'Star Wars and the Power of Costume,' a Nirvana for Fans: Exhibition Review

Paul Martinka

The traveling exhibit featuring 70 original costumes and artifacts from the original six films and more from the upcoming 'The Force Awakens' lands in New York City.

Getting up close and personal with the sexy metallic bikini worn by Carrie Fisher in Return of the Jedi was the fulfillment of a life-long dream. Of course, decades ago the dream involved Princess Leia actually being in it.

Ah well, such is life. The outfit is nonetheless one of the highlights of "Star Wars and the Power of Costume: The Exhibition," now receiving its East Coast premiere at New York City's Discovery Times Square. Featuring 70 original costumes and dozens of artifacts from the first six films — as well as several from an upcoming movie you may have heard of, Star Wars: The Force Awakens — the show is nirvana for those who feel the Force is with them.

The exhibition is culled from the collection of Chicago's Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which isn't scheduled to open for several more years. The wealth of original artifacts on display clearly reflects the Star Wars auteur's canny instincts for merchandising, not to mention hoarding, which have made him a gazillionaire.

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"Sometimes creating an entire galaxy starts with a single stitch," we hear in the short introductory film featuring enough clips from the blockbuster films to whet appetites. There's even a Princess Leia hologram to beckon us along.

Divided into 15 galleries, the exhibition begins with the gown worn by Natalie Portman as Queen Amidala in The Phantom Menace, complete with large illuminated bulbs at its hemline. Did you know that they were originally powered by a strategically placed car battery?

But while it's fun to see the costumes from the prequel trilogy, including the Galactic Senate outfits featured in Revenge of the Sith, Portman's Padme Amidala dresses and war garb from Attack of the Clones, young Anakin Skywalker's Jedi outfit from Phantom Menace and a headpiece from Attack of the Clones made from abalone shells, it's the ones from the original films that enthrall.

Who can resist the original and adorable C-3PO and R2-D2, joined here in friendly fashion by BB-8, the new droid from the upcoming film? You'll feel a chill walking through the mirror-lined room filled with Storm Trooper helmets. You'll learn that the orange X-wing pilot costumes from A New Hope were inspired by the jumpsuits worn by the Mercury 7 astronauts. You'll come face to face with an Ewok, the hirsute Chewbacca and, in his own gallery, Yoda, standing (or sitting, it's hard to tell with him) in front of a wall emblazoned with such signature maxims as "Do. Or do not. There is no try."

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And then there's Darth Vader, in all his malevolent, black metallic glory. He's a forbidding sight, even if it is a bit disappointing that the costume is Hayden Christensen's from Revenge of the Sith and not David Prowse's from the original trilogy.

The exhibit features a few interactive elements as well: You can press a button to turn on a light saber, peruse interactive flipbooks providing background information and even see yourself in one of three iconic costumes via a virtual experience using a motion-sensor camera.

You'll also hear a recording, in a lilting British accent, from Anthony Daniels in which he describes being initially uninterested in playing C-3P0 because, as he haughtily puts it, "I was a stage actor."

And then there's Carrie Fisher, whose comment on her iconic costume is printed on an adjoining placard.  

"It was the bikini from hell," she complains. "If you stood behind me you could see straight to Florida."

"Star Wars and the Power of Costume: The Exhibition" runs at Discovery Times Square through Sept. 5, 2016.

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