Much has been made of the Star Wars: Identities exhibition at London’s O2 Arena since it’s opening in November 2016. I’ve been a massive fan of the concept since I saw Return of The Jedi in 1983 whilst living in rural New South Wales. Wellington (not the New Zealand city) was a very small country town so when a major film like Star Wars rolls into the town’s only cinema, it was always going to be a massive event for people from all walks of life. My parents were always short of money so when it came time for birthdays and Crimbo, i’d be the kid receiving the not so well known character figurines that are now worth huge money on the collectors circuit. Sadly, they all disappeared when we moved from Sydney to Brisbane all those years ago now. I often wonder where they ended up.
So last month, I felt it was time I made my way along to see Star Wars: Identities for myself. There had been a good deal of negative feedback for a myriad of reasons, chiefly the admission price and also the lack of material on show. Now, granted there isn’t a helluva lot on show but after all, it’s the quality and not quantity that matter most. And that is precisely what I love about Star Wars: Identities. Some of the displays are just stunning. You are able to see original costumes up close, you learn of Jabba The Hutt’s early incarnations and also that of Yoda through a series of early sketches when the concept was first put to paper all those years ago. Chewy is taller than I expected and you get a fabulous idea as to just how thin Fisher, Hammil and Ford were in 1977 as young actors coming of age.
After what I thought was an hour since entering a galaxy far, far away (couldn’t resist), I looked down to see it had been almost three hours. Time flies as they say. The most charming aspect of Star Wars: Identities is that it allows you to genuinely step back in time to your youth when time was or at least it seemed to be much more enjoyable. The original trilogy is where my heart lies, regardless of how good the prequels and squeals may or may not be. George Lucas will go down as the greatest story teller of my generation. Why you ask? Well, the learning experience you take from Star Wars: Identities is that we are not too far removed from the characters ourselves. At various intervals, you can stop and take “identity” tests and by the time you finish, there is an opportunity to find out which “identity” you belong to. It’s a pretty cool extra that I didn’t expect to encounter.
The final room is where my biggest thrill came. This is where you are introduced to the costumes from the dark side of the force. And standing to the northern end of the room is Darth Vader. It’s a menacing experience standing so close to Vader. You almost feel as thought he is going to pull his saber out and cut you down in a heartbeat. Naturally, he doesn’t but my goodness it was so cool being able to see the in depth detail to Vader’s attire, along with all the other identities from the film saga.
I should mention that you are administered with an audio guide upon entry. It lends a great deal of help throughout explaining the backgrounds behind characters and providing you with a most sumptuous soundtrack to the exhibition. Despite the limited number of costumes on show, Star Wars: Identities is well worth the 20 quid to get in the door. What’s more, I went around lunch time during the middle of the week when there were very few others around. It gave you the space and freedom to properly explore each dimension of the rooms. You can also take photo’s along the way which made for a nice experience knowing I didn’t have to hide my phone from the prying eyes of security. And well, I took way too many pictures for my own good.
Once you leave the exhibition itself, you are naturally led through a store that is lined with Star Wars merchandise. This is the only let down of the whole experience because everything was overpriced and not really the best quality. The upside was being informed that the exhibition will tour the world once the London run finishes in early September. One would expect visits to LA then perhaps Tokyo, somewhere in Europe and perhaps even Australia. If you can’t make it to the London showing then please, find the time and make the effort when it heads to your neck of the woods. It’s an exhibition worthy of seeing, perhaps more than once.