Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination

So, if you know me, you know how slightly obsessive I am of most things Star Wars. I grew up watching the movies, played with the toys, collected the merchandise and was blown away when George Lucas finally decided to fill in the blanks with episodes 1-3. I was able to see all three movies opening day – episodes 2 and 3 at midnight the night they opened. Now my collection of Star Wars action figures and other stuff sits in the basement waiting for me to put it all up on ebay. There’s just no room for this stuff anymore…

So, I was excited when a new exhibit had made its way to the Franklin Institute – Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination. The idea is to show off some original props and models from the Star Wars movies and tie the fiction to the fact of modern technology. For example, one of Anakin Skywalker’s prosthetic arms was displayed next to a case which contained modern, real-world prosthetic limbs. You get the picture.

Of course, I was more interested in seeing the props and models from the movies. However, I’m sad to say that I was slightly underwhelmed. Most of the props, at least from the original trilogy, I had already seen at a much more impressive exhibit at the Smithsonian back in 1998. That exhibit, Star Wars: The Magic of Myth just seemed to have more on display. Then again, it could simply have been that this was the first I had seen these items and the sheer excitement of seeing them for the first time is etched in my memory. It also explained how the mythology of Star Wars, its characters, settings and story are all rooted in classic mythology. It was also a nice trip that my girlfriend at the time (now lovely wife Rebecca) set up for us in the early days of our relationship. (Insert “awwwww” here.) 

What I really didn’t like about the way in which this new exhibit was laid out was that there was no logical way to progress through it. Unlike previous exhibits at the Institute which led visitors on a clear path from one display to the next, this was in a single room laid out all over the place. If you weren’t careful, you could miss a few things. And not every item had a story associated with it, merely a description. For example, one of Natalie Portman’s costumes from Episode 1 was in its own case, but there was nothing especially interesting about it. Not what it was made of, how long it took to make, why it looked the way it did, etc. However, the Wampa (the giant snow monster that tries to eat Luke in The Empire Strikes Back)

sat in a case with an explanation that the suit was built for a normal-sized man to wear while the set on which the scene was filmed was scaled down to make it look bigger. Now that’s interesting.

Despite my disappointment, there were some really cool things:

Luke’s Land Speeder

Some Wookiee Costumes, including Chewbacca

R2-D2 and C3PO, including the original version with exposed wires

A complete set of lightsabers

Full scale models of the Millennium Falcon and an X-wing

There wasn’t a whole lot on display from the newer films as most of the filming process was entirely digital. Therefore very few real-world models of anything from those movies even exists.

Nonetheless, I’m still a huge geeky fan…

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