For many Force-filled Star Wars fans, just mentioning the sci-fi saga sets their hearts racing at lightspeed. And with the seventh movie in the franchise coming out this December, Star Wars fever is more infectious than ever. So it's no surprise that Discovery Times Square is getting in on the intergalactic mania with its brand-new installation, Star Wars and the Power of Costume. After all, it built its reputation with well-timed exhibitions celebrating Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and other pop-culture phenomena.
But while those other properties are aimed at tweens, Star Wars is beloved by all ages, even toddlers. Which begs the question, does this display, featuring more than 70 authentic handmade costumes and props from all the movies, please even preschool Padawans?
Star Wars and the Power of Costume is best enjoyed by school-age kids, especially those fascinated by the creative process. This exhibit is decidedly grown-up, as serious about design evolution and fashion history as a couture show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in partnership with the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and in consultation with Lucasfilm Ltd.
Organized into nine themed galleries including "Jedi versus Sith," "Symbolism and Military Power," "Droid Design," and "Outlaws and Outsiders," the exhibition has a few interactive elements that should please younger kids, like buttons that activate lightsabers, iPad flip-books and a trio of motion-capture screens where you can see yourself as three different characters. But to get the most out of the exhibit, you need to be a patient reader.
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Obi-Wan Kenobi's modest Jedi robes from the original 1977 film are juxtaposed with Padmé Amidala's haute couture Throne Room Gown from the first prequel.
The labels offer fascinating info about the costumes, such as how C-3PO was inspired by the robot in Fritz Lang's silent classic Metropolis, the Eastern and Pre-Raphaelite influences on Amidala's gorgeous gowns, the Nazi cap incorporated into an Imperial Officer's uniform, and the fact that the Jedi's coarse robes were actually made from silk. If you find these tidbits as interesting as I did (I spent 90 minutes touring the show, reading practically every word), then this exhibit is right up your Mos Eisley. However, some kids (and adults) may just want to gawk at C-3PO, Chewie and Leia's bikini up close.
The Droid gallery features old favorites C-3PO and R2-D2 alongside BB-8 from the soon-to-open The Force Awakens film.
And that's OK! There's plenty to look at. In the mirrored Stormtrooper hallway, you feel like you're surrounded by the Empire's soldiers. Seeing Han Solo frozen in Carbonite inspires quote-offs ("I love you!" "I know.") And even those of us who dislike the prequels can't help but marvel at Amidala's ensembles, which look like they could have been plucked from a Paris runway. Disney princesses would envy her jam-packed wardrobe, which may be why her outfits are the focus of two galleries: "Concept and Design for Royalty and Beyond," and "After the Throne: Padmé's Journey." Textile swatches, weaponry displays, brief audio interviews, John Williams' score playing on a loop and a pair of short docs (one of which ends with the hologram of Princess Leia begging, "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope!") round out the show.
Stormtroopers as far as the eye can see.
The most awe-inspiring bits come toward the end. Iconic but conflicted villain Darth Vader gets his own gallery with an eye-popping lava background that recalls his birth in Revenge of the Sith. There's a special room just for the NYC edition of this exhibit featuring six costumes from the upcoming The Force Awakens movie. And, of course, those three motion-capture screens where you can become a laser-shooting Stormtrooper, a bumbling C-3PO or a lightsaber-wielding Darth Vader. I predict very long lines to use those.
Unsurprisingly, Darth Vader gets his own room!
Considering its density, as well as its admission price ($27.50 for adults and $20 for children), Star Wars and the Power of Costume is best for ages 7 and up. Note: Children under age 3 get in free, however, strollers and baby back carriers aren't allowed inside the galleries. Taking pictures without flash is permitted, and there are lots of great photo ops here. Of course you exit through the Star Wars-centric gift shop, which overflows with T-shirts, action figures, backpacks, wallets, books and even jewelry. Super fans may need to use the Force to get out of there without dipping into your 401K. Just keep repeating, "These are not the trinkets you're looking for."
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Leia's famous bikini from when she was enslaved by Jabba the Hutt sparked many a puberty.
Afterward, there's no need to flee Times Square. Grab a meal at one of these family-friendly, non-chain restaurants and then explore nearby kid attractions like Midtown Comics, another great place to get your geek on.
Star Wars and the Power of Costume is on view through September 5, 2016 at Discovery Times Square located at 226 West 44th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Tickets are $27.50 for adults, $20 for children ages 3-11 but save money on select dates with this Broadwaybox discount code.
All photos by Paul Martinka/courtesy Discovery Times Square.