Star Wars Identities at London’s O2 is the exhibition fans are looking for
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (well a few weeks ago in London) we visited the new Star Wars Identities exhibition at The O2. No bothans died to bring you this information.
We expected to see a few more Darth Vader masks and a few less Gary Barlow ones as we made our way to the exhibition above the Brooklyn Bowl. Turns out Take That are playing later. I don’t know if the Imperial March will feature in their set.
The O2 has become one of the world’s most popular music and entertainment destinations with more than 60million people visiting the multi award-winning venue since it opened in 2007. London’s one of only 12 cities the exhibition’s visiting worldwide.
Released on just 32 screens across America in 1977, George Lucas’ space opera - part fairy tale, western, 1930s serial and groundbreaking special effects extravaganza - was destined to change the face of cinema. With roots in mythologies and cultures from around the world, it became an instant classic and the franchise continues to be an unparalleled box office success.
According to Lucas: “Since Star Wars takes place in a fantasy world, the characters need to be identifiable so the audience can connect to them. These larger-than-life characters come complete with friends, enemies, values and beliefs. This exhibition examines how the Star Wars characters are like us, what we may have in common and what makes up our individual identities.”
Produced by X3 Productions with the help of Lucasfilm Ltd, it features some 200 original objects from the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art - heaven for a Star Wars geek like me, whose first cinema experience aged four was watching an Imperial Star Destroyer chase the Tantive IV across the stars.
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What sets this exhibition apart from others is how it uses that universe and iconic characters like Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and, ahem, Jar Jar Binks, to explore the nature of identity.
It’s a brilliantly interactive, character-driven experience. You’re issued with a comprehensive audio guide, triggered when you hit special points in the tour, so you can go at your own pace.
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It’s full of interesting facts - be it how the Millennium Falcon actually isn’t the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy when compared to other ships or that jedi master Yoda was originally conceived as what I can only describe as one of the Seven Dwarfs’ lost relatives.
Better still were the wristbands which thanks to cutting-edge multimedia allows you to create your very own Star Wars character by combining elements of your personality with those of your favourite characters. You can even share the results with friends and family via social media; not that anybody was surprised I turned to the dark side quicker than Han shot Greedo.
My Star Wars Identities chracter was Tano, a male zabrak raised on the lava planet Mustafar, whose inhabitants made their living in lava mining. On holidays he and his friends would go rock-hopping through the lava fields (not something I’d advise youngsters or jedi knights who don’t have the high ground doing).
Independent and creative, he spent some time with the famous smuggler Han Solo, which came in handy when he became a bounty hunter. It’s been all plain sailing, he once crash-landed on a strange planet, after which he eked out a living entertaining wandering Tusken Raiders with stories from home.
He’s generally adventurous, curious but also relaxed and imperturbable with a if it’s not fun, why do it attitude. The force is very strong with him and he wasn’t surprised when the Emperor tracked him down. Offered limitless power in exchange for his allegiance, he leapt at the chance and turned eagerly to the dark side.
X3 Productions consists of three top Montreal-based creative companies committed to redefining the modern museum experience by gathering unique collections and focusing on innovative concepts that engages, educates and entertains visitors.
Identities certainly does that.
The exhibition is also scientifically solid, with content developed with an advisory committee composed of experts from a variety of fields including psychology, neuropsychology and genetics.
It’s divided into three major themes - the characters’ origins, the influences that shaped them and the personal choices that altered their lives. Ten components of human identity are explored within these including species, origins, parents, culture, mentors, friends, occupation, marking events, personality and values. Science-based video clips explain how each component influences us.
This made for a far more interesting experience than simply trapsing around, peering at exhibits through glass.
We’d have liked to see more Princess Leia content, especially after the loss of actress Carrie Fisher; perhaps more female orientated content in general. Binks gets a cabinet but the Clone Wars’ Ahsoka Tano is barely mentioned? Of course that’s playing into the stereotype that only boys like sci-fi. Some of the videos were a bit repetitive too.
However, if you’re a fan of Star Wars or the study of the human condition using contemporary culture this is the exhibiton you’re looking for. It continues until September.