I bought STAR WARS: BEHIND THE MAGIC because it contains some of the "lost" scenes of STAR WARS that I've always read about but had never seen. It contains four such scenes: Luke watching the battle between Darth Vadar's Star Destroyer and the Rebel Blockade Runner (now known as the Tantive IV), Luke at Tasche Station showing his findings to his friends, Luke learning that his friend Biggs Darklighter is joining the Rebellion, and an alternate cut of the Cantina scene.
In looking at the battle in space between the Empire and the Rebellion, that Luke's point-of-view insert shots were to be inserted, I imagine, but without these and without sound the scene is rather anti-climactic.
Meanwhile, the original Cantina scene is contrasted with the same scene in the STAR WARS: SPECIAL EDITION. The older, b& w version with a rough sound mix is larger and placed above the SWSE version which pauses on occasion allowing the longer, older cut to "catch up" in spots. Viewers are supposedly allowed to compare the scenes in this manner but I found it quite ineffectual. Perhaps with more documentation on the differences and/or the inclusion of storyboards to demonstrate the changes in shot order, the viewer might appreciate the subtleties of editing and how each version provides different character nuances and psychological impact.
In both versions, the act of looking is very important. For example; in the newer version when the barkeep reprimands Luke to send his droids outside, young Skywalker garners the attention of several Cantina patrons, thus conveying to the audience that this digression in customs is laughable and goes to further show that Luke is a rube. Likewise, Obi-Wan's dismembering of Walrus Man (Ponda Baba) is followed by fewer insert shots of notice which gives the impression that such acts of violence are commonplace in that environment.
One person who watches the excitement that would remain out of the narrative for a few minutes longer in the SWSE is Han Solo who, in the rough cut, sits with Jenny (a humanoid floozy seen in no fewer than three shots, even giving Han a smooch before leaving their table before Solo talks to Kenobi and Skywalker about their trip to Alderaan).
I was happy to see that the shot of Solo and Chewbacca following the departure of Kenobi and Skywalker was longer in the original cut; I had always felt that this shot was trimmed too severely and Solo's sudden exuberance with his, "Seventeen Thousand! Those guys must really be desperate." line was out of place with the pace of the scene.
The other two "lost" scenes, those with Biggs and Luke's other friends, are not startling revelations but nevertheless, it was great to finally see them. Not only do they give weight to Biggs' death at the end of the film, but they also allow the viewer to see how Luke interacts with his peers instead of only seeing him whining about Uncle Owen's wishes and in the unfamiliar role of an adventurer. Perhaps, as George Lucas has always claimed, these scenes disrupt the pacing of the film but I would like to see them cut back into the film and judge for myself.
The "lost scenes" are just one of the selling points of this CD-ROM. Another is material about THE PHANTOM MENACE. Without a copy of the trailer or more involved supplemental material, this area really comes up short. One can easily discover more information at the STAR WARS website (www.starwars.com).
The website and CD-ROM are similar in their appearance and in their ease of navigation. The interface is intuitive and makes moving about simple. This is quite impressive when considering the breadth and depth of information available. As the name implies, "Behind The Magic" contains a wealth of information about the making of the STAR WARS trilogy from production stills to audio clips from various folks involved in the process of bringing the films to life. My favorite section of the discs has to be the scene by scene (and sometimes shot by shot) discussion of all the films which really sheds some light on the production process and contains a great deal of fascinating facts about the evolution of the films including the dozens of drafts the script went through as well as the radio version of the stories.
At the same time, for better or for worse, the discs also contain a plethora of information from the Star Wars "expanded universe"a euphemism for all of the fanboy material - comic books, magazines, novels, etc. which has become integrated as "facts" surrounding the fiction of the Star Wars films. Sometimes the overwhelming amount and complexity of these items borders on annoyance. I wouldn't be surprised to find the combination to Obi-Wan Kenobi's footlocker at the Academy.
Maybe it's just me but I don't see the need to give every creature in Jabba's court a history, which invariably ties in with one of the main characters of the films. It seems to cheapen the richness of the story instead of enriching it by making the universe a very small place indeed. Why couldn't Dengar just be a bounty hunter? Instead, he's now a bounty hunter who was injured in a "Swoop" race with Han Solo, making the quest for the Corellian smuggler an act of vengeance.
For the lost scenes alone, the two CD set is worth the cash (I found mine for $22 at Sam's Club but I hear that prices vary widely). Luckily, these scenes are just the tip of the iceberg in that "Behind The Magic" has a ton of information of every character, ship, weapon, location, et cetera, in the films. If you've ever wanted to know the firepower of a B-Wing or the relationship between Zuckuss and 4-LOM, this is the place to get it!