“May the force be with you.”
With those words, the Montreal Science Centre employee completed her description of how the sound equipment you were supposed to wear during the Star Wars Identities exhibit worked and ushered me into the exhibit.
I had always known that one day that phrase would send me on my way, but I thought it would be coming tongue in cheek from the slightly intoxicated mouth of a friend as I had to leave the party to go to work or somewhere else undesirable. This was different.
Come to think of it, the exhibit, running in the Old Port until September 16th was quite different than I had imagined. Yes, there was all the memorabilia I had expected, but there was also an interactive multimedia component that added another level to the experience.
We were to create a character and develop that character’s attributes, species (yes, you can be a wookie), personality traits and backstory, we did this by scanning bracelets they gave to us at interactive stations then making choices on the touchscreens as we walked through the displays of original costumes, props, production stills, storyboards and video presentations that made up Identities. At the end, we got our character’s life story emailed to us.
The interaction was an interesting way to experience an exhibit. Having a Star Wars character all of my own was amusing, though not really what I had come for. The videos were well done and I liked how when you walked near one playing, the audio would kick in on your headset. While developmental psychology explained through Star Wars plot is certainly interesting, it wasn’t exactly what I had come for either and I’ll admit I didn’t watch each video in its entirety and skipped some outright near the end.
What I had come for was all the stuff. Stuff like the original Vader costume from Return of the Jedi (check). Stuff like the original Yoda puppet from Empire Strikes Back. Well, they had the one from Phantom Menace, but at least they put it in front of a Dagobah backdrop (so check, I guess).
There were also a fair assortment of models of ships used in the original trilogy: Star Destroyers, X-Wings, even an AT-AT. Looking at the display, I finally realized that the Millenium Falcon toy I had as a kid was the exact same size as the one they used in the movies. Kinda cool, but also kinda…
What really intrigued me, though, were all the original sketches, storyboards and production stills and the stories attached to them. Yes, some of these tidbits of information I already knew from DVD extras and the internet. Did you know that only Mark Hamill, Lucas and director Irwin Kirschner knew the real line when everyone else on the Empire set heard Vader say “Obi Wan killed your father”? I did.
Some, though, I learned for the first time that day at Identities. Did you know that George Lucas had been toying with the idea of a female heroine instead of Luke and even had storyboards drawn with her in some of the Tattooine scenes in A New Hope? I didn’t, but I do now.
I may be giving the impression that this was all original trilogy stuff. Far from it, there were plenty of costumes, sketches and other memorabilia from the prequel trilogy (even Jar Jar) and the Clone Wars and the story of Anakin played equally with that of Luke in the multimedia aspects.
I’m just an original series kinda guy. Even though I think Revenge of the Sith is right up there in the pantheon of great Star Wars, I grew up with the puppets and models, so that’s what I focused on.
Other attendees probably focused on something different and I’m sure they found plenty of what they were looking for, too. As has always been the case with Star Wars, Identities had something for everyone.
Just happy to say that this exhibit most definitely had something for me, too.
* photos by Gabrielle Gallant, see our Facebook page for the full album