Thomas Harris reviews Star Wars Identities – The Exhibition at the O2…
The 02 Arena, somewhat appropriately, looks a hell of a lot like a monolithic spacecraft descended upon Greenwich. With it’s protruding antennae and it’s vast almost cityscape-come-Brazil-capitalist-hell hole underbelly, it’s an appropriate fit for an exhibition celebrating all things Star Wars. Past restaurants, an all you can eat buffet advertising a culinary tour of the globe and merch-stalls selling Millennium Falcon biscuit tins, stationery sets and galactic perfume, and up escalators climbing through into the heavens is Identities, the much touted, highly anticipated exhibition of the cultural phenomena.
Upon entering, you are handed a rubber bracelet and an earpiece attached to a necklace, both of which are vital to its interactive, guide-less set-up. Through infrared scanners, you are tracked with information fed to you as you pass exhibit to exhibit. This is ultimately problematic, with the scanners working only when holding the necklace far above your head. The bracelet however was something inspired.
Following a short introductory video, you are tasked with creating a character: pick the race, gender, name and off you trot (I went with a Zabrak because really, Darth Maul was the one good thing to come out of the turgid Phantom Menace). Behind every corner is a further multiple-choice question: your background, powers, politics, social background, parental upbringing, all of which are accessed through a simple scan of the bracelet. As you reach the end of the exhibition, simply scan it once more and voila; you have your very own, fully customized Star Wars character that can be sent to you to show off to all those that care.
There is a rather strange focus on the prequels, with an entire wall dedicated to Jar Jar Binks, which includes original concept art and figurines (if you thought his repellent racist caricature was bad, just you wait until you see what they had originally planned). Similarly, a descent into the pod race sequence from Phantom Menace, albeit the singular impressive moment of the film, further annoys. I can’t imagine many fans care too much about the character designs of the half-baked creatures that continue to aggravate.
Thankfully, there’s a wealth of pleasures elsewhere. Original costumes range from Boba Fett, and Rebel Alliance helmets to Jabba The Hutt’s original eyes and the last known prosthetic used during the Cantina sequence. Yet for the most part, the exhibition exists as a celebration of Ralph McQuarrie, whose concept art continues to inspire awe. It only further reminds you why it was the original films still stand tall.
A rather cool set-up of ships and destroyers did induce a rather giddy-response, because who doesn’t want their very own Millennium Falcon or Star Destroyer.
For those with a clear adoration of Star Wars it will be a galaxy of treats, igniting a childlike wonderment but there’s a lingering feeling it could have done more. Away from the interactive, it’s a rather pedestrian, albeit sporadically impressive, tour of the galaxy.