Although it often comes down to good vs. evil, and black vs. white (or brown), there is so much more nuance to the Star Wars saga beyond the Jedi and Sith.
A wealth of teachers, politicians, soldiers, smugglers and bounty hunters populate these stories from a long time ago. Each character in Star Wars has a unique backstory, with triumphs and tragedies that shape them. And at the Star Wars Identities exhibit at The O2 in London, visitors can shape themselves into a member of the galaxy far, far away.
Opened November 2016, and running until September 3, 2017, the exhibit combines an impressive collection of artwork, props, costumes and models with interactive character profile questions that allows you to craft a unique Star Wars character, complete with a design, origin, home planet, cultural upbringing, “career” and proclivity toward the Light or Dark Side of the Force.
On a recent visit to the exhibit, I strapped on the provided smart bracelet and set out on my identity quest to discover what I may become. A Wookiee bounty hunter? A Gungan farmer? A Zabrak politician? A Twi’lek Jedi Knight? An Ewok fighter pilot? Something else entirely?
The narrative of the exhibit largely follows the similarities of Luke and Anakin Skywalker’s childhoods, but traces their different life choices – including who they paired with for friends and mentors – and how they were defined as adults. Identities also explores the character profiles of Leia, Han, and other important figures in the saga. The accompanying scientific content and personality questions tie into these stories.
For instance, one display asked about the parenting style I grew up with, and whether it was more strict, laid-back, encouraging or goal-oriented. It made me reflect about my childhood, and how that impacted me, and I selected an answer by touching my bracelet to the corresponding graphic. Another display asked how I might respond to a tragedy such as my planet being destroyed by a despot. Would I vow revenge, run away and hide, assemble an alliance so it never happens to another person, etcetera?
Instead of being overly simplified, the personality questions were insightful, and interesting, but also easy enough that a kid could get into it (though would likely require assistance from a grown-up). And while I was forced to engage in some self-examination, I also got to play by picking some sweet costumes for my character, or selecting the best home world to hail from.
Meanwhile, the collection of 200 original props, costumes, and so forth were blended seamlessly into the interactive experience. The most impressive assembly of starship models, from Episodes I-IV, allowed for close-up examination and comparisons of the incredible detail on the Millennium Falcon and Imperial Star Destroyer. And anytime I get a chance to see original Ralph McQuarrie art – such as the exhibit’s display of early concept designs of Han Solo with lightsaber and Chewbacca, or a production painting of R2-D2 and C-3PO leaving the desert – I simply drool. (Which means it’s probably good that they are protected underneath glass.)
Aside from the McQuarrie art, my favorite display may have been the collection of droid and Stormtrooper costumes, and puppets, which paired up Boba Fett with BB-8 (one of the few items included from Episode VII). Seeing the cute little droid buddying up with fandom’s favorite bounty hunter made me crave a spin-off story I know will never happen. A close second for favorite was the full-size Jabba the Hutt puppet eyes from Return of the Jedi. The detail in them is strangely beautiful, and once again speaks to the amazing talents that brought these films to life.
After spending time examining the collection and answering the profile questions, what was the story of my character – and which side of the Force did I land? I was provided a final opportunity by the Emperor to stand with him, and seek power throughout the galaxy, but I rejected his offer and joined the Light Side.
In the final display of Star Wars Identities, my animated character was projected on a wall alongside other new figures in the galaxy. A Zabrak male bounty hunter from Dagobah, I was deemed a roguish type who falls in the grayish area, based on my personality responses – and the forces that shaped him/me are pretty extensive (read my bio below).
While I already have a robust knowledge about the Star Wars galaxy, and have previously encountered much of this collection elsewhere, the Identities exhibit and its intriguing examination of personalities adds a new layer to my fandom; it encouraged me to think about myself, and I gained a fresh appreciation for these characters I’ve loved for many years.
If you find yourself in London, I definitely recommend a fantripping excursion to check it out. The cost of tickets for Star Wars Identities is approximately $32, and should be booked in advance. A visit will take on average an hour and a half – although I spent more than two hours geeking out in the exhibit.
Oh, and about that Star Wars backstory crafted from my identity quest? Meet “Sagers”:
"I was raised on the swamp planet Dagobah, where members of my community made their living refurbishing interstellar wreckage from the swamps. On holidays my friends and I would traditionally hunt the elusive accipiptero dragon.
My parents raised me with a mix of independence and support, and I inherited my strong set of social abilities from them. Later on I spent some time with the great warrior Darth Maul, whose guidance left me with knowledge I still use every dayin my job as a bounty hunter.
I remember this one time when I watched a cruel despot destroy my home planet. I didn't let this affect me too much, though; instead I began training an army of Rebels and hatched a plan to bring the despot down.
People often tell me I’m a generally adventurous and curious person, I also tend to be energetic and social. But the most important thing to me is benevolence: after all, helping is its own reward, as they say.
The Force is very strong with me, so I wasn't surprised when the Emperor tracked me down. When he offered me limitless power in exchange for my allegiance, I fought the urge to join him and his evil minions and rejected his offer."
Check out our gallery from Star Wars Identities, and tell us about your favorite Fantripping destinations? Let us know where we should visit as part of our nerdy excursions in the comments below!