Phil takes a closer look at the incredible costumes of the Star Wars Universe
When in receipt of an invitation to attend the Press Launch for the Star Wars Identities exhibition at the O2 Arena in London, the Future of the Force team was elated to have the opportunity to get an inside look into the amazing costumes made famous within the movies of the greatest saga of all time.
Being a Star Wars fan for the better part of thirty years, the idea of having the opportunity to be in the very same room as the original costumes worn by the likes of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and the legendary Harrison Ford was a dream come true.
Neither I or my FOTF colleague Roy knew what to expect as we navigated the entrance, we had all seen the early televised press exposures of the event which revealed very little of the actual content contained within which only served to accentuate our anticipation. As we neared the threshold of the main amphitheatre, the hostess of the event prepared us for a mind-blowing experience, one that was designed to humble even the most hardened of Star Wars fans and as we turned the corner into the chamber, our jaws hit the floor in astonishment.
Taking pride of place within the gloriously transparent glass case located inside the very centre of the main hall was the striking and iconic mask of the A New Hope Cantina alien Ponda Baba, better known to the vintage fans as Walrus Man. The unmistakable character mask, that had been displayed in meticulous glory was illuminated by the focussed lighting within the case that highlighted the incredible detail of the intricately stitched hair. The lifeless and dark eye sockets stared blankly into our soul, giving us the feeling of a truly out of this world encounter.
But that paled into comparison when feasting our eyes upon the succeeding set of costumes that awaited us within the next chamber because standing on the pedestal before us stood the awe-inspiring sight of the mighty Mandolorian bounty hunter, Boba Fett. The character, originally made famous by the legendary Jeremy Bulloch, a veteran of both the Star Wars and James Bond movies was so eye-catching that I barely perceived the additional attires standing in the vicinity. At the bounty hunter’s feet sat the droid that had captured the hearts of both children and hardened fans alike when The Force Awakens arrived upon our screens in 2015.
The one and only BB-8, with all of his gloriously white and orange paintwork glistening in the fluorescent lights, looked amazing against the backdrop of his droid compatriots R2-D2 and C-3PO who commanded our attention as soon as they came into glorious view. It was a spectacular sight, one that only intensified when we discovered the two towering Stormtroopers looming large beside them. To Boba Fett’s left stood the spectacular First Order variant, made famous by their involvement in the 2015 seventh instalment in the franchise The Force Awakens. The amazing white armoured combatant, which was based upon the vintage variant had been updated with a new futuristic design that gave them a formidable appearance designed to help them enslave the modern era.
Alongside the First Order variant stood the world-famous vintage Stormtroopers of the Star Wars original trilogy fame, with their rugged white armour glistening in the radiant lights. I have to admit that it was an experience of countless profound moments and seeing the original Stormtrooper, the Stormtrooper I grew up with up close and personal, I was instantly reverted back to my excited childhood self.
Alongside the costume, elevated from the floor by a series of shelves sat all three variants in helmet design from the original three Star Wars movies. From A New Hope to Return of the Jedi, the three helmets looked utterly stunning. The minor changes in design were subtle and intriguing but consistent across the three original movies and only improved throughout time to an extremely cool effect.
Turning the corner, we came face to face with the army of the prequel trilogy. Standing directly behind the vintage Stormtrooper stood the Trade Federation Battle Droid. The light brown, opaque confederacy droid warrior looked amazing on display and provided a sense of their formidable presence in The Phantom Menace, one that I found lacking during the movies themselves, an obvious side effect of the CGI animation process.
If that wasn’t enough to enthral us, alongside the Battle Droid stood EV-9D9, the supervisor droid stationed within the depths of Jabba the Hutt’s palace during the opening moments of the Return of the Jedi. Overseeing the new arrivals to the palace’s droid contingent, EV-9D9 was responsible for deploying R2-D2 and C-3PO to their palace duties and her presence inside the glass case was most satisfying. Together with the feminine orientated droid stood the smelter android 8D8, the droid that famously terrorised others of its kind inside the depths of Jabba’s Palace.
The sombre looking droid was accentuated by the presence of the vintage Death Star droid from A New Hope. The glistening silver droid looked just as incredible as it did walking the halls of the Empire’s dreaded battle station and completing the scene was the fan favourite Mouse Droid. The small toaster like droid was a delight to behold, one capable of inspiring memories of its speedy charge through the halls of the Empire’s space station.
The exquisite forms of our much-adored droid C-3PO and his long-serving counterpart R2-D2 came into view. It was a moment of profound significance for me personally, my love for the pair is well documented and seeing their vintage costumes presented so vividly was an awe-inspiring moment. Threepio’s golden plating glistened beneath the lights and served to offer us a closer look at his vintage self, complete with his original silver leg from the opening moments of A New Hope.
Artoo, on the other hand, seemed a little sombre in his disposition, without the soul of his controller, the late great Kenny Baker behind the dome he seemed a little demoralised amidst the other droids. Perhaps his demeanour was a fitting one, especially when mourning the profound loss of one of the original Star Wars family. Come what may, Kenny Baker is an immense loss and our beloved galaxy far, far away is a darker place without him.
Passing through the chamber of The Phantom Menace Podracers, the display highlighted the striking image of Dud Bolt, the famous Vulptereen speed racer who battled against Anakin Skywalker during the Boonta Eve Classic race. Beside his copious frame was the sculpted head of Anakin’s arch-rival Sebulba, it was an exceptional model, one that had been used by the original animators as a reference point whilst enlivening the racing sequence. The head of Mars Guo, one of the few Podracers to be crafted into puppet form completed the trio of sculpts and signalled the arrival of the next attraction.
Crossing the threshold to the next compartment, we were confronted first by the salient form of a male Tusken Raider, the nomad marauders of the Tatooine desert landscape, originally known as the sand people. Alongside his impressive physique stood a member of the Jawas, the race of creatures responsible for the capture of C-3PO and R2-D2 from the barren dune sea. Fully clad in its traditional dark brown cloak, the Jawa looked almost alive as it peered out from the glass enclosure as if sizing up another addition to its Sand crawler scrap heap.
However, they paled in comparison as our eyes caught sight of the wisest Jedi in the galaxy because standing behind his glass enclosure was Master Yoda. The vintage puppet, taken straight from the annals of the Empire Strikes Back fraternity was simply fabulous, originally brought to life by legendary puppet master Frank Oz, the wise old Jedi looked every bit as striking as he did during the movie. The colour of his alien green skin was just as impressive as it was during filming and despite his retirement in the Return of the Jedi, looked every bit as lifelike as he was whilst training Luke Skywalker.
Up next was the sublime looking Han Solo Carbonite block. The silver-grey slab prison, made famous in the Empire Strikes Back towered above us with its realistic cast of Harrison Ford’s distinctive facial features and was complimented perfectly by the figure of the world-famous Princess Leia slave disguise crouched upon the floor.
If that wasn’t enough to send us into a delirium of Star Wars nerd overload, the next hall offered us not one, but five vintage character costumes from the original trilogy to salivate over. In the first, solo glass case was the famous X-Wing fighter pilot attire worn by the enigmatic Mark Hamill during the final moments of A New Hope. The vibrant orange coloured fatigues contrasted spectacularly against the dark background which served to highlight its impeccable freshness.
But even the vibrancy of Luke Skywalker’s piloting attire was dwarfed by the awesomeness of the stunning Chewbacca costume that, standing at over seven feet tall towered above every member of the attending press contingent. The original costume, worn by the striking Peter Mayhew was composed of real Yak and rabbit hair that was stitched onto the bodysuit housed beneath and still looks as fresh today as it did in 1977.
The Bespin Han Solo costume worn by Harrison Ford in the Empire Strikes Back stood alongside his furry companion with the characters customary DL-44 blaster pistol strapped to the waist-mounted belt holster. The pristine Hoth snow fatigues of Princess Leia Organa were stationed alongside leading to the end of the glass compartment where the Return of the Jedi General uniform of Lando Calrissian was housed.
From a fanboys point of view, just seeing the Han Solo costume in real life was a lifelong dream fulfilled for me on a personal level and seeing it standing upon its mannequin alongside the incredibly profound Chewbacca costume was a special moment, one that I shall never forget.
As we passed another of the interactive terminals (Detailed in a future FOTF article) we entered the hall of the Prequel trilogy and swiftly came face to face with the Jedi robed costume of Anakin Skywalker, fresh from the set of Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones. Displayed ahead of the impressive frame of the characters Speeder Bike from the famous Tatooine sequence, the costume looked simply stunning beneath the lights. One could be forgiven for succumbing to the urge to leap over the threshold and claim the robes for themselves but being the constant professionals we were, we managed (barely) to resist the temptation.
The next podium housed three dresses from Natalie Portman’s prequel character Padme Amidala, the mother of Jedi twins, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa. A delicate purple velvet senatorial gown gave way to the Attack of the Clones jumpsuit worn during the movie’s finale before we reached the final garment. Shining beneath the fluorescent lights was the royal dress of Queen Amidala, worn during the final scenes of The Phantom Menace, with its enlarged crest towering above the neckline.
As hard as it was to leave the prequel hall, the final chamber awaited us and rounding the corner, we found ourselves staring at a selection of amazing costumes that would make the average fan weak at the knees. Standing atop the podium were the prequel trilogy costumes of Darth Maul, Kit Fisto, Plo Koon, Mace Windu and Obi-Wan Kenobi, then taking pride of place at either end of the display were the Return of the Jedi costumes of both Emperor Palpatine and Luke Skywalker.
The Jedi robes were gloriously outstanding and the Sith robes, in complete contrast were dark and foreboding giving the display a welcome balance between the opposing sides of the force. Bright fluorescent tube light aligned the floor which transitioned in colour from the lightest of blue to the darkest of red which only further intensified the parallel between the sides of Sith and Jedi. However, following the course of the interchanging light along the floor we were conducted toward the finale of the entire exhibition, for taking pride of place upon its own pedestal was the original Darth Vader costume made famous by the acting prowess of Dave Prowse and the unmistakable vocal tones of James Earl Jones.
The euphoric sight was an incredible experience and a humbling vision to witness. Standing before us, highlighted by the very same interchangeable tube lights that aligned the rear of the set was the dark lord of the Sith himself. The changing light accentuated the jet black armour of the most famous villain in Hollywood history giving him the foreboding image he had upheld over the last four decades. It is easy to understate just how imposing the costume looks atop its impressive podium, but take a devoted fans word for it, once illuminated by the vibrant lighting you can certainly feel the force radiating from it.
It was a real test of our character to leave the event, but an interview with the organiser of the exhibition awaited us and being the true warriors we are, we left Vader behind to intimidate the next would-be Jedi to enter his domain.
What an amazing experience…
In closing, the costumes of the Star Wars Identities Exhibition are simply breath-taking, my personal favourites being Chewbacca, Boba Fett, Han Solo and Darth Vader but needless to say, every single costume on display is profoundly inspiring. C-3PO and R2-D2 are particularly breath-taking, as are the Stormtroopers and as much as I try, Jedi Master Yoda cannot be discounted mainly due to his awesome character. My choices have been dictated by my nostalgic favourites but believe me when I say, that if not for their presence I would find it extremely difficult to discount any costume contained inside from being a top pick.
One thing is certain, every single Star Wars fan will leave this event with a satisfied grin upon their face that will take the better part of a lifetime to remove. From start to finish, the event will transport you to that galaxy far, far away and revert you to your childhood self when the magic of Star Wars was new and fresh. On par with Star Wars Celebration, this event deserves to be regarded as one of the finest Lucasfilm/Lucas Museum collaborations of all time and attendance should be mandatory.
So my advice to you is…
Book your tickets, clear your schedule and enjoy a day in the company of your childhood heroes and villains that will leave their mark upon you in the most incredible way.
The force is strong inside Star Wars Identities and upon leaving the event, the force will be with you for an eternity.
And as always…
May The Force Be With You
Star Wars Identities at London’s O2 Arena opens to the public today and runs until September 3rd 2017.
The Future of the Force. The future of pop culture writing.
Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager and Editor of Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter @philthecool where he uses the force frequently!