smaller groups of Stormtroopers to surprisingly effective success. We see members of the LOMBT go down very easily, and remain incapable of getting up under the force of two whole Ewoks (3.35). What’s wrong with them?
I mentioned during my coverage of Helm’s Deep that explosions, when used in situations like this, should have a very extreme effect on those nearby (4.10 on). These are primitive creatures, they couldn’t possibly have any experience with gunpowder, let alone weapons of this technological sophistication. Explosions mess you up. Not just physically, but mentally. Shock and awe. The sheer shock of having explosions happen next to you is enough to send many into a catatonic or useless state. These explosions are happening right next to the Ewoks but we see no shell shock, no adverse effects beyond bog standard fear. It’s not right. Native armies in history would often just throw down their primitive weapons and run at the first use of very basic gunpowder weapons. It’s how Spain and Portugal defeated gigantic empires in very small amounts of time without actually killing that many people.
The Ewoks, a portion of them at the very least, should be running for their little, furry lives.
Han and Leia take up a position next to the main door of the Generator. They hug the wall, but they can’t possibly be in any kind of effective cover (4.29). The odd Imperial emerges to charge at them, but none of the Stormtroopers just shoot them from a distance. They’re not in cover. Shoot them, and the rebels have lost their leaders. Instead, Han and Leia have a little private shooting gallery of their own.
Jedi also expects us to accept something that should be impossible. Somehow the Ewoks, limited by their height and short arms, have managed to set up many large-scale traps in the surrounding forests (4.58 and onward). They have managed to do so under the very noses of the LOMBT. They cut those long, thick trunks, hoisted them, set up the ambush, and did it all without the Imperials noticing the set-up. Amazing. Too amazing.
For all of their technology and reputation, the Imperials seem to have no experience or training in melee combat. Scratch that. They have no ability to fight hand-to-hand whatsoever. Keeping in mind that this is not a skill that a lot of people are taught for the first time by the military (hell, we can all attempt to throw a punch) and you’re beginning to see how odd the reaction of the Imperials to the Ewok attack is. They’re not fighting back. They get mugged, and then just lie there and take it. You know how most guns are heavy? Well, that has the handy application of making them an effective club if needs be. But the Imperials don’t do it. It’s baffling and betrays again the notion of them being “a legion of (the Emperors) best troops” (7.26). That being said, the Ewoks are getting messed up too, but not nearly on the level that the Imperials are.
Inside one of the walkers, the two pilots are confronted by a problem: an Ewok glaring and taunting them through the forward openings (0.41 fourth vid). I’m wondering why the Imperial pilots don’t have some form of small arm they can use to shoot the little furball, rather than do what they do next.
I mean, the Ewok taunts them and vanishes above. It’s the most obvious “Open the hatch” ploy they could try to pull. And the Imperials, part of LOMBT, fall for it hook, line and sinker. They can’t get that hatch open fast enough (0.45). Tut, tut. Still the Ewoks gain control, figure out how to work the thing really fast and blow up a neighbouring walker. Damn, that was easy.
What are those speeder bikes doing anyway? They just seem to be flying around, not firing? What’s their purpose? Battlefield confusion? It’s no surprise when their inherently dodgy vehicles fall victim to some simple Ewok traps (2.03)
The Ewok start throwing rocks at the LOMBT. The LOMBT doesn’t shoot back (2.10). The Emperor slams his head against a wall.
Anyway, the true bizarre weakness of the walkers is now revealed. The Ewoks unleash their next “amazingly fast set-up traps under the noses of the LOMBT”: two tree trunks on swinging ropes. They cut the cords holding them back (how did these tiny things get them in position!) and away they go. The walkers don’t spot them (no peripheral vision I guess) and smash.
That is really crappy metal on that thing huh? It folds like an accordion. It’s like cardboard. The force of two large trunks of wood hitting something is indeed powerful, but this is supposed to be the equivalent of a tank, only on legs. It’s designed to withstand laser fire. But not swinging wood for some reason. I mean, it’s not just a dent or a hole, but a full scale squash (2.20).
It’s just a very badly designed vehicle if its frame can’t stand up to that kind of attack. But that’s nothing,
One of the walkers falls over from the force of some rolling logs (what an awful military machine) and upon hitting the ground explodes for some reason (2.35). What the hell? How? You’re telling me one of the Imperials prime ground attack vehicles not only has limited mobility, vision and weak armour but explodes when it falls over?
I mean, did a fuel line get hit? Is it carrying some nitro-glycerine onboard? The Empire’s been using these for a while so their weaknesses must be known. If they weren’t suitable, why would the LOMBT be deploying them in this environment? With so many things to trip over?
Having gained control of a walker, Han’s big plan is revealed at this point: To slap an Imperial helmet on his head and pretend to be one of the guys who was piloting the walker. He tells the guy inside the bunker that the rebels are routing and they need help to pursue (5.50).
It’s should be the Imperials turn to hear alarm bells. Firstly, no verification of any kind, no callsign, no interrogative, no military speak. Just a guy with a radio. Second he’s asking for the officer inside to open the doors of the most important structure in the Empire.
The officer inside has to make sure that everything’s ok. I can buy that he doesn’t recognize Han, but he should be asking for more details, for verifications, he has to make sure. The safety of the gigantic weapon in space above is riding on his command but he hasn’t the slightest compunction in opening the doors up and sending all of his troops outside.
Rushing out of the bunker, the Imperials are confronted by Han and a whole force of shrieking Ewoks. Looks…impressive. Well, actually, it doesn’t. What it looks like is a pile of heavily armed and armoured Imperials being surrounded by care bears with sharp sticks. There is no resistance through. No Imperial decides “fuck it we can shoot out way out.” No. They give up. The LOMBT just…isn’t (6.10).
Really, they could have still taken them on. They would have a lost a few men, but they’re defending an absolutely critical installation. This kind of force should be prepared to lose a few men for that objective.
Han sets up the explosives and the generator goes up in a very large fireball. Given the size of it, I think Minimum Safe Distance is more than that log the rebels dived behind just outside the generator door. I think a forest fire might also be a concern at this point (9.32). But, victory!
This is one of those big debated points in Star Wars fandom. Jedi is a movie that is trying to be numerous things at once: the classic adventure story with the Jabba’s Palace stuff, the epic redemption story of the Luke/Vader plot and a kids movie with Ewoks.
The Ewoks are there for the youngsters. Cute, furry, unbeatable by the LOMBT. I suppose in the large Star Wars sense, they’re another example of the plucky underdog coming out on top that you see all throughout the SW universe. You can all see all sorts of layers to this battle: Good over evil, rural over technological, nature over power, native over invader and on and on and so forth.
That’s isn’t an inherently bad thing, but it’s done in a very stupid way. The LOMBT are anything but elite, their vehicles have awful, glaring weaknesses, and they don’t seem to have anything resembling a competent commander.
The Ewoks are portrayed as having stealth skills that no creature outside of a bacterium should have, with melee talents that can best men three times their height. With guns.
It’s another case of Hollywood expecting the audience to swallow what’s being portrayed visually onscreen even of it goes directly against what the dialogue is saying. The rules of conflict go out the window on Endor.
The Battle of Endor. It’s fun for the whole family, but it isn’t war.