Here at Gizmag, we like to focus on the very latest developments in science and technology. That said, when I had the chance to cover the new Star Wars Identities exhibition today, well ... it was an opportunity too good to pass up. The show features approximately 200 original props, costumes and models used in all six films, many of which have never been displayed in public before. Using interactive technology, however, it also teaches us how our own identities are formed, using the Star Wars characters as examples.
Star Wars Identities was put together by Montreal-based X3 Productions, in collaboration with the folks at Lucasfilm. It first opened in Montreal in April, where it played for five months. It then moved on to the Canadian city of Edmonton, its only other North American stop, where it opened on October 26th – that’s where I caught up with it. Over the next five years, plans call for it to travel through Europe, Asia and Latin America.
“The megafans are totally excited about seeing all these props – some of them have never been seen,” X3’s Sophie Desbiens told me. “The regular people and non-fans discover what’s behind the famous saga. They are surprised by how much they learn about themselves as well.”
That learning process begins with attendees putting on a rubber RFID (radio frequency identification) bracelet, like the one I donned upon entering the exhibit. I then proceeded to wind my way through the numerous displays of Star Wars historical artifacts, while also learning about the forces that shaped the identities of the various characters – what sort of parenting they had, who they chose to associate with, what values they developed, that sort of thing.
Interspersed with the displays were interactive touchscreen-based stations that allowed me to progressively develop a Star Wars-universe character. This wasn’t an existing character from any of the movies, but a one-of-a-kind character that was the unique result of the selections I made – and the personal information I provided – at each of the stations. The exhibit’s software is able to keep track of the various characters-in-progress as they move from station to station, via scans of the bracelets.
By the time I was done, the program had completed my alter-ego, which it presented to me on-site and also by email. It turns out that I’m a Wookiee Jedi Knight from the forest planet of Kashyyyk, who goes by the name of Fuzzy – that name was my choice, by the way, it wasn’t assigned to me. You’ll also doubtless be glad to know that when the Emperor of the Dark Side offered me limitless power in exchange for my allegiance, I turned him down.
Of course, the big attraction is simply all the stuff from the movies. I particularly liked the giant case full of spaceship models – the very models that appeared on camera in the films. It was also neat to see the original Yoda puppet, along with costumes for characters such as Boba Fett, Darth Vader, C-3PO and R2-D2 ... interestingly enough, the R2-D2 costume from the first film actually looks kind of cheap and home-made in real life.
All in all, it was a good time.
“Most people come out if their experience with a big smile on their face” said Sophie. “I think it brings out the 10 year old kid in all of us, and this is what I like the most about this exhibition. You get to learn, yes, but all the while you had fun.”