STAR WARS BEGINS (DVD)

4.5 Stars
Year Released: 2011
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 139 minutes
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During the scene in “Star Wars” when Luke Skywalker scans the horizon with his macrobinoculars for a sign of R2-D2, we hear Mark Hamill tell a story from a 2007 interview in which he explains that filming was delayed because it was ladybug mating season. After the insects finished what Hamill calls “an entomological orgy,” production resumed. “That’s the kind of thing you don’t hear about in making-of documentaries,” he quips.

And that’s the goal of this fan-made film, which takes us through “Star Wars” and liberally sprinkles in commentary bits, interview clips, behind-the-scenes footage and photos, on-set and alternate audio, and deleted scenes as it seeks to chronicle the film in a new way. Creator Jambde Davdar doesn’t let more than a minute or two go by before throwing out something new.

You could see “Star Wars Begins” as an AV accompaniment for J.W. Rinzler’s excellent book “The Making of Star Wars.” While Rinzler’s tome is an exhaustive look at the film, from Lucas’ early attempts at the script through week-by-week descriptions of the filming and on into post-production, this documentary focuses more on the most intriguing tidbits.

Sure, some of the material comes from the 2004 “Star Wars” DVD commentaries and excellent “Empire of Dreams” documentary, but Davdar digs up plenty of other stuff, much of which you probably haven’t seen or heard before. Some of the interview clips go all the way back to 1977 and 1978, and Davdar even does his best to restore the complete original version of the Jabba the Hutt scene, with Declan Mulholland in the role of Han Solo’s nemesis. The last bit of the scene comes from the closing credits of a TV show, so the whole thing is rough to say the least, but I imagine it’s the best we’ll ever get, unless Lucas decides to include it in the upcoming Blu-ray set. (I realize Lucas wants to pretend the original versions don’t exist anymore, but it would be nice to have a cleaned-up copy of that and other excised scenes, as they were originally shot.)

Davdar also recreates the original concept for the opening crawl, which used white letters and a different version of the iconic “Star Wars” logo. The text was also much longer; it’s easy to see why Lucas streamlined the copy. Legend has it that the earlier crawl used Korngold’s theme for “The Sea Hawk” (1940) as a temp track, so a version of it with that music is included in the DVD bonus features — it’s not hard to hear the similarities between it and John Williams’ well-known main theme.

Wherever possible, Davdar uses footage from the 1977 version of the film, such as the original version of Ben Kenobi’s hovel. And, yes, Greedo doesn’t get off a shot when he confronts Han; Davdar doesn’t even acknowledge the Special Edition change to that scene. However, he does include Special Edition modifications in a few spots, such as Boba Fett’s walk-on at the end of the Jabba the Hutt scene (CGI Jabba doesn’t make an appearance, thankfully) and the restored Biggs footage before the attack on the Death Star.

And make sure you stay for the closing credits, because more interview clips run over them. I particularly liked Hamill’s observation that he knew by the age of 25 how the first line of his obituary would read. And if you don’t know the story of how Lucas secured the merchandising and sequel rights that allowed him to build his own little empire in northern California, stick around for that one too. The credits are also modified to thank various “Star Wars” fans who helped with the project.

So where can you see “Star Wars Begins”? Well, you can watch it in pieces on YouTube, and you can find out more about the DVD version on Davdar’s site. The DVD features a nice main menu with music playing over Ralph McQuarrie’s wonderful concept art, and the bonuses include: the trailer for “Star Wars Begins;” that aforementioned earlier version of the opening crawl; the alternate score for the twin sunset scene; and restored music for the trash compactor scene. Those last three items are part of “Star Wars Begins” too, but it’s nice to have them pulled out like this so you can show them to friends any time you want.

With “Star Wars Begins,” Davdar has completed his making-of series for the Original Trilogy. It’s quite a labor of love; he must have sifted through dozens of hours of material to cull the best bits. I don’t know if he or anyone else plans to do the same for the prequels, but I have to admit those movies don’t have the same nostalgia factor as the original “Star Wars” films when I think about them. I guess I’m simply a product of the Lucas/Spielberg 70s and 80s. If you are too, you’ll get a kick out of “Star Wars Begins.”



Posted on February 28, 2011 in Reviews by
Buffer


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2 Comments on "STAR WARS BEGINS (DVD)"

  1. Peter John Ross aka Sonnyboo on Mon, 28th Feb 2011 1:16 pm 

    I started watching these “Fan Documentaries”, which aren’t really “documentaries” as much as they are Picture-in-Picture special features, rare though they may be.

    Is this one of the ones that has the movie playing in real time along with most of the material?


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  2. Brad Cook on Sun, 6th Mar 2011 9:09 pm 

    Yes, it has the movie playing in real time, although not all the actual footage from it is included. It’s not really picture-in-picture: you see the film, and then it switches to behind-the-scenes footage from that sequence, or photos, or it morphs to something else, like the original Jabba the Hutt footage. Or you have audio material playing over it.


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