Face to Face with Pure Evil at Star Wars Identities Exhibition
Ever wondered what Luke Skywalker could teach you about yourself? Nope? Me neither. Until I visited Star Wars Identities Exhibition. The interactive exhibition makes you think about the forces that shape you from birth to death. And with two hundred original models, costumes, storyboards and sketches from the films, it also gives you an insight into the minds of film-makers and galaxy takers..
Crossing to the dark side
“Did you go over to the dark side?” asks Gabriel who works at the front desk as I emerge from the exhibition. I want to say I at least considered it. But no, because in my opinion even choosing a fictional dark side might come with long term health risks.
“It’s a fifty/fifty split today. Yesterday everyone chose the dark side,” he cheerfully briefs me as he collects my wrist band and ear piece. He doesn’t seem the least bit worried that the forces of evil have gripped the 02. I ask him what the trend has been since the attraction opened. He tells me it’s a seventy/thirty split in favour of the forces of good. Phew. We may have lost Europe but London is still hanging onto eternity.
The forces of darkness
Star Wars Identities makes effective use of the dark. The characters that are part of the fabric of our childhoods seem to come out of nowhere as corridors and spaces lead you to the ultimate meeting with the dark lord. I turn a corner and there’s Yoda gazing into the distance in a wise green haze. At the villains section I take a sharp intake of breath when I see Darth Vader looming in front of neon; his body shrouded in night. But the exhibition at London’s O2 does have a lighter side; it is interactive, educational, creative and at times witty too. ‘Intelligent microscopic life forms determine Force-sensitivity, and as they are passed genetically, Luke and Leia will receive a hefty inheritance from their father. (Hey they can’t say he never gave them anything.)‘ says the panel introducing biological inheritance.
Interactive character examination
Scanning my interactive wrist band at a series of stations, I progress around exhibits that prompt me to think about my own life force and how it developed as well as the unique star wars character I am building. The different sections of the exhibition tackle issues like genetics, abilities, circumstance, environment, and the influence of mentors, friends and enemies. I am forced to examine my past while commentary about human and droid evolution is being broadcast directly into my ear.
Let’s talk about character
If you want to talk to your kids about their history, heritage, personality or life choices then you should think about taking them to this exhibition, leaving them to absorb it all and then answering their questions. Everything from parentage to peers is examined through the prism of the Star Wars movies using clips, commentary and stories about filming which makes for difficult issues being tackled with easy chat. How did Luke and Anakin’s parents make them what they are? How did Luke’s allegiance with the Rebel Alliance equip him for his uncertain future? What qualities made Anakin a good pod racer? They are all things we can relate to our own lives. C-3P0’s personality is dissected on a screen. It’s perhaps no surprise that he is an extravert neurotic. Perhaps there is room to talk to my kids about my personality too!
I am prompted to think about the role environment plays in a child’s formative years and I read about a land with “two suns, rampant lawlessness, and monsters around every corner.” No not my Merseyside homeland but Tatooine. “It’s a wonder Luke and Anakin ever made it through childhood.” says the display.
Become a hero of your choice
At the start of the visit I am given the chance to navigate the exhibition as one of the minor Star Wars characters. I choose Rodian, for no other reason than I like her funky hair -a tentacle ridden ‘do. Next to me a guy is telling his girl she should be an Ewok on the grounds that she is small and hairy.” (Gabriel later explains that Ewok is “everyone’s ‘go to’ character.”)
It’s not all serious stuff. At one point I am told I have just been attacked by a wampa and am badly injured. I am asked to select my response. Will I:
a) Work tirelessly to protect wampa habitat in an effort to avoid future attacks?
b) Start a support group for victims of wampa attacks and meet every Monday night.
c) Never go outside again for fear of finding a wampa on every corner.
The answer is obvious as I’m free after choir on a Monday night.
For a Star Wars fan it must be incredible to be this close to the characters. Or parts of them. One of the more unusual experiences of Star Wars Identities is coming up in front of Jabba the Hutt’s suspended eyeball –one of the few pieces of the puppet still remaining. Five puppeteers were needed to move this blubbery gangster in the movies and through a series of sketches I get a glimpse of his early body form (legs, and trousers!) and learn that George Lucas had made the first two films before he figured out what the Hutt should look like. Chewbacca the Wookie wasn’t much further on in early drafts where he was ‘a pointy eared space monkey in a flak jacket.’
I marvel at how actor Kenny Baker ever managed to climb into the barrel of R2-D2. The costume, (one of several used in the filming of Star Wars: a New Hope) was apparently controlled remotely by the actor from inside. And I am taken aback by C-3PO’s shiny awkwardness, even though he doesn’t move. There are so many details to take in; some are simple and memorable, (the Millennium Falcon is based on a hamburger) and some are gloriously geeky like the relative speed/maneuverability (their spelling!) chart of X and Y wing star fighters. And If you ever wondered why the visors on the helmets of the rebel pilots were orange, (a true Star Wars fan might) it’s because filming in the desert made the actors make-up run, so visors were tinted to disguise the streaks.
The dark side of dinner
This thought provoking exhibition is a collaboration between Montreal’s X3 Productions and Lucasfilm Ltd using the archives of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. As I prepare to leave, all of my wristband choices pop up visually on a giant screen. There I am, with my ginger tentacle spikes and a wampa on my shoulder. I input my email address and am promised a run-down of the choices I have made as my very own version of Rodian. I hang around waiting for the two blokes behind me to scan the wristbands. Bob and Edward stand back to admire their work. It’s clear they don’t fall into the 70 per cent who completely avoided the dark side.
We all wind up (as most frequent travellers do) in the gift shop where a limited edition dinner service begs me to eat my meals from Darth Vader’s face. But what happens if I was to divorce?
Which one of us would dine on the dark side?
I visited the Star Wars Identities at the O2 centre in Greenwich in September 2017 but it’s on its six year tour of this galaxy. You can find out where it is and where it’s heading next on the Star Wars Identities website.
You can turn up and buy tickets but you may not get them for your chosen time slot so it’s better to book them in advance online. Try to avoid bringing bulky bags and coats, mine kept interfering with the radio signal and stopping the commentary.
Admission fees vary depending on location, date and time attending. When I visited children under five were free and family tickets were available. Off peak I paid £20 for an adult and £10 for a child with a family ticket priced at £48. Peak time prices were adult rate £25, children £15, family ticket £60. Check online with the latest venue for up to date information.