Feeling the Force at Star Wars: Visions
You may remember a time, towards the end of last year, when it seemed the entire world had gone just a little bit crazy for Star Wars.
It seemed one couldn’t board a train, buy lunch at a fast food restaurant, or even go into a convenience store without being confronted with the dark visage of Darth Vader or his grandson gone bad, Kylo Ren.
Yes, I know that last line is a spoiler, but if you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens by now, a full 8 months after its cinematic release, then I doubt you ever will!
karanj on Flickr
ARTS_fox1fire on Flickr
Anyway, as a fervent fan of that “galaxy far, far away” since childhood, I have to say I was a little dismayed when, in early January, the hype machine seemed to grind to a halt. The novelty Darth Vader mugs disappeared from shop shelves, 7-Eleven had a fire sale on all the prizes they hadn’t given away in their promotional ticket event and the Star Wars corner at my local Yodobashi Camera became significantly smaller.
On the plus side, I was able to snap up my special edition Mace Windu, Darth Maul and Count Dooku chopsticks for a fraction of their original price!
Jordi Sanchez Teruel on Flickr
Thankfully, with the impending release of the latest movie from the Star Wars universe, the stand-alone war movie “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, due to hit theatres in December, Osaka seems to have once again embraced “The Ways of the Force”
I refer of course to the “Star Wars: Visions” exhibition, which opened recently in Tennoji, in the south east of the city and runs until the end of August.
The exhibition promised a blend of movie props, conceptual art work, audio and visual presentations, blended with a variety of art, both common and abstract, inspired by the characters and themes of the Star Wars universe.
It did not disappoint.
I have to admit though ¥1,500 per person does seem a bit steep for entry to an art exhibit. But then again, this is Star Wars and in all honesty they could have a display of chimps carrying the eponymous lightsabers and fanboys like me would still pay top dollar to go and see it!
Japanexperterna.se on Flickr
The exhibition was housed in the art museum on the 16th floor of Abeno Harukas, Japan’s tallest commercial building. Such a setting is quite appropriate really; after all, this magnificent structure wouldn’t look out of place standing alongside the Jedi Temple, the Galactic Senate and the various other magnificent structures at the heart of Coruscant, the fictional city-world and centre of political intrigue and Imperial power in the Star Wars galaxy.
Upon reaching the museum floor, the tone for the day was immediately set as, upon stepping out of the elevator I was greeted with the view of the 7 meter high inflatable likeness of “Chopper”, the scrappy little “droid” from the popular Disney cartoon series: “Star Wars: Rebels”.
Star Wars Rebels Screenshots rebelsscreens.tumblr on Flickr
The entryway to the exhibit was decorated to look like the interior corridor of Darth Vader’s famous flagship “The Executor”, an “Imperial Super Star Destroyer”, as first seen in the movie “The Empire Strikes Back”.
Unfortunately the museum staff’s opting to wear light blue polo-shirts rather than the olive-grey Imperial Officer uniforms of the movies did kind of kill the atmosphere.
However, I was soon once again immersed in all things Star Wars.
Whilst I am a fan of the entire franchise, there exists something of a schism within the Star Wars fan base. For many, Star Wars is about the original trilogy of “A New Hope”, “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”.
To them, the prequel trilogy of the early 2000s never happened according to these people and the latest installment, “The Force Awakens” is nothing but a cynical retread of “A New Hope”.
If you are one of these “fans”, then it’s probably best that you avoid this exhibition. Whilst “The Force Awakens” is barely mentioned, otherwise it is pretty much a 50/50 split between exhibits from the “Prequel” era, and the original movies of the late 70s and early 80s.
For all their obvious flaws, I actually liked the prequel movies and I’m glad to see them represented here.
Things start off brightly in the exhibit with, among other things an actual Darth Vader costume that was used in “The Empire Strikes Back”. Fans of the movies will remember that this movie showed Vader at his most fearsome, ruthless best, and even as an inanimate prop, this costume, standing at over 7 feet tall cuts an intimidating figure.
Ricky Brigante on Flickr
I have to admit, I always thought the bad guys in Star Wars were way cooler than the rather monk-like Jedi. Embracing the dark side may lead to self-destruction, but it sure looked like fun!
As well as costumes from the likes of Vader, Queen Amidala, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett, we are also given accompanying videos of about 2 or 3 minutes a piece summarizing the role these characters played in the movies. I’m a bit peeved that my favourite character, Emperor Palpatine doesn’t get his own display though.
As we head into the second area, showcasing the visual effects of the movies we come to one of my personal favourite moments of the show. The legendary battles from each of the 3 original movies, namely the “Death Star Trench Run” at the end of “A New Hope”, including movie original models of Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing and Darth Vader’s Tie Advanced Fighter; the snow-specked “Battle of Hoth” from the opening of “The Empire Strikes Back, complete with exploding snowspeeders and General Veers’ fearsome AT-AT walker; and finally the climactic “Battle of Endor” from Return of the Jedi, which featured an amazing light up model of the “Death Star II”. Of all the models on display, I really hope they make a replica of that Death Star II miniature available for commercial release someday. It looked magnificent.
Heather Ramsden on Flickr
Of course these are, on the face of it, just simple models, oversized toys, essentially. But it is the nostalgia, the passion and the sense of wonder long since lost from childhood that they awaken that makes them so magical. Nothing ever quite activates your inner man-child like Star Wars!
And finally, we came to my personal highlight of the exhibition, the hall of lightsabers.
Joe Abbruscato on Flickr
Here, we can see authentic props of the many varieties of lightsaber hilts used by the main protagonists and antagonists across the 7 movies to date. Everything from Darth Maul’s dual bladed saber, to Mace Windu’s gold and platinum embossed tribute to the ego of the actor who so memorably played him, Samuel L Jackson, is included here.
My personal favourite has to be the elegantly curved hilt of Count Dooku’s crimson blade, so masterfully wielded by the late, great Christopher Lee, in what was one of his final movie appearances.
Overall, Star Wars: Visions is a dream for fans of the Star Wars saga. Yes, it may be a bit pricey, and yes the souvenir shop is blatantly over-priced (you’ll find many of the same items at Yodobashi Camera for half the price), but these are small taxes to pay for what was an incredible tribute to the greatest journey in cinematic history.
Star Wars: Visions is at Abeno Harukas, Tennoji, Osaka, until August 30th. Come check it out.