Anthony's Film Review
Star Wars: Behind the Magic
(CD-ROM Reference, 1998)
An excellent CD-ROM guide to a classic sci-fi movie trilogy, a must-have for any fan...
Star Wars: Behind the Magic is an interactive guide to the world of the first three Star Wars movies. There are many print and online sources that do the same, but Behind the Magic is still unique compared to the rest. It's very comprehensive with a sleek, well-designed look. There are just so many words to describe how great this computer software product, developed by LucasArts, really is. For me, I will put it this way. This CD-ROM truly kicks butt.
From the main menu, you can navigate the contents in one of two ways. You can select any of the three films of the original Star Wars trilogy - Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi - and view all associated contents, including the original screenplay accompanied by film stills and behind-the-scenes material. You can also jump from the main menu to different content categories, such as those related to characters, vehicles, weapons, and locations, to view material of that category regardless of what Star Wars movies they appear in. Whatever path you take, the articles you read are just marvelous. They are very detailed, even going as far as providing technical details like the inner workings of a lightsaber or the climate of the ice planet of Hoth. They even have Star Wars-related works cited as sources of information.
Now let me tell you what it was like for me to go through these articles. It's equivalent to reading an encyclopedia, because that's what this CD-ROM is. A complete Star Wars encyclopedia. It was a real pleasure to read about what I knew already about and to learn something new, all related to topics that included Luke Skywalker, the X-Wing starfighter, Jabba the Hutt, Han Solo, the Cloud City of Bespin, Ewoks, both Death Stars, various blaster guns, and (my favorite of all) Darth Vader. To my surprise, this guide also provides content for the expanded Star Wars universe beyond the three movies. There is actually information on Wookiees based on the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special on TV, Grand Admiral Thrawn from three Star Wars novels by Timothy Zahn, and a well-known recurring character named Mara Jade.
There are a few other features that are cool. You can find Star Wars trivia questions, presented to you by Emperor Palpatine, Mon Mothma, or C-3PO, sprinkled throughout the informational content. Because this CD-ROM was released in 1998, there is also a sneak peek of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, including cast info. My favorite feature of all is a funny one: a weapons testing room. Basically, you get to watch animations of an Imperial Stormtrooper getting blown up by a thermal detonator, having an arm severed by a lightsaber hurled at him, and dancing to dodge a series of laser blasts. The best one involves testing the Death Star on the Stormtrooper, because the screen experiences technical difficulties upon firing.
Overall, this is one incredible piece of art. Interactive art, that is. The information about the Star Wars universe is organized well and accompanied by a flawless design. It's way better than reading a Star Wars guide in book or online form. It's too bad this CD-ROM hasn't been and won't be updated to cover the entire six-part film saga completed years later. Yes, information is easily available online, but there is something about this CD-ROM that makes it special. As the title suggests, it really is magic.
In addition, check out my reviews of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.