REVIEW: STAR WARS IDENTITIES
Star Wars Identities is an exhibition running at the O2 Arena London from November 2016 till September 2017. I came across it online when I was looking for different conventions to attend this year. Also when I was checking information for this blog I noticed a banner saying the exhibition would be coming to other cities soon.
I can say right off the bat its is completely worth the £20 admission (£25 at weekends) for any level of Star Wars fan. The exhibition is a combination of props, costumes, models and art work covering the first six films and elements of The Clone Wars animated movie. It is not a huge collection but it has all the big elements you associate with Star Wars and can easily spend between 1-2 hours there. Before I get into the meat of the exhibition I want to talk about travel and the arena. The London Underground gets a lot of bad publicity. But it is what it is. If everything runs smoothly it is a very convenient mode of transport as I found out last week when I went. Getting from Milton Keynes to Euston only took 40mins on a non stop train. Then from Euston to North Greenwich where the O2 is took maybe another 40minutes. It was a fairly straight forward route passing through maybe 10 stations and changing lines once. Changing the Millennium Dome into a multi purpose arena is probably the smartest thing the Government has ever done. The way the space is utilised is brilliant. The centre of the dome shaped venue is a 20,000 seater arena. Surrounding that are a number of bars and restaurants along a indoor street. Then there are smaller venues and exhibitions spaces like where Star Wars Identities was housed. An added bonus is that some of the restaurants will offer money off you bill with an Identities ticket for that day. I got 20% my Byron Burger meal. Things taste better with a discount!
The first stage is to get equipped with an earpiece and a electronic wristband (I’ll get to this later). Not quite a lightsaber but you have to work with what your given. The use need for the earpiece is two fold. Firstly some of the display cases are accompanied by audio information. The second need is a bit more involved. As the name of the exhibition suggests everything is about identity. When you enter the venue you watch an introductory video which explains the exhibition It essentially says Luke and Anakin start the same but external factors affect their paths. Throughout the exhibition space there are videos playing which explain these external factors and how they change us. Clips from the films are used to highlight the points being made. Personally I didn’t find this that interesting. I watched the film clips then wandered off.
I wasn’t there for social/psychological sciences. I was there for the cool collection of props and models. Also I did find the first section an uninspiring choice to start things off. A video about Anakin on Tattooine, three pieces of early designs of cantina creatures and a mask of character Ponda Baba. Don’t panic though friends after this first section the rest of the exhibit is like flying through an asteroid field of excitement and geeky memories. I was excited right in the second section as in the first big display case was Boba Fetts full costume! £20 well spent already. I was hoping the cult hero would have his own section but I had to settle with him sharing a display with Stormtroopers and droids. In this first display there are actually the only two elements from Force Awakens. BB-8 dues I guess to popularity and a first order Stormtrooper from a comparison of how the look has evolved. The theme of identities is all encompassing for the exhibitions. A lot of the art work on display is there to show how designs developed till we got the characters we know and love. We’ve have all heard the idea of Boba Fett being an elite Stormtrooper and on display is a piece by Ralph McQuarrie depicting the scene on Bespin where he is at Vader’s side. There he is in all white and echoes of Clint Eastwoods ‘man with no name’ as he sports a poncho. The best thing about the exhibit is that you can take as many pictures as you want. I took more pictures that afternoon that I previously had on my phone in the time I’ve had it. I’m thinking of putting them online when I launch my YouTube channel, but for now they will be stored on my R2-D2 memory stick.
Now I don’t want to ruin the whole exhibition for everyone and describe what is in every display. Lets just say all the major characters are represented in one form or another. It is kind of hard to describe the feeling you get when you see the actual costumes from characters you have known most of your life. The most unnerving moment was when I turned a corner and came face to face with Han Solo frozen in carbonite. It was hard not to shout out my hatred for the Empire seeing him like that! There is a display case of every ship you can think of its like all your Christmases rolled into one. Naturally the Millennium Falcon has pride of place in its own case. The information accompanying the ships explained how different size models were used for different aspects of filming. Honestly I would have paid the entrance fee just for the McQuarrie art. I mean this guy is a pioneer he shaped the universe in such a big way. Since the exhibition I’ve been scouring the internet for a Ralph McQuarrie art book. Its great to see how many of his visions made the final cut and have since become iconic scenes. Of course at the end there is a gift shop! It was a little pricey and mainly centred around the exhibition. It didn’t feature any action figures which Star Wars is famous for or any of the newer popular Lego range. I picked up a programme and a Boba Fett t-shirt featuring artwork created for the exhibition.
Now I want to get back to the electronic wristband to wrap things up. With the videos explaining Luke and Anakins identities and the art displays show how a characters identity evolved over time the main crux of the identities theme is for every visitor to create their own Star Wars identity. This is done with the wristband through interactive points through the exhibition space. There are 10 main questions to answer and a few other stops to make to fill out your characters personality. The first question is an obvious choose your species and the last being whether you join the dark side or not. Now at times I was worried about how much thought I was putting into my character. At one point I was questioning why was I entering my full name for a wookie?! The good thing is you can have fun with it, just because I was a wookie I decided to be from the mean streets of Coruscant rather than Kashyyyk. You choose your answers by simply swiping the wristband against electronic points. At the end of the exhibition after answer all 10 questions you swipe your wristband on the final monitor and it gives you a picture of your character complete with name. Check my instagram for my wookie bounty hunter! (ianwells87). Lastly you can also get your characters picture and full bio and personality break down sent to your email. All in all it was a very enjoyable experience. Like I said it is very accessible for any level or age of Star Wars fans. The interactive element will appeal in different levels for different people but it doesn’t detract from all the cool elements to view.
About Ian Wells
Ian currently runs the THEBLOGOFCOMICSHOTTOPICS blog. Check him out on Twitter @IanWells87.
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