Why did the Star Wars Identities exhibit come to Edmonton? Not that we’re arguing, but a lot of people here have spent the last year or so speculating on the question of why we were short-listed to one of twelve cities to host the tour over the coming six years. I mean… Star Wars. In Edmonton. I love this place, but we’re not exactly Hollywood.
Karin was kind enough to have bought me tickets for Christmas last year.
That’s right, we’ve been waiting over ten months to see this thing. And it wasn’t without a little bit of curious anticipation that we made our way over to the Telus World of Science this morning, tix in hand, and not quite sure of what to expect.
In the interim a lot has happened in the world of Star Wars: just last week, Disney apparently bought up the rights to the entire Lucas empire. I’m only repeating what I’ve heard and read, so anyone looking for any deeper information than that will need to dig elsewhere. But I do know that opinion has been a kind of mixed-bag of “Well… we’ll see. It can’t get any worse though, right?”
On a more personal front, our trip to Anaheim earlier in the year included a week-long stay at Disneyland, including a substantial quantity of Star Wars; Star Tours, mock light-saber battles, and even photos of Darth himself.
It’s my inclination to suppose that what got little YEG in the cold Canadian prairies short-listed was, yes, lots of little economic or negotiated reasons, too. But I suspect was ultimately force-punched the decision over the finish line was the simple fact that everyone’s favorite EA subsidiary and crafters of the Old Republic video games, BioWare, holds court a mere fifteen minute drive from the newly opened exhibit. If you work anywhere close to a computer nerd in IT in this city, chances are you’ve got no more than a degree or two of separation from BioWare. And heck, by simply reading this blog that becomes true for you.
Our tickets, booked months and months ago, were for a fairly prime time-slot. We’d reserved a 10:30 am entry on the second Saturday of opening. It was busy, but not first-through-the-gate busy. Yeah, I suppose its true that we missed most of the cos-players who arrived fully garbed for last weekends premier, but then I did see more than one Junior Jedi and at least two Sub-Sized Storm-troopers accompanying their parents through the exhibit.
I could offer up a review, but every person through the gates is going to have a different opinion. The Star Wars fan-dom will lap it up. The sci-fi tourists and geekster-hipsters will get a kick out of it, too. And everyone else dragged along by nerdy family or friends will get lost for at least an hour in the experience.
An RFID wristband and a multi-language audio kit accompany you on your wander through the linear path display. There are props and costumes mixed in with a variety of video explanations of various things. On display are also a cantina’s worth of conceptual artwork, which I’d claim was my favorite part.
My review would tell you that the backbone of the exhibit, the gimmick of creating your own little “Star Wars Identity” was a little too “just-like-any-old-RPG” canned experience and the faux-scientific, pop-psychology layer explaining how moral choices shape our characters was cute and fun to play along with, but ultimately a little forgettable. I had expected a kind of Disc-B-Special-Features experience, Star Wars behind the scenes and in real life. That part was there too, but in my opinion, underplayed.
At the end, it told me I was an morally ambiguous and slightly evil Wookie, but that I was only that way because of my poor upbringing on an alien planet away from my home-world. Apparently my poor immigrant parents’ indifference in raising me and my working-class childhood turned me bad. Over-simplification or what?
So, okay, it wasn’t a complete downer. Actually it wasn’t at all. We actually had a lot of fun… I mean, I only lean towards the negative because deep down I still kick myself for selling my first-edition vintage Jabba the Hutt play-set at my parent’s garage sale about twenty-five years ago so could I have the money to buy Coleco Vision cartridges. I’m not a collector, but hey… it was Jabba and I’ve always had a soft spot for the series.
And it was great for the family, too: Claire, who at five has only seen the “kid friendly” bits of the Star Wars movies and been exposed to the Disneyland manifestations of the same, is starting to get to the right age to ‘get it.’ It helps, I’ll claim hereafter, that when she quizzed me with “Which is your favourite princess, daddy?” that I promptly responded by telling her it was Princess Leah. She didn’t like that answer, at least not at first, but it made her a little curious and by the end of our tour was in love with not only Leah and R2D2 — as all little girls probably are — but the little Storm-trooper plushie she found in the gift shop and that her mean old dad wouldn’t buy for her.
Heck, she even asked if we could make popcorn and watch it tonight.
The exhibit is on for a limited engagement until April first… no jokes. Edmonton gets some cool stuff on occasion, and this is one of those things. You should check it out, and bring your family along. And don’t bother telling them I sent you: they have no idea who I am. Y’know… not affiliated.